In September 1999, the prices of the Russian eurobonds also dropped to the level of late May – early June 1999 (see fig. 2). In addition to the domestic factors which affected the situation at the Russian bond market (terrorism, military operations in Dagestan and Chechnya, corruption and money laundering scandals), there were some negative tendencies at the international financial markets. The risk of default by eurobonds of Ukraine and Ecuador has changed the attitude to the bonds at the emerging markets.
Another factor for the fall in quotations of the Russian eurobonds was the result of negotiations between the Russian Government and the Paris and London Clubs. The scheme of conversion of a large part of the Soviet debts into the new eurobonds offered by the London Club may lead to a new price fall should the presented plan be implemented. In this case, the demand for the Russian bonds would be significantly lower than the supply. However, at present the prospects of writing off the Soviet debts are not as clear.
Stock market. Between mid-August to September 1999 prices continued to drop at the Russian stock market (see fig.3). Yet fruitless negotiations between the Russian Government and its foreign creditors, the intensification of the domestic problems, plus negative fluctuations at the international financial markets have led to a further fall in quotations of the Russian stocks against a background of the low level of trading volumes. In August 1999 the RTS Index dropped from 116.49 to 102.19 points, i.e. by 12.28%. According to the preliminary estimations, by the end of September the RTS Index should fall to 82 points, i.e. by 20%. Hence, compared to the maximal value registered in 1999 (148.14 points as of July 14) the drop rate in the RTS Index made about 45%.
Nevertheless, considering the term from the beginning of 1999 to late September the yields of investing into the Russian stocks kept as a positive one. During the first nine months of 1999 the average growth in the RTS Index is about 3.5%, i.e. 50% annualized.
According to the preliminary estimations, in September the total turnover in the RTS would not exceed $120 mln. That is at one third inferior to the respective index registered in August. Taking into account the fact that in August investors’ activity at the Russian stock market dropped 1.5 – 2 times compared to the respective indices reported in early summer 1999, the volume of trading in September would be at one-third down from the maximal volumes registered in 1999. Last time such a low level of trading at the stock market was registered in winter 1998 – 1999, prior to the revival of the market, which had followed the 1998 August crisis.
In September 1999 quotations of the majority of the Russian blue chips dropped by 8 – 30%. The only company whose stock prices were growing through whole September is ‘Megionneftegaz’: in particular, its common stocks grew by 11%. However, in August 1999 of all the Russian blue chips it was the prices for the company’s stocks which dropped most sharply. Hence, the growth in ‘Megionneftegaz’ stocks’ prices observed in September was a technical correction.
In September the price fall for stock was most significant by ‘Rostelekom’ – 30.13%, RAO ‘UES Russia' – 27.14%, ‘Tatneft’ – 22.54%, ‘Sberbank of Russia’ – 21.06% and ‘Irkutskenergo’ – 13.86% (see Fig. 4).
In September 1999, the most important factors for the change in stocks’ quotations were as follows: first of all, in early September the situation in the country was destabilized by the acts of terrorism in Moscow and other cities. Terrorism increased expectations of introducing of the state of emergency in the country, and general tightening of the political and economic climate. Though the threat of terrorism did not influence the policy of the Government and the Central Bank of Russia directly, all the above has contributed to the deterioration of Russia’s attractiveness for foreign investors. Some of the latter are concerned with the scenario of permanent risks of terrorism in Russia.
Secondly, in September military operations continued in Dagestan and near the Chechen border. Moreover, there were new invasions of the Chechen separatists into the Russian territory. Though the leading Western countries’ authorities to the situation in Russia was neutral, the active operations in the country affected the political and economic situation. In particular, it is likely that more Budget expenditures will be allocated to the defense sector. That could complicate the problem of equilibration of the Federal Budget of Russia.
Thirdly, the conflict situation with corporate governance in company ‘Transneft’ affected the climate at the Russian stock market. The ‘legal’ grounds for the change of the company’s head raised some concern with respect to the reliability of current system of protection of investors´ rights and legal interests at the Russian stock market. In spite of the fact that the State has all the voting stocks of ‘Transneft’, this replacement was implemented out of sequence of the order stipulated in the Federal Law "On Joint-Stock Companies". For foreign investors, that undoubtedly was a negative precedent in the eve of the Duma & President elections.
Fourthly, in September international oil prices continued to grow slowly. By late September, the price of dated Brent oil reached 22 dollars per barrel. According to the forecast of the OPEC’s projection, this tendency will continue at least up to spring 2000, and the oil prices are envisaged to reach about 27 dollars per barrel by that time. Obviously, that estimations are positive for the Russian oil companies in spite of the fact, that Mr. Poutin signed the resolution, which fixed the export duties with the maximal rate of 10 ecu per tonne.
