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European equities get caught in the rout of the rouble

Financial turmoil in Russia weighed on the region's stock markets.

By: Reuters | Paris | Published: December 17, 2014 6:16:50 pm
Signs advertising currencies light next to the exchange office in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014.  (Source:AP) Signs advertising currencies light next to the exchange office in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. (Source:AP)

European shares fell on Wednesday, reversing part of Tuesday’s recovery, as a new drop in oil prices and financial turmoil in Russia again weighed on the region’s stock markets.

The slide by the Russian rouble, down 50 percent against the dollar this year, slowed on Wednesday as the government sold foreign currency to prop it up. The currency remained under pressure, though.

The slump has revived memories of 1998, when the rouble collapsed and sparked a sell-off in European equities. Germany’s DAX, which has many companies that export to Russia, plunged nearly 40 percent in 2 1/2 months.

Brent crude oil also traded below $60 a barrel on Wednesday, near 5 1/2-year lows, as major oil producers signalled that they would maintain output despite a supply glut and faltering demand in Russia and Europe.

“The attack this week on the rouble has been quite violent, and the market is now pricing in a recession in Russia next year,” said Arnaud Scarpaci, fund manager at Montaigne Capital.

Scarpaci said he would avoid companies such as German retailer Metro, Finnish tyre maker Nokian and French bank Societe Generale, until the situation in Russia stabilised.

Shares in Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank, which relies heavily on the Russian market for profits and has fallen by more than 50 percent so far this year, also touched a record low on Wednesday.

Raiffeisen was one of the worst-performing stocks on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 blue-chip index, which fell 0.7 percent after gaining 1.9 percent bounce on Tuesday. The index has fallen some 7 percent since early December.

The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index also retreated by 0.7 percent to 3,030.24 points.


However, the main Athens stock market – which fell by around 20 percent in three days last week – outperformed to rise 3.4 percent.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces the first of three rounds of a presidential vote on Wednesday that will determine whether the country is forced into snap national elections and a new period of political chaos.

Samaras’s conservative-leftist coalition is almost certain to fail in the first round, when it needs the support of 200 lawmakers in the 300-seat chamber to elect its nominee, Stavros Dimas.

But the backing that his coalition, which controls 155 deputies, collects will be closely watched as a sign of momentum for or against it, before a final, decisive vote on Dec. 29. The super majority required for victory falls then to 180.

“The bounce today is Athens is just a sign that last week’s sell-off has exhausted itself. We will not know the full situation in Greece until later this month,” said Francois Savary, chief investment officer at Swiss bank Reyl.

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