What is the Federal Reserve Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Blackout?

Its really quite simple:

  • A week ahead of an FOMC meeting all members are locked in a room with no food or water, no electricity and one knife. There is usually only one survivor and he or she gets to make policy.

OK, you know I made that all up right? That is actually the pilot idea for a TV series I am writing (not really) and its much more fun than the real thing (that bit is true)

Here is what the 'Blackout period' is ... this is the official policy in all its long-windedness (bolding mine):

  • To facilitate the effectiveness of the Committee's policy deliberations and the clarity of its communications, staff will observe the blackout period on monetary policy communications in conjunction with each regularly scheduled Committee meeting.
  • The blackout period will begin at midnight Eastern Time seven days before the beginning of the meeting
  • For example, if the Committee meeting is scheduled to begin on a Tuesday, the blackout period will begin at the start of the preceding Tuesday-
  • And will end at midnight Eastern Time on the next day after the meeting
  • For example, if the Committee meeting ends on a Wednesday, the blackout period will end at the end of Thursday.
  • During each blackout period, staff will refrain from expressing their views or providing analysis to members of the public about macroeconomic or financial developments or about current or prospective monetary policy issues unless that information has already been cleared for publication and made widely available to the public prior to the blackout period.
  • Staff will be able to carry out their responsibilities for public dissemination of published Federal Reserve data and System surveys and reports, including answering technical questions specific to a data release.

Ya got all that? Here it is in brief:

  • Federal Reserve policy limits the extent to which FOMC participants and staff can speak publicly or grant interviews during Federal Reserve blackout periods, which begin the Tuesday of the week preceding a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and end the Thursday following a meeting.