Blatant Data Error At The Federal Reserve

Tyler Durden's picture

A vigilant reader, who combed through the backup of today's Consumer Credit G.19 statement points out a flagrant and obvious error in the Fed's data. While luckily the data impact is not major (at most $4 billion, which in our day and age is a pithy 50% of Goldman's FICC trading desk bonus), the implication that the Fed does not check its work in something as critical as one of the core data series (or at least it used to be until a few machines took over the market, to whom, as today indicated, a record credit contraction somehow ended up being a positive event) is very, very troubling.

The original, Fed-hosted excel file with the backing data of the actual G.19 statement can be found here. We welcome all readers to compare cells AC 804 through AC 809, which is the data for "Consumer Revolving Credit Owned by Nonfinancial Business, Not Seasonally Adjusted" for the months June through November of 2009, and to compare it with data in cells AC 792 through AC 797, which is comparable data for the months June through November of 2008. These are identical and very much wrong! So, dear Fed auditors, while you obviously are very highly overpaid for your error-proofing work, can you please tell us what the real Consumer Credit number for November is?

It is one thing for the broader population to speculate in what ways the Fed is screwing over the thinking public by allegedly ramping up the market day in and day out. It is something totally different to make such careless errors in critical economic releases and insult our intelligence. Should we not trust any data that comes out of the Fed in this case? Or should Americans spend gobs of time to triple check any and all Fed data, as apparently Bernanke's syndicate is unable to do so on its own. When the Fed was so very much against auditing, we thought it was merely to hide the fact that there is no value whatsoever to the collateral it accepts from banks for discount window and PDCF lendings; little did we realize that Bernanke is simply ashamed of independent auditors uncovering such rookie mistakes (which, however, amount to just a little more monetary damage than a first year banking analyst forgetting to carry the decimal comma). 

The first reader to point out any additional such discrepancy either in this excel file, or in any other excel document, will win Zero Hedge decals (which we truly hope will not be subsequently used to deface the entrance of the Marriner Eccles building).

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Anonymous's picture

Tyler if I wasn't unemployed, I'd send your some Ben bucks for your work. As it is, I'm sending along some .45 ammo for the coming revolution.

Shortbus Bully's picture

.45 acp is as good as gold round my parts.

Anonymous's picture

They suck.

nopat's picture

BINGO BANGO!  Nice find!  To whom do we owe the hat-tip?

DoChenRollingBearing's picture


One of the great pleasures of ZH for me is the wonderful reporting we get.

Looks like employees at the Fed have the same "good enough for government" work ethic as all the rest of them at .gov.

faustian bargain's picture

They have an ambiguous relationship with the government. You can hear Bernanke say under questioning in the congressional committee, that the Fed is an "agent" of the government.

Anonymous's picture

no they are not, they are Goldman Fraternity ex-employees and or consultants. Why would anyone be amised by this when Goldman and company trades against its own clients! Why is America any different. These guys are countryless and care about no country, least of all this one.

QuantTrader's picture

sCommon Vlookup error.  Need to add the "false" parameter to get the exact match to include the year, not just the month.

The fed too busy these days to check their work on a late friday economic release

nopat's picture

If I were to guess where the problem is, in a serendipetous twist of irony, it was probably the same intern that bungled the program trading reports back in May/June.  I doubt the formula was wrong (otherwise you would have seen the same problem all over the place), either the lazy bastard wasn't using it at all and opting to just copy-paste and got sloppy, or interrupted the calculation when it got hung up and eyeballed the results (a lot of IT depts use Friday as their scheduled virus-scan days, can wreak all kinds of havok on Excel). 

Not that I'm fishing for a job, but that's just fucking weak, especially on data that's going to be live and in the open. 

bugs_'s picture

Live by cut&paste, Die by cut&paste.

Anonymous's picture

Death by a thousand pastes?


MsCreant's picture

He should have ended it with a comma... but yeah, funny.

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

A sharp eye for cutting irony.

Anonymous's picture

Someone was a lil schloppy with the Ctrl-C & Ctrl-V!

glenlloyd's picture

probably too much fret / fuss over how many banks Shiela might close tonight.

Mad Max's picture

Can fictitious numbers be wrong?

Anonymous's picture

max, your a madman !!

