April 10, 2018 / 8:36 AM / 13 days ago

UPDATE 3-Battered by U.S. sanctions, Russian markets stay under pressure

* Authorities seek to calm markets

* Russian bonds hit by new proposal for sovereign debt curb

* Russia cancels weekly bond sale for first time since 2015 (Adds quotes, detail, updates prices)

By Katya Golubkova and Andrey Ostroukh

MOSCOW, April 10 (Reuters) - The rouble touched its weakest since late 2016 before recovering a small part of recent losses as a sell-off of Russian assets, triggered by more U.S. sanctions, extended into Tuesday with the reaction from local authorities still muted.

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions against 17 senior government officials plus seven oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, sparking an investor exodus.

Designed to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other “malign activity,” their spread far beyond the targeted companies.

The rouble slid to 63.95 versus the dollar, its weakest since early December 2016, and eased to 78.77 against the euro, a level last seen in early April 2016. It later edged up from lows as the price of oil, Russia’s main export, rose.

Bonds took a hit as well. Yields on 10-year OFZ treasury bonds, which move inversely to prices, rallied to 7.55 percent, a level last seen in late 2017.

They came under added pressure from a proposal by two U.S. congressmen to impose sanctions on holders of Russian debt.

Rapid moves on the bond market, where OFZ treasury bonds have recently been in strong demand among foreigners thanks to their relatively high returns, prompted the finance ministry to cancel its weekly OFZ auction for the first time since 2015.

“The trajectory of Russian assets is expected to be extremely volatile and dependent on incoming news,” Rosbank, a subsidiary of Societe Generale, said.

JP Morgan’s EMBI+ bond index for Russia, which tracks returns from trading a number of Russian bonds fell sharply to 824.1, a level last seen in late 2016, from around 861 before the sanctions.

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