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Germans Probe Pre-Terrorism Trading

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September 23, 2001

Liege, Belgium - German probes into trading before last week's terrorist attacks are focusing on stock- index, oil and gold futures, airline and insurers' shares and options, Bundesbank president Ernst Welteke said yesterday.

German central bank research shows "that activities on international financial markets must have been planned and executed with the necessary knowledge," Welteke told reporters at a meeting of European finance officials.

"There were share price movements at a whole series of companies, especially at airlines. Now it depends on the extent to which such suspicions can be verified, on how far one can trace who has made such transactions."

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also is investigating larger-than-normal trading of options in AMR Corp. and UAL Corp., the parent companies of American and United airlines, whose planes were hijacked and used in the attacks.

Trading in so-called put options, which rise in value when stock prices fall, surged as much as 285 times the previous average volume in AMR and UAL during the days before Sept. 11.

Welteke declined to identify the companies whose trading is being investigated by German authorities. However, trading in Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, was about double the normal volume on both Sept. 6 and 7, Bloomberg data shows.

Oil prices rose almost 6 percent in the two weeks before the attacks, and Welteke said the increase "cannot be explained by fundamental [supply and demand] data."

He said German securities regulators and the Federal Crime Office are examining the "atypical trading" in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Copyright 2003, Newsday, Inc.

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