Donald Trump is taking his war with the media a step further as his administration explores ways to restrict access to sensitive economic data. The president has long criticized the press for pushing an agenda that doesn’t align with his own, and Trump recently turned on Fox News— a conservative outlet he once relied on.
Economic information that impacts the market, like employment data and GDP figures, is typically protected by a “lockup.” That means journalists are given access to the market-moving information 30-60 minutes before it is released inside a secure room. The reporters can make use of computers without internet access to write a story, which they are permitted to send out at a designated release time.
According to Bloomberg, the lockups could see significant changes in the days to come as Donald Trump and his administration mull over ways to increase security and cut down on what they see as an unfair advantage for media outlets. It’s unclear exactly how Trump wants to change the procedure, but one potential option is removing computers from the room.
Changing the decades-old lockup procedure has several potential pitfalls. For one, it could result in government websites being inundated with traffic from those looking to trade based on economic data. It would also put traders against each other as they race to gain access to the data and profit from it.
For Donald Trump, the appeal of leveling the playing field among big-name news outlets and smaller players in the industry is likely a big part of the proposed changes. Not only has he criticized the media for treating him unfairly, but his supporters are working on a plan to buy their own channel.
Trump supporters have been working to acquire One America News Network in an effort to add another conservative voice to mainstream media. Fox News, they say, isn’t doing enough for the Republican party. Trump has spoken out in support of OANN several times on Twitter. It’s possible that the president wants to give the smaller news network a chance to compete with its larger peers with the lockup changes.
Donald Trump and his administration are also reportedly considering the changes to beef up information security. But if they want to protect sensitive information, they may want to start by deleting Trump’s Twitter account. Over the past year, many have been skeptical about large trades that appeared to have had prior knowledge of economic and political events. Trump has been accused of interfering with markets via his comments on Twitter.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the frequency with which the President tweets in a given day also has an impact on market movement. Days where he sends out more than 35 tweets have served up negative returns. Equities typically make their way higher on days the president is more restrained with fewer than five tweets hitting the airwaves.
Vanity Fair’s William D. Cohan wrote an article in October questioning whether Trump’s Twitter behavior could be considered market manipulation. Cohan also pointed out several cases in which speculative trades offered big-time payouts. He raised the question of whether it could have been insider trading.
There is no way for another trader, let alone an outsider such as me, to know who is making these trades. But regulators know or can find out. One longtime CME trader who has been watching with disgust says he’s never seen anything quite like these trades, not at least since al-Qaida cashed in before initiating the September 11 attacks. ‘There is definite hanky-panky going on, to the world’s financial markets’ detriment,’ he says. ‘This is abysmal.’
Whatever his motivation, Trump looks likely to bring mainstream media down a peg in whatever way possible. According to Bloomberg’s anonymous source, the changes could be announced as early as this week.
Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:38 PM UTC