AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — About a year ago, Federal Reserve officials were nervous. Markets were cratering. Fear about a trade war was rising. The officials needed to know if the turmoil was chilling consumer spending. Problem was, a partial shutdown of the government had halted the release of most economic data.
So Fed officials did something they couldn't have done during previous shutdowns. They turned to a backup: Consumer spending figures from First Data, a card payment company that processes about $2 trillion in transactions each year. First Data's figures showed that most consumers were shrugging off the upheaval. Weeks later, when the government's data was finally released, it closely tracked First Data's figures.
"It was a big deal for the Fe