The Fed's Consumer Credit Spreadsheet Is #REFing Out: Here's Why

As part of the Fed's quarterly report on household debt, the Fed is also kind enough to provide an excel breakdown of the source data that goes into its various charts - certainly a boon for everyone who prefers to work with excel as opposed to powerpoint (used in such hard hitting media products as slideshows of kittens and listicles). Today, however, there was a small problem.

It Refs out.

In fact page after page of Fed data pulled from the excel model located at refs out (we urge readers to test for themselves).

But why?

Well, as it turns out, before clearing it for public distribution those overlords of central planning, forgot to fix the internal links in the model, and send it out as hard-coded cells. Also known as first year financial analyst rookie error #1.

And where is the excel pulling local data from? As it turns out, an Equifax excel file saved locally in several files such as:

  • C:\equifax\samples\QuarterlyReport\time_series\201403\qrpt_byqtr_201403.out
  • C:\equifax\samples\QuarterlyReport\time_series\201403\qrpt_bystate_201403.out
  • C:\equifax\samples\QuarterlyReport\time_series\201403\bankr_state_201403.xls
  • C:\equifax\samples\QuarterlyReport\time_series\201403\forecl_state_201403.xls

And so on.

Luckily, the fact that the Fed's quarterly report is nothing but a relinked Equifax excel spreadsheet is not a secret. The Fed discloses as much:

This report is based on the New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel, which is constructed from a nationally representative random sample drawn from Equifax credit report data. For details on the data set and the measures reported here, see the data dictionary available at the end of this report. Please contact Matt Mazewski with questions.

What, however, should be a problem is that the Fed's "financial analysts" are so clueless about the most basic use of excel, they let a linked spreadsheet out for public consumption in the process reffing out anyone who tries to recreate their observations.

Aside from that, we have full confidence in the Fed's ability to seamlessly navigate, and centrally-plan, a $17 trillion economy through the perils of "harsh weather", the polar and solar vortex, and, of course, unwinding the biggest central bank balance sheet in history, which at last check accounted for 25% of US GDP and which represents 35% of all 10-year equivalent outstanding Treasurys.

Oh well, blame it on the weather.

Remember: above all, one must have faith.

* * *

That said, we wonder how many minutes after this article is published it will take for the Fed to fix its glaring error.