Business

All of firm’s clients to get survey data simultaneously

Consumer data can move stocks.
AFP/Getty Images
Consumer data can move stocks.

Thomson Reuters will suspend its practice of distributing results from consumer surveys a couple of seconds early to clients who pay the news and business information provider for advance access.

A spokeswoman said Monday that Thomson Reuters will simultaneously distribute survey data at 9:55 a.m. starting Friday from the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers. The New York attorney general’s office, which is investigating the early data access, requested the suspension.

Thomson Reuters pays for exclusive access to the University of Michigan results, and some of its clients had been paying extra to get the data two seconds before other clients receive it at 9:55 a.m. This allows high-speed computers to make trades before others gain access to the data.

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Modern stock trading is dominated by automated computer systems that make trades in fractions of a second, and traders can profit from receiving data even milliseconds before its public release. Consumer sentiment regarding the economy is watched closely because consumers’ spending accounts for about 70 percent of US economic activity.

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The attorney general’s office said the two-second edge Thomson Reuters gave to some high-frequency traders amounted to an unfair advantage. ‘‘The securities markets should be a level playing field for all investors, and the early release of market-moving survey data undermines fair play in the markets,’’ said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in a statement.

Thomson Reuters said it ‘‘strongly believes that news and information companies can legally distribute non-governmental data and exclusive news through services provided to fee-paying subscribers.’’

‘‘It is widely understood that news and information companies compete for exclusive news and differentiated content to help their customers make better informed trading and investment decisions,’’ the Thomson Reuters statement said.

A spokeswoman added that Thomson Reuters has always been transparent about how it releases proprietary data so customers can choose the level of service they want.

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Last month, the Conference Board, which produces a widely followed consumer confidence index, said it would no longer provide its economic reports in advance to news organizations because it suspects the data are being diverted early to computer-driven trading systems. It had long provided its monthly data to reporters 30 minutes early so they could get a jump on preparing news reports.