Despite efforts to stabilize the crumbling ruble, the Russia trade just seems to keep going from bad to worse. The carnage has gone to the point that a financial trade seems to be taking place that defies fundamentals and logic. So far, nothing has really helped Russia to stabilize its currency — and increasingly lower oil prices are not helping the nation either.
24/7 Wall St. has covered the carnage in Russia before, but it really looks as if the nation is under financial attack. In just two months, the ruble has dropped in value from 40 rubles per dollar to more than 70 rubles. For currencies to drop this much, in many historical cases, is effectively a paradigm shift — or a real war or revolution, rather than a financial war.
Prior to this devaluation and implosion, Russia’s ruble traded in a tight band around 30 rubles per dollar. Sadly, trying to make a prediction of where this settles would just feel like a sucker’s game. The Russian shares that trade as American depositary shares (ADSs) in New York have been obliterated in this carnage as well. It may be that trying to nail a bottom here is a sucker’s game as well.
Russia raised its interest rates on Tuesday to 17%. Reports even showed the ruble at one point having hit 80. It is hard to know what the Russians will do in this case, but that earlier decision to let the currency go into a total free float was even more of an obvious mistake than the country would want to admit.
The question to ask is how deep these sanctions against Russia have to cut before Putin and the politicians have to capitulate.
Mobile Telesystems OJSC (NYSE: MBT) shares were down over 11% at $6.11 Tuesday morning. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $5.91 to $21.87. Mobile TeleSystems is an outfit that offers mobile and fixed voice, broadband and cable TV in Russia, Eastern Europe and central Asia.
VimpelCom Ltd. (NASDAQ: VIP) is supposed to have exposure in far more countries than Russia. It is a key telecom provider with markets in Russia, Italy, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Armenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Central African Republic, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada and Zimbabwe. Vimpelcom’s shares were down over 6% at $3.16. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $3.10 to $13.00.
Yandex N.V. (NASDAQ: YNDX) is touted as the “Google of Russia,” but the company has faced some problems recently. Its New York shares were down over 13% at $15.33. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $15.03 to $45.42.
Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEMKT: RSX) shares were down over 7% at $12.86. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $12.47 to $28.97. The Van Eck website showed that this now had only $1.4 billion in total net assets — and this has nearly been cut in half since September.
Templeton Russia and East European Fund Inc. (NYSE: TRF) shares were down almost 5% at $8.31. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $8.18 to $15.57. This closed-end fund has been around since 1995, and the total net assets listed on the Franklin Templeton site was represented as only $65.7 million.
Qiwi PLC (NASDAQ: QIWI) operates electronic online payment systems primarily in the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, Romania, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Its shares were down over 11% at $19.05 in early Tuesday trading. The stock has a 52-week trading range of $18.52 to $59.24.
Now consider the economy by the numbers from the CIA World Factbook. GDP per capita was projected to be $18,100 for 2013, with the nation’s gross domestic product at $2.113 trillion at the official exchange rate (or $2.553 trillion on a purchasing power parity basis). Imagine how bad those figures will look for 2014 and 2015 if the ruble remains at such depressed levels.