China's central bank and statistics bureau removed officials from their posts on suspicion of leaking valuable economic data to brokerages and reporters ahead of official announcements, a state-run newspaper said Friday.
The Economic Information Daily's report attributed the information to an unidentified person it describes as an "insider" who said the staffers in the National Bureau of Statistics and the central bank's research office were in departments that had advance access to data.
Chinese economic data are watched closely by investors around the world. Getting access to leaked indicators can allow traders to make profits at the expense of other investors by anticipating how stock and bond prices will react when the information is officially released.
The report accused Chinese securities firms of being the "black hands" behind the leaks, though it did not specify the companies.
Still, the move against data leakers likely reflects the increasing pressure the government feels to guard economic indicators more carefully given the growing public attention on issues such as inflation, said IHS Global Insight analyst Xianfang Ren.
"I think the key thing here is that the government could have lost face because of the numerous leaks," she said. "Many people are watching it given that it is such a sensitive time when there are lots of concerns about macro-economic conditions in China."
There have also been many complaints from industry and parts of the government about data leaks because it's unfair for some organizations to get information first, Ren said.
The report did not say if the officials were fired or moved to less sensitive positions. Calls to the press office of the National Bureau of Statistics rang unanswered and faxes sent to the bureau and the People's Bank of China received no response.
The Economic Information Daily newspaper is a publication of the official Xinhua News Agency. It cited the person as saying that the employees were removed at the end of March after recent leaks attracted the government's attention, and that they could be publicly prosecuted.
The newspaper report said that in April, January and June last year, some media outlets released highly accurate forecasts of economic data days ahead of their release.