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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Who profited from trading the October 7th attacks?

Scandal, conspiracy, and the surprising intersection of international politics and financial markets: that’s what economist Robert Jackson Jr and Joshua Mitts of Columbia University have uncovered. Before the attack on October 7th, Hamas’ strategic secrecy caught Israeli intelligence off guard, which has sparked interest beyond the geopolitics of the situation.

What does the financial world have to do with any of this, you might ask? Well, according to Jackson and Mitts’ research findings, there was a remarkable surge in short sales of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker EIS, which tracks an index of Israeli shares, just days before the attack.

The statistics are quite telling—one of the most noticeable points of their study is that on October 2nd, a mere five days before the attack, there was a sudden increase in the number of short sales of EIS shares. This sudden spike in activity seems to have come from just two trades. Then, on the first trading day after the attack, standard “long” transactions outnumbered short sales by a similar number of shares, which could potentially correspond to a $1m profit.

But that’s not all. Jackson and Mitts also found other securities that displayed suspicious patterns leading up to the attack. They discerned that the number of outstanding options contracts expiring on October 13th on American-traded shares of Israeli firms increased significantly during the three weeks before the attack. This data, paired with other evidence, has led the researchers to posit a connection between this suspicious trading activity and prior knowledge of the attack.

It’s important to note that the research is not without its critics, who argue that the trading activity might not be as clear-cut as it seems. Yet, the study has prompted an inquiry by Israel’s securities authority. Meanwhile, the authors insist that the most likely explanation for the trades is that whoever made them had intimate knowledge of Hamas’s secrets.

The authors are also quick to point out that the millions of dollars in potential profits they’ve identified are just the beginning. They believe that there could be much more under the surface and have called for further scrutiny into these trading activities to get to the bottom of them.

In the world of financial markets, it seems that nothing is as straightforward as it appears. Yet the work of Jackson and Mitts presents a compelling argument for further investigation. It’s not just about understanding what happened or why – it’s about ensuring that the implications of this knowledge are brought to light and acted upon.

This fascinating blend of finance and geopolitics shows just how intertwined the two worlds often are. And as the situation continues to evolve and undergo scrutiny, we can be sure that this is not the last we’ll hear about the intersection of financial markets and global conflict. Stay tuned for more developments!

**Editor’s note (December 7th 2023): This article has been updated to include criticism of the study and the authors’ response to it. For more expert analysis of the biggest stories in economics, finance and markets, sign up to Money Talks, our weekly subscriber-only newsletter.**

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