The Vladimir Putin Rally
In a speech Tuesday morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin struck both a defiant and a conciliatory tone. On one hand he accused the West of fostering a putsch in Kiev and that Crimea is a strategic piece of Russian and that the peninsula can only be considered Russian. On the other hand, he disavowed any intention to send troops into Ukraine, claiming that Russia does not want to partition Ukraine.
Investors and traders have paid more attention to the second part of Putin’s speech than to the first, at least in early trading this morning. The markets opened higher and have stayed at or above their opening levels, at least through the first half hour of trading.
Among the better performing stocks are Russian firms that trade on U.S. exchanges. Mobile Telesystems OJSC (NYSE: MBT) is up nearly 4% at $16.86 after falling to a new low of just over $15 last Friday. The telecom and broadband company’s market value is nearly $17 billion and it trades about 3 million shares a day.
VimpelCom Ltd. (NASDAQ: VIP) is another telecom provider with businesses in Central Asia, Africa and elsewhere, as well as in Russia. The company posted its 52-week low last Wednesday at $8.29 and has gained about 1.4% so far this morning, to $8.89. The 52-week high is $14.74. VimpelCom trades about 2.4 million shares on an average day.
Yandex N.V. (NASDAQ: YNDX) is usually considered to be Russia’s Google. The company’s market value is around $10 billion and it trades about 4.3 million shares daily. The shares are coming off a recent low of $28.65, and the 52-week range is $19.93 to $45.42. Shares are up more than 5% this morning at $31.52.
Qiwi PLC (NASDAQ: QIWI) operates an electronic payment system primarily in the Russian Federation and in former Soviet republics. It also has operations in the United States and the United Arab Emirates. The stock posted a recent low last Friday of $30.32, in a 52-week range of $14.51 to $59.24. The company’s market value is about $1.8 billion, and it trades about 750,000 shares on an average day. Shares are up 3.8% today at $35.21.
The Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEMKT: RSX) is up nearly 3%, this morning at $23.11 in a 52-week range of $20.86 to $30.25. The low was posted last Thursday. Daily average volume is around 5.4 million shares and in the first half-hour of trading this morning has already topped 3 million shares traded.
The markets appear satisfied that Putin has no further designs on Ukraine, and apparently equally satisfied that whatever sanctions the United States and others impose as a result of the annexation of the Crimea will not have much immediate impact. That sounds about right to us.