Despite easing foreign trade, Russian markets turn attractive

By MoneyTimes

Nov 26, 2015 02:35 AM EST

The steep fall in oil price is impacting Russia's foreign trade more in a negative way, while the financial markets are witnessing renewed interest from overseas investors and fund managers as well.

Russian credit default swaps have turned cheaper. The US-traded Russian equities are gaining momentum on a modest rally. The investor sentiment is turning into a positive mode. The oil price drop in dollar value has significantly impacted the Russian economy.

After hitting its lowest level in October 2014, Russian credit default swaps have turned cheaper. Fund managers including Wells Fargo, which manages $242 billion assets, are mildly overweight position on Russian stocks. The main reason for renewed interest among overseas investors is incredibly cheaper Russian assets. 

Ever since Russia annexed Crimea in an ill-disguised war in the Donbass, the economy slipped into pressure as Western sanctions have been imposed on it. Of late, the investor sentiment is gradually becoming positive towards Russia. 

According to Rosstat, Russia's state statistical service, the economy suffered severely in early 2015, but it's been stabilizing during the past few months.

Russian exports in dollar terms fell 31.5 percent. This main reason for this decline was attributed to the sharp drop of 42.7 percent in dollar value of oil price. 

The economic sanctions by the US, European Union (EU) and other western countries, Russia banned imports of agricultural and food products from those nations.

Western countries have cut the country off from foreign credit and investment. As a result, Russia entered into economic crisis situation from December 2014 onwards.

Oil exports contribute to the most of the Russia's earnings. During the same period, the continuous drop of oil price further dented the export earnings.

Russia entered 2015 with mounting inflation and deepening recession.

Russia has depreciated its currency Ruble and this made agricultural exports more competitive in the global market.

Russia was the second-largest foreign market for the US in poultry meat until sanctions. EU was the largest foreign supplier of agricultural and food products to Russia contributing 40 percent of imports.

During January-September, the oil production rose 1.4 percent and oil exports grew over eight percent.

But the drop in dollar value of oil price is eroding this gain. Similarly, exports of natural gas were also hit by fall in dollar value of oil price. As a result, natural gas exports fell 28.6 percent on year-on-year basis. 

As EU imposed sanctions, Russia is opening its doors to Israel for poultry imports.

Russian Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said expanding Israeli chicken exports to Russia is important. "This is another example, in light of the EU boycott, of the government's activity to open exports to other countries", he added.

More than exports drop, Russian imports also fell 38.2 percent. Imports of automobiles, equipment and other transports fell 41.7 percent. 

Russia also registered a sharp decline in bilateral trade with Spain, Latvia, Poland, UK, France and Czech Republic. The bilateral trade with China, Japan, India, Turkey and US was marginal up during January-September period.

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