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Coronavirus Hits Russian Markets | April 1

The latest on how the ruble and Russian stock markets are reacting to the coronavirus.

Financial markets have seen extreme volatility as the coronavirus continues to spread. EPA / TASS

The Russian economy has been rocked by the coronavirus outbreak, and the breakdown of the OPEC+ oil production pact between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The turmoil has shocked traders around the world and resulted in sharp volatility on the Russian stock markets and swings in the value of the ruble.

The latest on the markets, as of 18.20 Moscow-time, April 1:

— It was a relatively muted day on the Russian financial markets, as traders await more news on the global spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

— The ruble was barely changed, standing at 78.6 as trading in Moscow wound to a close, unmoved as prices for benchmark Brent crude oil held above $25 a barrel.

— Stock markets were in the red, but recovered slightly from their opening levels. The RTS Index was down 2.6%, while the MOEX Index lost 1.4%.

— At the global level, attention remains on whether the world’s equity markets have hit their bottom, or if the recent rally is sign of a “dead cat bounce” — a mini recovery before a continued slump. Oliver Brennan of T.S. Lombard fears the latter, in a research note published Wednesday, he highlighted how uncertainty over the spread of the virus and potential infections, particularly in the U.S., shouldn’t warrant market optimism just yet.

Moscow open, April 1:

— The Russian stock market was jolted at the opening Wednesday morning — the first trading session of the second quarter — with the RTS Index falling 3.2% and the MOEX Index down 1.6%. Shares in financial services group Tinkoff Bank and oil major Tatneft were the biggest losers. In the U.S. and Europe, stock markets were shaken by a string of profit warnings and major companies slashing planned dividend payouts.

— The ruble also slipped back slightly, losing 0.6% overnight to trade at 79 against the U.S. dollar.

— Traders hoping for more insight on how the economic fallout of the coronavirus is shaping up were left unmoved by this morning’s usually influential purchasing managers’ index (PMI) readings. Survey data collected in mid-March showed a dip in confidence, but is unlikely to have captured the change in mood which occured in the final week of March, as Russia banned international travel and Moscow went into a strict lockdown.

March 31, Moscow close:

— Tuesday saw the tentative recovery on the Russian financial markets continue, with the ruble, shares and oil all making advances.

— The ruble was up 1.5% on the day against the U.S. dollar at 78.1. This was the tenth trading day in a row where the currency held between 77 and 82 against the greenback following its dramatic collapse after Russia pulled out of the OPEC+ oil alliance deal in early March

— The RTS Index was back above 1,000 points after a 5% gain Tuesday, while the MOEX Index added 2.6% to hover just below the 2,500 mark.

— Commenting on the tentative recovery in the global markets, Craig Erlam of OANDA said: “It’s still early days and I am not at all convinced we’ve bottomed yet but five positive days in six is definitely encouraging. Investors will no doubt just be relieved that the incredible levels of volatility appear to be behind us. This at least provides the foundations for a sustainable rebound even if we see another test of the lows in the near-term.”

March 31, Moscow open:

— Analysts saw signs of optimism in the global financial markets overnight, although with oil prices remaining under pressure, the recovery in Russian assets was limited.

— Benchmark Brent crude hovered around $22.50 a barrel after setting new multi-decade lows Monday, with the ruble trading at 78.9 against the U.S. dollar, up 0.6% from Monday’s closing level.

— The Russian stock markets recorded a stronger start to the day, with the MOEX Index up 2.6% and the RTS Index adding 4%. The rise was across the board with no companies seeing their shares in the red.

— VTB Capital’s Maxim Korovin said: “Monday brought some reassuring news regarding the global fight against COVID-19. The World Health Organization said there were signs of some stabilisation in Europe’s outbreak, with European lockdowns starting to bear fruit. Meanwhile, global monetary and fiscal authorities continued stepping up economic relief measures. Positive signals also came from macro data this morning: China Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) surged to 52 from the record low of 35.7 last month, while non-manufacturing PMI increased to 53.3 from 42, suggesting a broad improvement of sentiment across the economy.”

March 30, Moscow close:

— Oil prices fell heavily Monday as Saudi Arabia said it would raise its exports to a record high of 10.6 million barrels a day starting May. Brent crude dropped 12% to below $22 a barrel.