Fifthly, the evident success at the negotiations between the Russian Government and foreign creditors from the Paris and London Clubs was not reached. Though the London Club gave the principal consent on the writing off of the Soviet debts, the specific fears were not agreed. At the same time, the creditors insist on the conversation of the debts into eurobonds. As it was mentioned before, that conversation could result in a drop in prices by all types of the Russian securities.
Sixthly, the money laundering scandal with the Bank of New York and a number of other large foreign banks. The scandal may make the IMF protract its decision to grant the second tranche of the loan. In this case, the necessity to make the payments by the Russian external debts at the expense of the internal assets increases the risk of a new ruble devaluation and could result in the deterioration of the financial stability of the majority of the large Russian corporations oriented to the national market.
Seventhly, in September 1999 the situation at both the largest foreign and developing stock markets somewhat deteriorated. During the month the majority of main stock indices of the developed countries (Dow Jones Industrial Average, DAX-30, CAC-40) experienced some fall (see tab.1). At the same time, a number of developing stock markets (e.g. Brazil) demonstrated growth in stock prices.
The most appreciable drop was experienced by the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index. The Index fell by about 10% compared the respective rate registered in mid-August 1999 (see fig.5). One of the reasons for this drop was in particular the growth of financial outflow from the USA to Japan and other countries which took place in September. The exchange rate of yen to US dollar reached the maximal value for the last three years (105 yen/dollar). The risk of the yen strengthening is still quite high. Moreover, in the wake of the decision made by the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England increased the discount rate by 0.25 percentage points, to the level of 5.25% annualized. Some countries from the ‘Euro zone’ also showed positive tendencies in their economic situation.
Dynamics of the Foreign Stock Indices
as of September 24, 1999
the change in value during the last week (%)
the change in value during the last month (%)
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (USA)
Bovespa Index (Brazil)
IPC Index (Mexico)
Interbank loan market. In September 1999 the state of affairs at the interbank loan market was determined by the decision of the Bank of Russia of 16.09.99. The decision was related to the non-residents’ assets placed at the C-type accounts in the Russian commercial banks. In compliance with the CBR’s decision, all the ruble assets which the banks have accumulated on those accounts as a result of the GKO-OFZ restructuring or after sales of the ruble denominated bonds issued in the cause of the Government debt restructuring must be transferred to the MICEX system. As long as the Russian commercial banks used these liabilities to finance their assets, the decision of the RCB has led to the growth in a demand for liquid assets within the banking system. As a result, by late September the interest rates on 'overnight' interbank loans grew to 25% annualized (see fig.6). Last time the similar level of interest rates on short-term interbank loans was observed between late March to early April 1999.
Foreign exchange market. In September 1999, the dollar exchange rate in the SELT peaked the maximal value. In particular, on September 3, the ‘tomorrow’ dollar exchange rate reached 25.89 rubles/$. The official dollar exchange rate grew to the level of 25.87 rubles/$. Later on, during the month the dollar exchange rate decreased gradually (see fig.7). That was caused by both the RCB’s interventions in the market and its decision which set the order to transfer the non-residents assets into the MICEX system (for more details, see the section on the interbank loan market). Until the end of the month the dollar exchange rate dropped to 25.05 rubles/$.
In September 1999, the official dollar exchange rate grew from 24.75 rubles/$ to 25.05 rubles/$ (see fig.7). That corresponds to 1.21% a month, or 15.6% annualized. According to the preliminary estimations, the ‘today’ dollar exchange rate in the SELT grew from 24.8092 rubles/$ to 25.2775 rubles/$ (as of September 24), i.e. by 1.89% a month (25.16% annualized). The ‘tomorrow’ dollar exchange rate practically did not change: it decreased from 25.3979 rubles/$ to 25.3348 rubles/$ (as of September 24). That corresponds to –0.25% a month (–2.94% annualized).
At the same time, in September the demand for dollars fell. According to the preliminary estimations, in September the overall trading volume of the most liquid ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ contracts made up 75000 mln. rubles and 40000 mln. rubles, respectively. In this case, the total volume of turnover by the contracts should be at about 20% inferior to the respective index registered in August.
On September 24, 1999, the Russian Central Bank held the special foreign currency auction for non-residents. At this auction, the foreign investors sold rubles which they had accumulated from the GKO-OFZ restructuring scheme for dollars. The RCB’s decision to reintroduce the practice of auctions was made on August 30, 1999. At the auction, the Bank offered $50 mln. The non-residents’ demand for dollars amounted to $680 mln. Hence, the demand was 13 times superior to the offer. At the auction, the dollar exchange rate became 27.819 rubles/$. That is at 10% superior compared to the market exchange rate.
In September 1999 ruble showed some growth against German Mark. In particular, during the month the ‘German Mark/ruble’ exchange rate dropped from 13.25 rubles/DM to 12.06 rubles/DM (see fig.8). That corresponds to –8.98% a month (67.7% annualized). Since September 1, 1999, the trading on the German Mark in the SELT was stopped, to be replaced by. trading on Euro.
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