Coronavirus Pandemic Rocks Russian Markets

The combined impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the breakdown of the OPEC+ oil production pact between Russia and Saudi Arabia has brought sharp volatility to Russian stock markets and swings in the value of the ruble, The Moscow Times writes.

Oil prices fell again Friday as investors grew increasingly nervous over Mexico’s reluctance to sign up to the deal to cut oil output by 10 million barrels per day — threatening to derail the whole agreement. Brent crude oil was trading at $31.50 a barrel as the Moscow trading session came to a close.

— The ruble bounced around throughout the day but recorded no change on its starting level of 73.8, as currency markets await confirmation of whether the landmark OPEC+ deal will go ahead — and if it does, whether it will be enough to meet a fall in oil demand which some analysts put closer to 30 million barrels per day.

— Russian stock markets finished the day where they started — in the red. The RTS Index lost 1.2% and the MOEX Index was down 0.9%. Nevertheless, both indexes recorded a strong week, with the dollar-denominated RTS Index, watched closely by international investors into Russia, adding almost 10%.

Analysts at Sberbank said the ruble’s recent strength implies traders are banking on a new OPEC+ deal to cut oil output and thus raise prices further. Even with a deal, they see the ruble as “likely” to return to a level of around 75 against the U.S. dollar. Should a deal fail to materialize, that implies the currency could fall much further.

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