— Despite the oil rout, the ruble managed to slightly improve throughout the day, to close out trading in Moscow at 79.8 against the U.S. dollar.

— The stock markets were also largely unmoved in a day of rare stability. The RTS Index was flat, while the MOEX Index was up 0.9% for the day.

— The market could yet be shook in overnight trading as U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are set to discuss the global oil market and U.S. sanctions against Russia on a telephone call Monday evening.

March 30, Moscow open:

— As oil prices slipped to a new 17-year low, with benchmark Brent crude trading at $23 a barrel, the mounting pressure on Russia’s energy-heavy economy sparked a new round of volatility on Moscow’s financial markets. 

— The ruble fell to 80.2 against the U.S. dollar, down 1.7% over the weekend.

— Russia’s stock markets were in the red, the RTS Index losing 2% at the open and the MOEX Index down 1%.

— A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated economic activity would fall by one-quarter in economies with strict lockdowns and quarantines — meaning a two percentage point fall in annual GDP for every month of quarantine. A city-wide shutdown in Moscow started Monday, with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin putting pressure on other Russian regions to do the same.

March 27, Moscow close:

— A slow start to the day on the financial markets in Russia grew weaker as traders in Europe and the U.S. clocked in, with Moscow ending the week with red across the board.

— The ruble lost almost 3% against the dollar, closing off the week at 79.1. Yet again it was falling oil prices which did the damage as the cost of a barrel of Brent crude slipped below $25.

— Russian stock markets also headed down, taking the steam out of an otherwise impressive recovery this week. The RTS Index lost 6% and the MOEX index shed 3.5%, with the losses being fairly evenly spread across Russia’s bluechips.

March 27, Moscow open:

— It was another quiet opening on Russia’s financial markets, at the end of a week which saw Moscow’s efforts to battle the coronavirus accelerate. Russia’s financial markets are set to stay open for trading next week, despite the emergency nationwide holiday announced by President Vladimir Putin earlier this week.

— The ruble weakened a little at the open in Moscow, down 0.5% against the U.S. dollar and now trading at 77.8, while both the MOEX Index and the dollar-denominated RTS Index were slightly in the red, but with moves reminiscent of more normal times: -0.5% on the MOEX Index and -1.5% on the RTS Index.

— The stable end to the week marks a pronounced turnaround for the Russian markets, which have followed U.S. and global markets higher, as confidence over governments’ economic response to the coronavirus gains momentum. The RTS Index is now up 25% from its recent low registered just nine days ago, and is back hovering around the psychologically-important 1,000 mark.

March 26, Moscow close:

— The Russian financial markets registered one of their calmest and quietest days in weeks, with modest gains and no large swings throughout the day.

— The ruble continued to strengthen, picking up 1% against the U.S. dollar to stand at 77.4.

— Russian stock markets were also in the green, with the MOEX Index adding 1.5% and the RTS Index up 3%. 

— Still, analysts described the financial markets as being in a “delicate balance”. While the “panicked falls have slowed down due to unprecedented support measures outlined around the world … significant uncertainty remains … and there are no reasons for a sustained recovery in risky assets, including the ruble,” said Nordea Bank’s Grigory Zhirnov

March 26, Moscow open:

— It was a stable opening across the board Thursday morning in Moscow, as Putin’s address to the nation, the imposition of an emergency week-long holiday, the grounding of all international flights and a pending shut-down of bars, cafes and shops in Moscow failed to jolt the markets too much.

— The ruble was barely moved, trading at 78.8 against the U.S. dollar, slightly weaker than Wednesday’s levels, but comfortably stronger than the record lows registered last week.

— The stock markets were also steady, with the RTS Index and MOEX Index both down by 1.3% and no companies registering individual share price moves of more than 3.5%

March 25, Moscow open:

— A sea of green greeted Moscow traders as they clocked in Wednesday, with the U.S. stock markets posting their biggest one-day gain Tuesday since 1933, and Asian markets rallying overnight as investors seemed to be buying into emergency stimulus packages from central banks and governments around the world.

