Russian stocks sank to their lowest in a month as oil, the nation’s chief export earner, fell and investors sold riskier assets on concern global growth is slowing.
The Micex Index retreated 1 percent to 1,421.62 by the close in in Moscow, the lowest level since Aug. 3. United Co. Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminum producer, sank 4.4 percent, its steepest slide in more than three months. OAO Novolipetsk Steel, billionaire Vladimir Lisin’s steelmaker, declined 1.9 percent. OAO Gazprom, Russia’s natural-gas export monopoly, slumped 1.8 percent.
Gazprom faces a European Union antitrust probe over sales of gas in central and eastern Europe, EU regulators said in a statement yesterday. Crude slid 0.7 percent to $94.62 in New York, extending yesterday’s 1.2 percent fall after a report showed U.S. manufacturing contracted for a third month in August. Oil and gas contribute about 50 percent to Russia’s state revenue.
“The recent barrage of negative global macro stories, accentuated by the U.S. manufacturing data is probably the main culprit for the down-leg in the stock market,” Ivan Tchakarov, chief economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, said by e-mail today.
The probe will “loom large” over Gazprom and smaller gas producer OAO Novatek, VTB Capital analysts led by Alexei Zabotkin said in an e-mailed research note.
Gazprom slipped to 155.21 rubles, the most on since July 31. Novatek dropped 0.2 percent to 363.91 rubles. Gazprom has the biggest weighting in the Micex at 15.1 percent, while Novatek is fifth with 6.4 percent.
The European Commission said it’s investigating whether Gazprom imposed unfair prices by linking natural gas and oil prices, preventing gas from being traded between countries and hindering diversification of supply.
OAO Aeroflot declined 0.1 percent to 42.62 rubles, paring an earlier decline of as much as 1.1 percent. Russia’s biggest airline said first-half net income fell to $7.1 million as operational costs surged 64 percent.
Mail.ru Group Ltd. climbed as much as 6.2 percent and traded up 2 percent at $35.00 in London, heading for the highest level since Aug. 14. The largest Russian-language Internet company said profit in the first half advanced 66 percent compared with the same period last year to 4 billion rubles ($123 million), according to a statement today.
The Micex trades at 5.3 times estimated earnings and has rallied 1.4 percent this year. That compares with a multiple of 9.8 times and a 2.4 percent advance for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.
Russian equities have the lowest valuations based on estimated earnings among 21 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg.