Oil traders razor-focused on signs of escalating violence in the Middle East were jolted on Thursday by a Twitter posting from the Israeli military that, at first glance, suggested they had just bombed Syrian airports.
Oil prices jumped $1 as the talk raced through oil markets, which frequently react quickly to rumors of geopolitical events and where traders have increasingly turned to the Internet and social media for advance warning of escalating risks, from the Arab Spring to the Iranian nuclear standoff.
The Tweet was true, but it wasn't news. The posting referred to an attack 40 years ago in the Yom Kippur war, the latest in a series of Tweets from the Israel Defense Forces Twitter handle (@IDFSpokesperson) commemorating the war.
The Tweet just before 10:30 a.m. EDT stated: "Oct. 10 #YomKippur73: Israel Air Force bombards airports in Syria to prevent Soviet weapons reaching the Syrian Army.'' It then links to a website that gives a day-by-day account of the war.
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"Obviously this was part of our Yom Kippur Twitter series. The facts are there and simple to read. It was apparent within the Tweet itself,'' said IDF spokesman Peter Lerner.
Although traders quickly realized the historical nature of the Tweet, oil prices maintained their gains, supported in large part by hopes of a breakthrough in U.S. debt discussions and earlier anxiety over political stability in Libya.