MsCreant's picture

Best comment.

They can be wrong if they tell an unintended story. Like this one.

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

That's an interesting philosphic question.

10044's picture


Anonymous's picture

i lol'd

SilverIsKing's picture

By looking at the spreadsheet capture(above) (I did not download the file from the Fed website), how does one arrive at $4 billion delta?  Wouldn't one need the actual data to determine by how much the inaccurate data varies from it.

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

You are exactly right.  I am responsible for finding this mistake and reporting it to TD.  The $4 billion being thrown around is the approximate total in the subcategory reported for this month (Nov. 09).  But it is a repeat of the data in the Nov. 08 cell.   The last new data (not repeating the data of one year before) is May 09.  Thus, the last 'known' size of the subcategory was $3.73 billion; the current size is being reported, in an apparently eroneous fashion, as $4 billion; and we have no fucking idea what the real number is, until the Fed picks a new one. 

If the subcategory has fallen to $0, the $17.5 billion drop in spending would actually be a drop $21.5 billion.  Unlikely.

On the other hand, the subcategory may have grown by any reasonable number, meaning that the $17.5 DROP could be significantly smaller, by an open-ended amount.

Cursive's picture

My thanks to the vigilant reader.  Man, Steve Liesman's head is going to explode on this one.  I'm sure he'll find some positive internals, though.

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

The vigilant reader bids you welcome.

anynonmous's picture

Ten minutes to Wapner

deadhead's picture

Echo the thanks to vigilant reader.

How does this impact the reported minus $17.5 billion number?  Anybody?

Thank you.

Cursive's picture


TD says the impact is no more than $4B, but which way?  I'm not familiar with the data series and not sober enough to study up.  If it were to lower the number to $13.5B, that would still be an extremely negative surprise.

deadhead's picture

which way is the question.

agreed that 13.5, if it were the case, is still horrendous.

I'm sober as a judge and I sure can't figure it out.  I don't even understand the column headings!

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

You're not supposed to be able to understand the column headings.  That's how they put the "fun" in the "funhouse"!

deadhead's picture

Thanks for making the effort to report your findings to ZH Coyote.  Thanks as well for your comments above.  It will be fun to see how the Fed handles this, presumably next week.

Commander Cody's picture

I think TD is pointing out that the 2009 data is the same as the 2008 data, therefore, it cannot be correct.  He ponders, as do I, what the true data is.  It probably doesn't matter anyway, since I do not believe anything our corrupt government says.

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

Commander Cody is correct.  

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We can't know the size or direction of the error until the Fed picks a new number, so that's not the point, and it doesn't matter anyway what gross consumer debt (ie spending) was back in November: it's old news and the deeper the drop was, the more bullish you should be come one day after the next earnings season.

I found this problem and tipped off Tyler, and the point is that the our employees at the Fed are sloppy and NEED to be auditied to provide Commander Cody with some reason to trust something with his money.  Currently, wisdom is in extreme skepticism. 

fiasco's picture

ok tyler, explain you self

if the very notion of the fed is corruption, then we don't need to dwell on acts of the fed

unless of course the fed is not in itself an act of corruption

explain you self 

because socrates tell me that examples of something is not the definition of that thing

hey, socrates, is this ok to submit

what, i don't understand you with that drumstick in you mouth

Mad Max's picture

Ah, drunk posting.  I guess it IS Friday night after all.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Mad Max,

fiasco isn't drunk. This is how fiasco sounds all the time, like s/he is drunk.

Goldtoothchimp09's picture

ah, yes.  Macke riding the rails and trying hard to provide the voice of reason.  A Classic!

Ripped Chunk's picture

What happened to your accent fiascock?

CheapKUNGFU's picture

pardon my ignorance here, but if the numbers were used twice in the calcs, wouldnt that make the release number of 17billion about nearly 5billion to high... and therefore a better reading than was earlier released?



Cursive's picture

The expectation was -$5B, so a reading of -12.5B or -13.5B would still be 2.5 times worse than expected, so, yeah, rally on for the bulltards.

Coyote on RocketSkates's picture

The numbers are not getting used twice in the same month's calculation.  The numbers add across the page in this format.  The same old numbers are being re-used in new calcs, from month to month.