3 Min Read
* reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=stock-index-poll Reuters poll data
* RTS index to rise 15 pct by end-2017
* RTS down 13 percent so far this year
* Economic recovery, foreign appetite support
* Oil, possible new U.S. sanctions among risks
By Zlata Garasyuta and Alexander Winning
MOSCOW, June 29 (Reuters) - Russian stocks are expected to rise 15 percent in the second half of the year, erasing losses from the first half as oil prices recover and foreign investors take advantage of beaten-down asset prices, a Reuters poll showed.
Russia's stock market has been volatile in recent years because of wild swings in commodity prices and political tensions between Russia and the West.
The dollar-denominated RTS index rose 52 percent in 2016, rallying on hopes U.S. President Donald Trump could relax sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict, but has fallen 13 percent in 2017 as those hopes have faded.
"We're optimists; we think oil prices will rise to $54 a barrel at the end of the year," said Valery Evdokimov at Nordea Bank, predicting the RTS would end the year around 1,300 points versus compared to its close on Wednesday at 1002.83.
"Along with surplus liquidity on global financial markets, that ($54 oil) will support Russian shares."
The median forecast of 13 analysts, surveyed in the past week, was that the RTS would end 2017 at 1,150 points - around where it closed 2016.
Despite mostly bullish predictions, analysts in the quarterly poll acknowledged substantial risks, including the risk that oil prices would fail to recover or that Western sanctions could be tightened.
Eight analysts had lowered their year-end forecasts from a March poll, when the median forecast was for the RTS to end the year at 1,250 points.
The U.S. Senate voted this month for new sanctions on Russian firms to punish Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its support for Syria's government in the six-year-long civil war.
Among the reasons for Moscow-listed shares to rise, analysts cited an economic recovery in Russia and the fact that global central banks were seen phasing out their ultra-loose monetary policies very gradually.
Most analysts saw Brent crude ending the year at over $50 a barrel, compared to their current level of around $46 a barrel. That matters because energy companies have a weighting of around 50 percent in the RTS.
Credit Suisse recently increased its Russian equity exposure to an overweight of 15 percent versus the benchmark index, citing near-distressed share price valuations.
End-2017 RTS forecasts in the latest poll ranged from 850 to 1,350, reflecting the uncertainty among analysts.
Geldy Soyunov, an Alfa Bank analyst and the most bearish respondent in the poll, said his estimate for the RTS at 850 reflected a rouble weakening on lower oil prices. The RTS would also be affected if the U.S. Federal Reserve started to shrink its balance sheet in the fourth quarter, he said.
For other stories from the Reuters global stock markets poll Reporting by Zlata Garasyuta and Alexander Winning; Editing by Eric Meijer