The Moscow stock market rallied after stock trading resumed for the first time since it was suspended when the invasion of Ukraine began nearly a month ago, although the United States has called Thursday’s limited reopening a “charade.”
The market initially rose more than 11% when a limited and shortened trading session began on the Moscow Exchange. But the rally lost some momentum, with the Moex Blue Chip Index ending the day up 4.4%.
It was its first session since Feb. 25, when trading was halted after sanctions sent Russian stocks tumbling.
Energy companies and commodity producers are leading the winners, reflecting rising gas, oil and commodity prices since the war began, but some companies exposed to massive sanctions on Russia have fallen.
Only 33 of the 50 ruble-denominated Moex stocks were trading.
The shares trading were buoyed by new restrictions, including a ban on traders selling short shares they do not own, while foreign investors cannot sell shares until April 1.
Reports earlier this month that Russia planned to channel up to 1,000,000 rubles (£7.7bn) from its national fund to buy shares could also have encouraged purchases.
The United States has been scathing about Moscow’s attempt to revive equity trading.
“What we see is a charade, an opening of the Potemkin market,” said Daleep Singh, the US deputy national security adviser for international economics, referring to fake villages allegedly created for Russian Empress Catherine the Great for giving the illusion of prosperity.
“After keeping its markets closed for almost a month, Russia announced that it would only allow 15% of listed shares to trade, foreigners are prohibited from selling their shares and short selling in general was prohibited. Meanwhile, Russia has made it clear that it will devote government resources to artificially supporting the actions of trading companies,” he said.
“This is not a real market or a sustainable model, which only underlines Russia’s isolation from the global financial system.
Traders agreed the heavy restrictions meant Moscow was not a properly functioning market. “The Moex rallied early in trading, but that’s what happens if a lot of people can’t sell,” Neil Wilson of Markets.com pointed out.
Chemical company PhosAgro, which produces fertilizers and phosphates, jumped 26% while oil and gas group Tatneft jumped 20% and energy giant Gazprom 13.4%. Nickel and palladium miner Nornickel rose 10%.
Airline Aeroflot sank 16%, the biggest drop, as Russian planes were banned from EU and UK airspace. State-owned bank VTB fell 5.5%. hit by Western sanctions. Pipeline operator Transneft fell 6% and children’s toy retailer Detsky Mir lost 5.5%.
Despite Thursday’s rally, the Moex is still down nearly a third this year, after weakening ahead of the invasion of Ukraine and plunging in its early stages, before being suspended .
The ruble fell nearly 10% to around 98 rubles to the dollar, reversing Wednesday’s gains after Vladimir Putin said ‘unfriendly’ countries would be forced to pay for gas purchases in rubles rather than dollars .