Russia’s stock market resumes trading after month-long hiatus

Rouble gains as Putin says Russia will start selling gas to ‘unfriendly’ countries in roubles

Russia’s stock market resumed trading after a month-long hiatus on Thursday with energy stocks rising and other shares staging erratic moves.

At 0713 GMT, the rouble was 1.4 per cent stronger against the dollar at 96.37, extending overnight gains driven by President Vladimir Putin saying Russia would start selling its gas to "unfriendly" countries in roubles.

Against the euro, the rouble was 1.9 per cent higher at 106 , still far away from levels of around 90 seen before Russia started what it calls "a special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24th.

On the stock market, volatility soared as Moscow Exchange partially opened its stock market section for the first time since late February, with the benchmark MOEX stock index climbing 11 per cent on the day to 2,742.2.

Shares in gas giant Gazprom jumped around 20 per cent in early trade, while oil majors Rosneft and Lukoil were both up 19 per cent as Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia's main export, hovered near $121 per barrel.

Shares in mining giant Nornickel were also performing well, up 23 per cent.

With most of European airspace closed to Russian planes, flagship carrier Aeroflot plunged around 20 per cent at one point before recovering somewhat to be down 5 per cent.

Sanctioned lender VTB opened in the red but soon recovered to add 1 per cent on the day. Major lender Sberbank gained 19 per cent on the day.

European shares inched higher on Thursday, helped by gains in defensive sectors amid worries over the deepening crisis in Ukraine as Western nations planned more sanctions on Russia.

European moves

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was up 0.2 per cent with utilities and consumer staples in the lead. Material stocks fell 0.3 per cent, limiting the index’s advance.

European gas prices soared after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country would seek payment in roubles for gas sold to “unfriendly” countries, a move that would exacerbate the region’s energy crunch and also stoke inflation.

Sanction worries heightened as US President Joe Biden arrived in Brussels for meetings of the Nato alliance, G7 and European Union. Sanctions thus far on the resources-rich country have sent commodity prices soaring on supply shortage fears.

Renault SA, the Western carmaker most exposed to the Russian market, slumped 2.3 per cent after it said it would suspend operations at its plant in Moscow while it assesses options on its majority stake in Avtovaz, the country's No. 1 carmaker.

Daimler Truck rose 4.4 per cent after it said it expected little impact on its business in 2022 from the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and forecast revenue growth of at least 14 per cent.

Five-day run

Britain’s Ftse 100 and midcap indexes were muted on Thursday, with the blue-chip index up 0.1 per cent, while the domestically focussed midcap index slipped 0.1 per cent.

The Ftse 100 index snapped a five-day run of gains on Wednesday after hot inflation data, while measures unveiled by Finance Minister Rishi Sunak to ease the worst cost-of-living squeeze in decades did little to ease the worries.

Next slipped 2.8 per cent after it trimmed its sales and profit guidance for 2022-23, reflecting the closure of its websites in Ukraine and Russia, and the moderating of growth expectations in some other overseas territories.

Miner Glencore dropped 2.9 per cent after it priced its stock offering at a discount.

Fantasy miniatures maker Games Workshop Group jumped 4.1 per cent after announcing a dividend and saying that trading in the three months ended February had been in line with expectations. – Reuters

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