— Russia picked up the baton, following Tuesday’s strong gains with the MOEX Index adding 3% at the open and the RTS Index up 4%. Not a single stock was in the red, with Aeroflot and Rosneft the strongest performers. Aeroflot has climbed almost 40% in the last week and Rosneft is up one-fifth since its closing price Monday.

— The ruble also saw another stable overnight trading session, with the currency up 0.6% against the U.S. dollar to 77.8.

— The Russian story was helped by stronger oil prices, with Brent crude oil picking up 2% to almost $28 a barrel. However, ING slashed its forecast for average oil prices over the next three months to $20, citing a lack of signs that either Russia or Saudi Arabia are ready to come to the negotiating table for a renewed production cut deal.

March 24, Moscow close

— The ruble held its own throughout the day, managing to stay the better side of 80 against the U.S. dollar for the entire trading session in Moscow, currently standing at 78.6.

— Stock markets also performed strongly, recovering losses of recent days. The RTS index added almost 10%, while the MOEX Index was up 7.5%. Metal and mining companies topped the leaderboard, with the world’s largest palladium maker Nornickel adding a hefty 17%, Polymetal climbed 15% and aluminium firm Rusal was up by 12%.

— Commenting on another day of big moves in the global financial markets, Craig Erlam of OANDA said: “It’s been an incredibly turbulent month, one in which central banks and governments have been forced to announce extreme measures to combat the coronavirus crisis. Despite all of this stimulus, the stock market has continued to plummet, registering the kind of swings we very rarely ever see. Considering how these markets have traded over the last month, I'm certainly not confident that the worst of the rout is behind us.”

March 24, Moscow open:

— The ruble picked up support Tuesday morning, gaining more than 1% against the U.S. dollar to print 78.5 against the greenback as the Moscow trading session got underway. The dollar was weaker against most global currencies following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest package of monetary stimulus, unveiled Monday evening.

— The Russian stock market also registered a bumper start to the day. The MOEX Index was up almost 5% and the RTS Index jumped 7%.

— Russia’s state-backed oil giant Rosneft was top of the leaderboard, with a 9% rise in its share price, as the company announced it would take advantage of the market turmoil to accelerate its share buyback program. The company bought shares worth around 400 million rubles ($5 million) on Monday, VTB Capital estimated.

March 23, Moscow close:

— The ruble recovered some early lost ground, crossing back below the 80-mark against the U.S. dollar, holding at 79.8 as Moscow traders started packing up for the day. The currency picked up after the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a package of unlimited quantitative easing and new measures to increase liquidity in the world’s largest economy.

— The Russian stock markets also pared losses, but still stood in the red for the day, with the RTS index and MOEX Index both down around 3%.

— Economists at Nordea highlighted that global markets were still jittery, as “the situation with the spread of the coronavirus remains worrisome, with the risks of further deterioration in mood on the global markets elevated. At the start of the new week, the external background for the ruble remains negative.”

— Oil prices continued to be a drag on the Russian financial markets, as Brent crude shed another 4% to fall below $26 a barrel Monday afternoon. As countries go into lockdown, sapping global energy demand by as much as 10% according to Raiffeisen Bank, and Saudi Arabia ramps up its production, analysts at the Austrian bank expect the price to fall even further in the coming weeks.

March 23, Moscow open:

— With little signs of a recovery in oil prices, the ruble remained under pressure as the trading week got underway in Moscow. The currency stood at 80.8 against the U.S. dollar, 1.2% weaker than at the end of last week.

— The Russian stock markets plunged at the open, with the RTS Index losing 5.5% and the MOEX Index down 4%.

— Forecasts for the economic fallout of coronavirus continue to darken as more and more countries enter lockdown and the spread of the disease shows few signs of slowing. The CEBR, a British think tank, warned Sunday that GDP will fall twice as sharply as during the 2008 financial crisis, adding that the task of governments should be to prevent the coronavirus recession turning into a 1930s-style depression.

— The group said it expected the Russian economy to shrink by 4% in 2020, with little prospect of a post-crisis rebound.

March 20, Moscow open:

— After days of heavy losses the Russian ruble strengthened overnight, falling back from one of its weakest ever levels. The ruble was trading at 77.5 — up 2% — against the U.S. dollar Friday morning in Moscow. Benchmark Brent crude oil climbing back above $30 a barrel helped support energy-dependent currencies like Russia’s.

