OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's statistics agency will end its long-running practice of releasing key employment and inflation data at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT) as of April - to the great relief of journalists and economists from coast to coast.
Starting next April, Statistics Canada will move the release time of monthly data on jobless numbers and inflation to 8:30 a.m., an official said on Thursday.
The change means that all economic data from the federal agency will now be released at 8:30 a.m. in Ottawa, which harmonizes the publication of the market-sensitive information with that of the United States.
Journalists, economists and traders cheered the move to end the dawn data dissemination, which had caused confusion in global markets that had come to expect North American data to be released at 8:30 a.m., an hour before major stock markets open in New York and Toronto.
"I have struggled for years to understand why they continued to release at 7 o'clock - it just made no sense," said David Watt, senior currency strategist at Royal Bank of Canada, the nation's largest bank.
"The old story used to be that Statistics Canada wanted to release them early so that when people were driving into work, the news about the Canadian jobs and inflation numbers (would be on the car radio)," Watt said.
"But how many people actually listen to the radio coming into work these days?"
Statistics Canada had long defended the early release as fair treatment to Canadians on the East coast, including in Newfoundland, where the time zone is 1.5 hours ahead of Ottawa and Toronto's Eastern Time.
But Watt said the 7 a.m. release of the two most important economic indicators was ill-timed, given European markets were still open but North American currency and bond markets were relatively illiquid at that time of day.
The change means Canadian employment data will often be released on the same time and day - typically the first Friday of the month - as U.S. jobs data. Inflation numbers usually come out in the middle of the month.
The new release time might mean the Canadian data will be buried by the simultaneous release of the U.S. data, or, conversely, it could win attention since "everyone will be looking at their (trading and news) screens at 8:30 anyway," Watt said.
The Statscan official would not comment on the change other than to confirm it, but said more details would be made available on Friday.
Reporting by David Ljunggren and Andrea Hopkins; editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson