The Russian Market is Doomed

Writing in the Moscow Times, Russian economist Konstantin Sonin says that the Russian stock market is doomed (actually, he said it, before Black Tuesday, making him look pretty sharp indeed):

President Dmitry Medvedev likes to blame Russia’s stock market troubles on the global financial crisis that was triggered by the U.S. housing market bust, while critics of Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin see it as the result of the government’s mistakes.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but probably closer to Medvedev’s position. Developing markets fluctuate in unison, so most of Russia’s losses can be attributed to investors’ jitters over the worsening global crisis. But the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which tracks stock markets in developing economies, fell by just 20 percent since May, while Russia’s stock market dropped by more than 40 percent. This suggests that Russia’s leadership played a significant role in the stock market decline.

Three major government missteps that contributed to the stock market woes this summer can be singled out: Putin’s and Medvedev’s decision not to interfere when government agencies applied pressure to BP in the TNK-BP affair; the harsh words by Putin against Mechel; and the escalation of the Cold War rhetoric following the conflict with Georgia.

Two government proposals were announced last week for supporting the country’s stock market. In the first, money from the National Welfare Fund would be invested in the stock market. The second calls for the Central Bank to extend credit to banks. But the idea of using state funds to buoy the market is fraught with dangers. If the stock market’s drop is connected with a global trend, pumping state funds into a sinking market means we would be using taxpayers’ money to pay a nice bonus to scared investors who are eager to exit the Russian market.

The one advantage to supporting the equities market with the help of the Central Bank is that at least the money would be given as credit, and not as a gift from taxpayers’ pockets. But this approach is even more dangerous than the previous one. This is because when banks invest in the equities market, their asset portfolios are exposed to greater risk.

It seems that the Central Bank wants to keep all Russian banks solvent, even those that have high default rates in their consumer credit portfolios. This could mean that taxpayer money will be used to cover the increased risk. Yet the main danger in the Central Bank supporting the equities market is that it would strip the bank of the independence that is so necessary to fulfill its primary function — curbing inflation.

Maybe, for the lack of a better option, the government should just leave the stock market alone for a while

2 responses to “The Russian Market is Doomed

  1. from http://www.postimees.ee (translated because i doubt there are very many people visiting this place who read Estonian):

    “The Russian trade system RTS started this morning with a small rise but then fell again.

    On the order from the Office of Financial Surveillance, trading with the shares of Russian companies at RTS was stopped at 12:08 Moscow time
    and at 12:10 at the InterBank [?] Currency Exchange (MICEX), said Interfax. The Federal Office interfered because of the continuation of falling prices on Russian stock markets. At 12:05 Moscow time (11:05 Estonian time [10:05 CET; 9:05 GMT]), the RTS index was 6.39 percent inthe minus at 1058.84 points. The index finished the day yesterday at 1131.12 points. The first among the falling stocks was the banking sector. The Russian Sberbank stocks, for example, fell 16.67 per cent. Of the energy companies, the gas monopoly Gazprom stocks had fallen 4.62 per cent, Transneft stocks 10.64 per cent and Rosneft stocks 0.91 per cent compared to closing price yesterday. The Russian General [literally “communal”] Energy System stocks were 8.93 per cent in the negative. By midday, the price of the Mobile Telesystems’ stocks had fallen 20.63 per cent. According to the estimation of Russian analysists, the situation on the Russian stock market will remain unstable, the stock market will have chill-shivers, said Interfax. Regardless of a somewhat improved situation for external factors, internal problems with liquididty will remain.”

    I used [parentheses] when wasn’t sure of the exactly correct translation and went for the more literal version. Most interesting here is the fact that now there IS no stock market in russia any more so it can’t fall… Like the Murphy’s rule “one can’t fall off the floor” and the addendum to the rule “it takes human beings 3 years to learn this rule”

  2. curiouslyinspired

    Russian markets are due to have a further crash for 2 reasons: (a) the collapse of the speculative bubble in the housing market where prices were expected to rise indefinitely ; and (b) a home-grown own Russian credit crunch linked to consumer over-lending without much reference to proof of long term income or credit checks (just like in the USA, really). The latter has been fuelling the consumer boom in big cities for the past few years but is bound to end soon. Could be a matter of a few weeks for either or both of these events to happen I fear.

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