— Volatility is likely to remain sharp as traders await a crunch meeting of Russia’s Central Bank on Friday afternoon. The market consensus is that the Bank will hold rates at their current level of 6%, although Elvira Nabiullina' statement will be closely watched for signs of how the Bank views the economic fallout of the coronavirus. The Bank faces a huge conundrum over the coming weeks and months over how to support the Russian economy without sparking further devaluations of the ruble and inflation.

— The Russian stock markets were also in the green, with the RTS Index adding more than 7% and the MOEX Index up 5%. Aeroflot recovered a huge 14% in its share price, while energy majors and retailers also performed strongly.

— While Russian energy companies have “once again” been saved by interventions from the Russian government, producers are not out of the woods yet, VTB Capital said in its Friday morning research note. “The formidable $123 billion loss in annual oil revenues is shared between numerous parties: the budget, crude producers, refineries, customers and even the population. However, the loss is heavy and, although ring-fenced and supported, the Russian oil industry is likely to face challenging times ahead.”

March 19, Mosocw close:

— The ruble flitted up and down throughout the day, but closed the Moscow trading session where it started — 80.5 against the U.S. dollar. This is around the levels last seen in the 2016 financial crisis and on par with the ruble’s weakest level against the dollar since it was redenominated in the wake of the 1998 financial crisis in Russia.

— Russia’s Central Bank announced more details on its measures to stop the collapse of the currency, stepping up its sales of foreign currencies — the logic being higher demand for rubles can keep its value up. The regulator also shared more details on how it will use the proceeds from the sale of its stake in Sberbank to Russia’s Finance Ministry to increase its ruble-buying program.

— Russia’s stock markets notched up one of its better days in recent weeks, with the RTS Index up 6%. News of measures to support Russia’s oil companies through the period of low prices helped energy companies score double-digit climbs.

March 19, Moscow open:

— The Russian ruble remains at its lowest level in five years, having crashed through the benchmark rate of 80 against the U.S. dollar. Overnight the currency slipped as low as 82.7, before recovering slightly to 80.5 as trading in Moscow got underway. That marks a 32% depreciation since the start of the year.

— Traders don’t expect the currency to stabilize anytime soon. The ruble is already the worst performer this year, and the futures market has it as the second most volatile currency over the next three months, business site RBC reported Thursday. Against huge economic uncertainty, the U.S. dollar is now stronger than it has ever been, as calculated by its reading on the trade-weighted index.

— Russian stock markets, however, were stable at the open, with both the RTS Index and the MOEX Index showing little movement from Wednesday’s closing level. 

— Nevertheless, the readings were only balanced by some big share price moves in opposite directions. Retailers such as Lenta and Magnit saw their share prices jump, while national airline Aeroflot shed another 7%. A poster child for the coronavirus hit, just one month ago Aeroflot was worth $2.2 billion, the latest plunge takes its dollar market capitalization below $750 million.

March 18, Moscow close:

— The Russian ruble has fallen to its lowest level in five years, as the economic fallout of the coronavirus continues to weigh on the Russian financial markets. The ruble slipped to 79.8 against the U.S. dollar Wednesday evening in Moscow, putting the currency down more than 25% for the year so far. 

— The plunge came as oil prices — which have a large impact on the Russian economy — also dropped to their lowest level since the 2014-16 price crisis. Brent crude was down below $27 a barrel. It started the year at $66.

— Russia’s dollar-denominated RTS index lost more than 9% Wednesday, while the MOEX Index, calculated in rubles, was down 3%.

— Analysts sharpened their assessments of how bad the economic costs of coronavirus will be around the globe. Deutsche Bank warned of “a severe global recession” with “declines in GDP growth … to exceed anything previously recorded going back at least to World War II.”

— Russia’s economic response to the crisis remains moderate compared to the huge rescue packages being outlined in the U.S. and Europe. All eyes are on a crucial meeting of the Central Bank on Friday in Moscow, as governor Elvira Nabiullina will weigh up how to respond to the economic turmoil, a falling currency and heightened inflation prospects.

March 18, Moscow open:

— The ruble slipped heavily overnight, trading at 76.8 against the U.S. dollar Wednesday morning in Moscow. Analysts say the mammoth stimulus package unleashed by the United States and other developed economies around the world accelerated a rush into dollar-backed assets, with currencies of emerging markets suffering.

— The Russian stock markets were knocked back, picking up from a poor session in Asian trading, and taking the steam out of a bounce in the U.S. markets overnight. The RTS index was down more than 4% at the open, and the MOEX Index shed more than 1%. Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, was one of the biggest fallers, with Wednesday morning’s tumble meaning the company has now lost half its value — around $1 billion — in the space of four weeks.

— The ruble’s woes were compounded as oil prices once again started the day in the red, with benchmark Brent crude falling close to $28 a barrel, setting a new low not seen since January 2016. “The pressure on the oil market has been relentless, [and] risks remain to the downside as we move into the second quarter,” said ING’s Warren Patterson. “The demand picture continues to deteriorate as more countries implement shutdowns and put in place travel restrictions which have seen airlines cut capacity. Meanwhile the pickup in oil supply from April following the breakdown of OPEC+ talks does mean that these weak prices are likely to linger for quite a while longer. Lower prices are clearly going to hurt oil exporting countries.”

March 17, Moscow close:

— After picking up in the morning, the ruble slipped back to fall below the 75-mark against the U.S. dollar. A $1 bill would get you 75.2 rubles on the money markets Tuesday evening. The 1% daily fall would be big news on any number of other days, but following huge volatility over the last two weeks, traders might count today’s move as a sign of stability. 

— The Russian stock markets also reversed their earlier upward trend, falling back in afternoon trading. The RTS index, denominated in rubles, was down 4.3% for the day and the MOEX Index dropped 2.8%. Construction group LSR fell more than 10%, followed by retailer Detskiy Mir and financial services group Tinkoff.

— Brent crude oil dropped back below $30 a barrel in Tuesday afternoon trading.

— “The situation remains tense, as the pandemic in Western economies has not yet passed its peak — and perhaps is the beginning,” said Sergei Suverov, analyst at BCS Premier. “Now the main question is whether the authorities will be able to help with large-scale anti-crisis stimulus to prevent mass bankruptcies.”

March 17, Moscow open:

— Markets were subdued Tuesday morning, with the huge overnight moves which have characterized trading in the last few weeks failing to materialize. The calm comes after another bloodbath on Wall Street on Monday, where stocks fell 12% in the worst daily performance in 33 years. “The Federal Reserve's emergency move Sunday apparently failed to impress markets Monday, with investors questioning the efficiency of monetary policy for fighting the virus outbreak,” wrote VTB Capital’s Maxim Korovin in his Tuesday research note to clients.

— The ruble gained almost 1% overnight, trading at 74 against the U.S. dollar.

— The Russian stock markets registered small but steady gains, reversing some of yesterday’s losses. The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 1.6% to 982 points in the first minutes of Tuesday trading, while the ruble MOEX Index climbed by the same extent, moving back above 2,300. Blue chips Gazprom, Sberbank and Sistema were top of the leaderboard.

— Brent crude oil also climbed overnight, hovering slightly above the benchmark $30 a barrel price which traders have fixed on since the collapse of the OPEC+ deal earlier March.

March 16, Moscow close:

— The ruble fell again Monday, down 2.5% to start off the week, trading at 74.2 against the U.S. dollar. Earlier in the day, the currency fellow the benchmark level of 75 to the dollar.

— The Russian stock market also lost 5% as global stocks plummeted following an emergency rate cut from the U.S. Federal Reserve announced late Sunday. The RTS index, which is denominated in dollars, stood at 938 points (-5.4%), while the ruble-based MOEX Index was at 2,216 (-4.3%).

— Oil slipped to a fresh multi-year lows, with Brent crude falling 10% below $31 a barrel. Edward Moya, analyst at OANDA said: “Oil’s worst-case scenario seems to be coming true.  The coronavirus is paralyzing economies across the world and no-one has any clue how much worse it will get. You can basically start pricing a complete collapse in crude demand for much of the world.”

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