(Adds comments, updates prices)
By Jason Bush and Zlata Garasyuta
MOSCOW, April 1 (Reuters) - Russian stocks resumed a rally on Tuesday amid cautious optimism over the political situation around Ukraine, but market players said prices were drifting without much conviction.
Russian stock indexes rose in early trading, fell back towards the opening levels in the middle of the day and then rose again later in the day.
At 1445 GMT, the rouble-denominated MICEX index was up 0.5 percent at 1,375 points. The dollar-based RTS index was up 0.8 percent at 1,236 points.
“The volumes we now see on the market are not natural flows, but are either the result of algorithms or are connected with option trading,” said Dmitry Ryzhkov, equity salesman at Renaissance Capital. “At the beginning of the new month the market is quiet. All the sellers have already given up, and prices can be lifted without much effort.”
MICEX remains down 4.8 percent and the RTS down 2.4 percent since the end of February, before the threat of Russian military intervention in Ukraine caused a dramatic sell-off.
Russian asset prices surged on Monday. Diplomatic moves had taken place over the weekend to resolve the confrontation with Ukraine, and Russia was reported to be withdrawing some troops from its border with Ukraine.
“The very fact of negotiations has reassured investors that nothing bad will happen - bad in the sense of war,” said Oleg Dushin, chief analyst at Zerich Capital Management.
Analysts pointed out, though, that negotiations on Ukraine have yet to deliver much in the way of tangible results.
Absolut Bank analyst Ivan Fomenko said in a note that the markets’ rise in the evening was a reaction to the opening of the U.S. market. Stocks were buoyed in New York by Monday’s comments from Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen, who indicated that U.S. monetary policy will remain relatively loose.
Shares in Russia’s top natural gas producer Gazprom underperformed the market slightly, rising 0.3 percent.
The market shrugged off Gazprom’s announcement that it would raise the price of gas it sells to Ukraine by more than 40 percent, as Moscow stepped up economic pressure on Kiev. The increase was in line with market expectations and will be offset by a rise in duties on gas exports.
Gazprom will charge Ukraine $385.5 per 1000 cubic metres in the second quarter, up from $268.5.
“A discount cancellation would be neutral for Gazprom’s earnings, as it would be coupled with a $100/mcm increase in duties levied on gas exported to Ukraine,” Alfa Bank said in a report. “Also, if Ukraine refuses to recognize the cancellation, this would increase the risk of further debt accumulation (currently $1.75bn) to Gazprom, suggesting the risk of a drag on Gazprom earnings.”
A rally in the rouble petered out. In early trading, the dollar dipped below 35 roubles for the first time since February 13, before edging back towards opening levels.
At 1445 GMT, the rouble was flat at 35.12 against the dollar , and 0.1 percent weaker at 48.43 against the euro. It gained 0.1 percent to 41.04 against the dollar-euro basket.
The rouble is still down 7 percent against the dollar since the start of this year, one of the worst-performing emerging- market currencies, ING economist Dmitry Polevoy said in a note.
He attributed the rouble’s rally on Monday to ”an avalanche of demand from non-residents for shares and bonds, and also, probably, a reduction of long positions in foreign currency.
“For some reason everyone is encouraged by the results of negotiations (over Ukraine),” he said, “although basically they haven’t brought anything new except hopes”.
For rouble poll data see
For Russian equities guide see
For Russian treasury bonds see
Russia in graphics: link.reuters.com/dun63s (Reporting By Jason Bush and Zlata Garsyuta; Editing by Larry King)