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Stocks fall, ruble dives as Russia sanctions hit world markets


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Euro currency bills are pictured at the Croatian National Bank in Zagreb, Croatia, May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

By Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON (Reuters) – World stocks slid, oil prices jumped and the rouble tanked to fresh record lows on Monday, as the West ramped up sanctions against Russia for its attack on Ukraine that included blocking banks from the SWIFT global payments system.

Russia’s central bank raised its key interest rate to 20% from 9.5% in an emergency move, and authorities told export-focused companies to be ready to sell foreign currency as the rouble slid almost 30% to record lows versus the dollar.

As an economic crisis loomed in Russia, the fallout of tougher sanctions from the West imposed over the weekend rippled out across financial markets.

European stocks slumped 2%. European banks most exposed to Russia, including Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank, UniCredit and Societe Generale (PA:SOGN), dropped between 9 and 15%, while the wider euro zone banking index fell 7%.

U.S. stock futures were deep in negative territory, although MSCI’s broad gauge of Asia shares and Japan’s Nikkei eked out small gains.

“The trading environment is highly dynamic, and we maintain a defensive stance as things could get a lot worse from here,” said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Oil prices meanwhile surged after Russian President Vladimir Putin put nuclear-armed forces on high alert on Sunday, the fourth day of the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two.

The ramp-up in tensions heightened fears that oil supplies from the world’s second-largest producer could be disrupted, sending Brent crude futures up 5% to $102.86. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $4.62 or almost 5.0% at $96.24 a barrel.

“I am telling clients all we know for certain is that energy prices are going to be higher, and there are going to be some beneficiaries,” said John Milroy, Ord Minnett financial advisor in Sydney.

“It’s an old cliché, but it’s true that uncertainty drives moves in both directions.”


As uncertainty continued to grip markets, investors plumped for the safety of the dollar, Swiss franc and Japanese yen.

The euro slid 1% to $1.1168 and 0.9% to 129.08 yen, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars fell 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively.

Sovereign bonds such as the U.S. Treasuries and German Bunds — regarded as among the most safest assets to hold globally — remained in strong demand.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield was down around 7 basis points to 1.90% in London trade, and equivalent German yields were down 6 basis points to 0.16%.

Money markets continued to push back rate hike expectations with investors now pricing roughly 30 basis points worth of tightening from the European Central Bank in total this year, down from 35 bps late last week.

Gold was last up 0.61% to around $1,899.

Russia’s rouble dived almost 30% to a record-low 120 per dollar, but recovered some ground to last trade at just over 100 to the dollar.

MSCI’s Russia equity index slid 25%, while London and Frankfurt-listed Russian equity exchange traded funds (ETFs) tanked more than 35% as investors dumped Russian assets.

Russia sanctions ripple across world markets, rouble tanks

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