Russian stock market reopens after month-long shutdown

The benchmark MOEX index gained as much as 10% in early trading in Moscow and ended the day up 4.4%. Russia’s central bank has banned short selling and foreign investors are not allowed to sell stocks, bans that could help support stocks.

Investors were able to trade 33 stocks during the limited session from 9:50 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Moscow. Blue-chip shares Gazprom, Lukoil, VTB Bank, Sberbank, Rusal and Rosneft were among those traded.

Russian stocks were last traded on Feb. 25 after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent stocks plummeting. The MOEX index had lost about 35% of its value this year, while the RTS index – which is denominated in dollars – had plunged 42%.

In the weeks following the lockdown, Western-imposed sanctions crushed the ruble and put the the country’s economy free fall. President Joe Biden is expected to announce additional sanctions during a trip to Europe this week.

Foreign investors were barred from selling shares on Thursday under new rules barring brokers from executing sales on their behalf.

Foreign funds held more than 80% of all stocks traded on the Moscow Stock Exchange in the first half of 2021, according to Reuters. The US and Canada accounted for 54% of the total, including 22% from the UK and 21% from the rest of Europe.

The Biden administration called the reopening a “charade.”

“Russia has made it clear that it will devote government resources to artificially supporting the actions of trading companies,” Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh said in a statement. “It’s not a real market or a sustainable model, which only underscores Russia’s isolation from the global financial system.”

Despite strong double-digit gains in companies including energy producers Lukoil, Rosneft and Gazprom, some companies fell as the market reopened on Thursday. Most notably, Russian airline Aeroflot fell 16.4%. The holding company of electricity and heat Inter RAO fell by 7%.

— Kevin Liptak and David Goldman contributed reporting.

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