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Lame blame game

History

The Bloomberg news agency published a news item a few minutes prior to April’s central bank base rate decision stating that the benchmark had been slashed to 1%, something that couldn’t be – and obviously wasn’t – factual. A correction was issued within the same minute, but the false information nonetheless caused an upheaval on the market and caused the forint to weaken notably for a short while before a correction.

The events played perfectly into the rhetoric pursued by the government and a central bank that is now loyal to the cabinet’s goals, a narrative that insists that Hungary is constantly being targeted by speculative foreign forces, and that international media organizations are serving their interests in Budapest. Bloomberg had some explaining to do and still faces an investigation by the finance market regulator on suspicions of market rigging.

Make no mistake, Bloomberg’s error is serious, perhaps the most serious in the textbooks of the profession. However, it was exactly that: a mistake. Without delving into the practical aspects of how international news agencies publish base rate decisions, suffice it to say that the premature release of the base rate call, which was obviously fake to anyone familiar with the state of affairs in Hungary, is a classic fat thumb incident.

These are high stakes, where mistakes do, and should have, consequences. Still, the government’s accusation that there was any deliberate intent behind the course of events is completely unfounded, wrong and unfair. The government and its central bank should probably instead start concentrating on their own policy measures, which make the Hungarian currency so vulnerable to any slight shift in sentiment, instead of waiting to pounce on any and every opportunity to point the finger of blame at the media.

 

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