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Russian Stocks Drop as Oil Falls on Inventories, Chinese Imports

Russian stocks dropped for the second time in the past three days as oil, the country’s main revenue earner, fell on projections U.S. stockpiles rose and as Chinese crude imports retreated.

The Micex Index of 30 shares slipped 0.9 percent to 1,498.07 by the close in Moscow, erasing an earlier gain of as much as 0.6 percent. Oil producers OAO Gazprom Neft and OAO Tatneft lost 3.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. OAO Gazprom, the natural gas export monopoly, fell 1.8 percent. The dollar-denominated RTS Index decreased 0.9 percent to 1,606.98.

Oil, Russia’s main export revenue earner, slid as much as $1.3 to $101.19 a barrel in New York as the Energy Department is expected to report U.S. inventories rose 2 million barrels to 364.4 million last week, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts. China’s net crude imports fell 6 percent in March and overseas purchases of all goods missed economists’ estimates, customs data showed, signaling lower demand.

“Fundamentals are mixed at present and the best argument in favor of equities - and Russia - would still appear to be positioning which remains extremely cautious,” Julian Rimmer, a trader of Russian shares at CF Global Trading U.K. Ltd. in London, said in e-mailed comments.

OAO Magnit, the Russian retailer, rose the most in a month after the company said its first-quarter sales advanced by more than a third. The shares jumped as much as 4.3 percent before closing 2.5 percent higher at 3,672 rubles, their biggest advance since March 11. Magnit said today its sales rose 34 percent to 101 billion rubles ($3.4 billion), compared with the same period in 2011.

Russian stocks rallied 8.2 percent in the first three months of the year, the biggest quarterly gain in more than a year on signs the global economy recovery is spurring demand for commodities. The gauge trades at 5.6 times analysts’ earnings estimates for member companies, below the 11.8 ratio for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

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