February 26, 2020 / 12:08 PM / a month ago

Russian stocks to reach new highs in 2020 despite uncertain backdrop: Reuters poll

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s stock market is forecast to surpass record levels reached in January by the end of this year, a Reuters poll of market experts showed, but concerns over the effects of China’s coronavirus epidemic are causing uncertainty.

Russia’s rouble-denominated MOEX index .IMOEX was among the best global performers in 2019 as central bank rate cuts and increasingly high dividend payments by Russian companies drew buyers in to Russian equities.

But the coronavirus epidemic, which has since lessened global appetite for risk, may harm Russia along with other emerging and developed markets.

Most forecasts in the poll were collected last week, before global markets took a beating on fresh coronavirus concerns, while the rouble and Russian stocks all fell to 2020 lows.

The MOEX is still seen recovering and peaking at the end of 2020, while gains in the dollar-based RTS index .IRTS are expected to continue into 2021, a consensus forecast of 13 analysts showed.

Unlike in previous polls, some analysts refrained from long-term forecasts in the February poll amid the virus-related uncertainty.

“The coronavirus situation is clearly a wild card – the market currently seems to be pricing in a best-case scenario, whereas the full economic impact may be felt and appreciated only toward mid-March,” said Erik DePoy, equity strategist at Gazprombank.

The MOEX hit a record high of 3,226.9 on Jan. 20 and is forecast to gain around 7.8% by the end of this year from 3,002.68 on Feb. 25, reaching 3,237.

Forecasts in the poll, which was conducted in the second half of February, ranged from 2,600 to 3,650.

“We are not ruling out the possibility of a global indices pullback in 2020,” said Maxim Petronevich, chief economist at Otkrytie Research. “Elevated uncertainty among investors will remain: the expectations of strong economic performance in 2020 are evaporating.”

Dmitry Donetsky, equity analyst at Solid Investment, said the likelihood of a correction in global stocks in 2020 was substantial, but that Russia would be impervious to the worst of that decline.

“The Russian market, in our opinion, stands apart,” he said. “Most companies have not yet realized their potential. Therefore, taking into account declining rates, we are prone to moderately positive dynamics of indices.”

The RTS is forecast to trade at 1,605 points by the end of this year, up from 1,446.11 on Feb. 25. Forecasts in the poll ranged from 1,273 to 1,830.

A global trend for rate cuts has “drowned the market with liquidity” and may limit downside pressure, keeping the end of the bull run at bay, according to the head of Freedom Finance’s trading operation Georgy Vashchenko.

Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Additional polling by Mumal Rathore and Tushar Goenka in BENGALURU; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Alexandra Hudson

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