This article details when the blackout periods are for the major central banks ahead of their policy meetings including the European Central Bank (ECB), Federal Reserve (FOMC), Bank of England (BoE), Bank of Japan (BoJ), Bank of Canada (BoC) and Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
Most central banks restrict what their members can say in public immediately before their policy meetings as the markets get more sensitive to them giving clues, or the perception they are giving clues, about the potential decision. There are some variations in terms of how long the restrictions last and what exactly they can and can’t do.
Additionally, most central banks have outlined guidelines for their members to follow when speaking outside of these blackout periods.
European Central Bank (ECB):
The ECB observe a “quiet period” (formerly known as a “purdah”) for seven days before a scheduled monetary policy meeting. Governing Council members “avoid making comments that could influence expectations about monetary policy decisions”.
The ECB outline their quiet period here: ECB Quiet Period
General Speaking Guidelines (Outside of the Blackout):
Executive Board members also follow a set of guiding principles on external communication at all times.
Executive Board members should:
- Only speak at events to give potentially market-sensitive comments if either (a) the speech text is published on the ECB’s website at the start of the speech, or (b) the event can be monitored by the public (e.g. via a live webcast), or (c) the event can be reported on in real time by media
- Not give views about the economy or the financial sector to any individual or body that could profit from the information unless the comments have been given publicly already
- Not allow the acceptance of invitations to speak to be perceived as giving the organiser a prestige advantage or allowing them to benefit financially from apparently exclusive contacts.
- When speaking at non-public events or bilateral meetings, ensure that no market-sensitive information is divulged. Where practical, an ECB staff member should attend bilateral meetings.
Full details of the ECB’s communication guidelines can be found here: Guidelines
Federal Reserve (FOMC)
The Fed observe a blackout period before each FOMC meeting starting at midnight Eastern time at the start of the second Saturday before day 1 of the meeting and ending at midnight Eastern time the day after the meeting.
For example, if the meeting is following the usual 2 day, Tuesday & Wednesday format, the blackout starts at midnight on the morning of the Saturday 10 days before the start of the meeting, and ends at midnight at the end of the Thursday after the meeting.
The FOMC policy on blackout periods changed, effective January 31st 2017. At this time, the blackout period was extended to start on the 2nd Saturday before the meeting (as above) rather than the prior rule of the Tuesday before the meeting.
Officers and staff who have knowledge of information classified as “Class I FOMC – Restricted Controlled (FR)” and that is related to the previous or upcoming FOMC meeting will refrain from expressing views or providing analysis about monetary policy issues. Other staff will also refrain from expressing views or providing analysis about monetary policy issues unless that information has already been cleared for publication and previously made available to the public.
Staff can carry out responsibilities for public dissemination of Federal Reserve data, including answering technical questions on data releases. Staff also may continue communicating with depository institutions, Federal Reserve counterparties, and other market participants, as long as no confidential information is inappropriately divulged.
Full details of the FOMC external communication policy can be found here: Communication Policy
General Guidance for Staff on Communications (Outside of the Blackout):
- In all public communications regarding monetary policy issues, refrain from expressing personal opinions or predictions on prospective policy decisions.
- In explaining the rationale for decisions, draw on Committee communications, the Chairman’s press conference remarks, and other published materials as appropriate.
- When making public comments on monetary policy, clearly indicate that those comments are solely their own responsibility, not necessarily representing the views of the Committee
- Refrain from characterizing FOMC discussions, except from what’s in published minutes
- Follow Fed codes of conduct regarding partisan political activities and avoid appearance of political partisanship
- Unless it’s already public, refrain from disseminating market sensitive FOMC information on economic and financial conditions or about the methods and tools that are currently being used to assess those conditions
- When considering invitations to speak, ensure that do so does not provide any profit-making person/firm with a prestige advantage over its competitors
Bank of England (BoE)
The BoE observe a Purdah, or closed period, from the pre-MPC meeting to midnight on the day of the policy announcement. Assuming the meeting is following the usual structure (announcement on a Thursday), this means the closed period starts on the Thursday before the announcement, and ends at midnight on the Thursday that the announcement has been made. Guidelines also stipulate that “particular care” should be taken between the Monday discussion and the policy announcement on Thursday.
MPC members must not give speeches on monetary policy matters, incl the economy, interest rates or FX. They must not talk to the media or other outside interests on such matters. They must avoid arranging off the record contacts or meetings with the media, Interviews on the restricted topics should not be given outside the closed period for publication or transmission inside it.
Full details of the BoE MPC external communication policy can be found here: Communication Policy
General Guidance on Communications (Outside of the Blackout):
The MPC maintains the option of making a collective statement outside the normal policy round. Such statements will be made only by the Governor.
- are entitled to explain their policy position in public but should respect the collective judgment embodied in the Inflation Report
- must pass any requests for interviews or media meetings through the Press Office
- must give the Governor, other members and the Press Office an opportunity to comment on speeches and articles on economic issues at least 48 hours in advance
- when considering speaking invitations at meetings sponsored by profit-making organisations, should caution against giving the companies concerned a competitive advantage
- must refrain from publicly questioning the inflation target or commenting on fiscal policy, other than implications for inflation
- must not make statements that might give clues to undisclosed developments in monetary analysis or provide detail of the MPC’s discussion beyond the published record
- must consider carefully, when expressing personal views about policy, whether they might create misunderstandings of the MPC’s actions or impair formulation of policy
Bank of Japan (BoJ)
The BoJ Policy Board observe a blackout period starting two days before the first day of the policy meeting and ending at “the end of the day” after the policy meeting finishes and after the Outlook Report (if due) has been released.
Policy Board members must, in principle, refrain from making public comments on monetary policy and the monetary and economic situation
The BoJ’s policy on blackout periods can be found as part of this page: Monetary Policy Rules
Bank of Canada (BoC)
The BoC observe a blackout period for a week before the policy announcement. Assuming the announcement is on a Wednesday as usual, then the blackout starts on the prior Wednesday. The blackout ends either (a) after the release of the policy decision and statement or (b) if there is a post-announcement press conference, after the start of the press conference at 11:15 Eastern Time.
Governing Council members and other senior BoC representatives must not give speeches or speak to the media or outside parties about the economic outlook, monetary policy or anything else relevant to the interest rate decision. Other senior representatives of the Bank are also expected to adhere to the blackout guidelines.
The BoC’s policy on blackout periods is outlined here: Blackout Rules
The RBA observe a blackout period starting from the internal Policy Discussion Group meeting (usually 14:30 on the prior Wednesday) and finishing after the policy announcement.
During this period, the Media and Communications office will provide factual and publicly available information to external parties. However, no background briefings or information related to monetary policy will be given by Bank staff.
The RBA’s policy on blackout periods is outlined here: Blackout Rules