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Russia Stocks Drop First Day in 4 as U.S. Budget Sends Oil Lower

Russian equities retreated for the first time in four days as crude oil, the nation’s chief export earner, fell and investors sold riskier assets amid a deadlock in U.S. budget talks.

The Micex Index lost 0.7 percent to 1,411.83 by the close in Moscow. Utilities and financial stocks declined at least 0.9 percent on average. Russia’s dollar-denominated RTS Index sank 0.5 percent to 1,443.87. OAO Inter RAO UES dropped 1.3 percent, while VTB Group, Russia’s second-biggest lender, declined 1 percent.

Oil slid 1 percent to $88.19 a barrel in New York after U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration rejected a Republican budget plan, as the two sides try to avert more than $600 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts that start in January, the so-called fiscal cliff. Russia receives about half of its budget revenue from oil and natural gas.

“The fiscal cliff remains a key question, we’re not seeing more clarity, investors continue to take profits today,” Mark Rubinstein, head of research at IFC Metropol, said by phone from Moscow. “Oil is being weighed down by the budget negotiations.”

Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of Commodities lost 0.9 percent to 644.78. Zinc, tin and nickel declined in London.

Abramovich Stake

OAO GMK Norilsk Nickel climbed 1.4 percent to 4,876 rubles, the highest since Nov. 6 and the biggest Micex gainer today. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich agreed to buy a 7.3 percent stake in the miner as its two biggest owners seek to end a four-year struggle for control of the company. United Co. Rusal increased 0.8 percent to 183.87 rubles.

Abramovich’s Millhouse LLC investment company will acquire the stake in Moscow-based Norilsk as part of a settlement between its shareholders Rusal and billionaire Vladimir Potanin, Hong Kong-listed Rusal said today in a statement. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.

“The main thing is the resolution of the shareholder conflict,” Rubinstein said. “The market will be expecting higher dividends from Norilsk now.”

The Market Vectors Russia ETF, the largest dedicated Russian exchange-traded fund, was steady at $27.84 yesterday. The RTS Volatility Index, which measures expected swings in futures, increased 0.8 percent to 22.69 points.

Dixy Rallies

OAO Dixy Group, which operates more than 1,000 neighborhood stores in Russia, rallied 5 percent to 360 rubles, the biggest gain since July 3. The amount of shares traded was 56,410, equivalent to 3.4 times the three-month average.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. lifted the stock to overweight from underweight, Bank of America Corp. raised it to buy from neutral and Alfa Bank increased its price estimate to 530 rubles, citing the outlook for next year.

The retailer’s third-quarter net income jumped 18 percent to 280 million rubles, the company said yesterday. Revenue rose 23 percent to 35.9 billion rubles.

Russian equities have the lowest valuations based on estimated earnings among 21 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg.

The Micex trades at 5.3 times estimated earnings after adding 0.7 percent this year. That compares with a multiple of 10.4 times for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which has added 10 percent.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was approached by President Vladimir Putin’s government to help improve the nation’s image and lure investment, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said in an interview in New York yesterday.

New York-based Goldman Sachs invested more than $1 billion of its own money to buy stakes in Russian companies including Group Ltd. and Tinkoff Credit Systems in recent years, arranging bond and equity offerings.

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