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Russian rouble soars to 83 vs dollar before easing, stocks mixed

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A board with the logo is on display outside the office of the Moscow Exchange in the capital city of Moscow, Russia March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
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(Reuters) -The Russian rouble soared over 7% to 83 to the dollar in Moscow on Tuesday before paring some gains, hitting a more than one-month high near levels last seen before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, while stocks ended another volatile session in mixed fashion.

The Russian market is gradually reopening after a suspension caused by sweeping Western sanctions that followed the beginning of what Russia calls “a special operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

By 1333 GMT, the rouble was up 5.2% against the dollar at 85.10, having earlier touched 82.9525, its strongest since Feb. 25. It gained 1.9% to trade at 94.76 versus the euro, earlier clipping a Feb. 25 high of 92.10.

In offshore trade, the rouble was weaker, hovering at 87 to the dollar on the EBS electronic platform.

Two powerful drivers – Russia switching to roubles for gas export payments and exporting firms being mandated to convert 80% of their foreign currency earnings into roubles – are supporting the Russian currency, said Iskander Lutsko, chief investment strategist at ITI Capital.

“The market now really depends on progress in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” Lutsko said of the Russian stock market, as the two sides met for face-to-face talks in Turkey and there were signs of tentative progress.

STOCKS RECOVER

Russian stocks were trading in curtailed sessions and with various restrictions, including a ban on short-selling. Non-residents are barred from selling stocks and OFZ rouble bonds until April 1. Trading volumes are far lower than normal.

The dollar-denominated RTS index finished the shorter session up 7.1% at 881.6 points, but the rouble-based MOEX Russian index pared early gains to shed 0.9% to 2,408.5 points.

Evgeny Suvorov, economist at CentroCredit Bank, said the entire capitalisation of the MOEX index is now about six times smaller than the market capitalisation of U.S. tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Flag carrier Aeroflot, one of the most volatile securities since the reopening, jumped 16.4%. Oil major Rosneft was 3.4% higher and dominant state lender Sberbank gained 3%.

The Moscow-listed shares and depositary receipts of some companies with primary listings abroad returned to trading on Tuesday.

Nasdaq-listed tech giant Yandex saw its Moscow shares climb 4.6%, while depositary receipts in London-listed retailer Fix Price soared 13.2%.

London-listed internet firm VK, one of a few companies to have flagged issues with servicing debt, saw its Moscow depositary receipts leap 72.3%, recovering to levels seen in mid February.

Moscow Exchange said it had held “discrete auctions” on securities of Aeroflot and VK. A discrete auction is a tool the bourse can use to try and ease extraordinary volatility and allow a base price for the security to form.

VK securities closed the session at a price of 510 roubles, up from a record low hit on Feb. 24, but still way off levels of around 2,000 roubles seen in early 2021.

VK’s flagship social network Vkontakte has set new records for user activity in the last month, in the wake of foreign platforms being blocked.

“Market participants are probably over-valuing the company after the work of rival social networks was restricted in Russia,” said BCS analysts.

EUROBOND TEST

Russia’s finance ministry said on Tuesday it had fully paid a coupon on its Eurobond due in 2035, its third payout since unprecedented Western sanctions called Russia’s ability to service foreign currency debt into question.

But Russia retaliated in what it has called an “economic war” with the West by offering to buy back its $2 billion Eurobonds maturing next month in roubles rather than dollars.

Yields on Russia’s benchmark 10-year OFZ treasury bonds dropped to 12.68%, moving further away from last week’s record high of 19.74%, which was just below the central bank’s key interest rate. Yields move inversely to prices.

Russian rouble soars to 83 vs dollar before easing, stocks mixed

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