The cost of hedging against swings in Russian equities has fallen to its lowest level in almost two years relative to emerging-market stocks on wagers oil’s longest rising streak since May will bolster the country’s shares.
Implied volatility, used to gauge the cost of options, on the Market Vectors Russia ETF is 1.52 points higher than on the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on three-month contracts with an exercise price closest to the exchange-traded funds. That’s the smallest gap since September 2011. The exchange-traded fund for Russia, the biggest in the U.S. that tracks the country’s shares, jumped 5 percent last week, the most since September.
The Bloomberg Russia-US Equity Index of Russian stocks traded in New York has gained 10 percent since reaching a one-year low June 24 as higher oil and a weaker ruble boosts the outlook for the world’s biggest energy exporter while slower inflation paves the way for interest-rate cuts. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index added 7 percent in that span, trailing Russia as Citigroup Inc. raised the country to overweight, citing the lowest valuations among 21 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg.
“The Russian market seems to be the best out of the worst, and systemic underweight in Russia finally is starting to be closed at the expense of other regions,” Simon Mandel, the director of emerging Europe equity sales at Auerbach Grayson & Co. in New York, said by e-mail. Investors are paring bets for declines “in anticipation of some support of the market.”
The Bloomberg Russia-US Equity Index rose 1.4 percent on July 12, extending the weekly advance to 6.5 percent. OAO Rostelecom, Russia’s largest fixed-line operator, rose 3.9 percent to a six-week high.
Futures on Russia’s RTS Index slipped 0.1 percent in U.S. hours. The Market Vectors Russia ETF rose 0.2 percent to $26.44. The RTS Volatility Index, which measures expected swings in futures, fell 2.6 percent to 25.48.
Oil, Russia’s biggest export, rose for a third week as U.S. corporate earnings topped analysts’ estimates and U.S. inventories tumbled.
Russia’s economy grew 1.6 percent in the first three months, the slowest pace since 2009, and annual inflation slowed to 6.9 percent in June from 7.4 percent in May, approaching the central bank’s target of no more than 6 percent.
Economists are predicting the central bank will cut the main short-term repurchase rate, currently at 5.5 percent, 0.25 percentage point in the third quarter and another quarter point by year end, according to a Bloomberg survey conducted in June.
Options traders have pushed bearish bets on Russian equities to a five-month low relative to bullish ones. The ratio of puts giving the right to sell the Market Vectors Russia ETF versus calls to buy slipped to 1.53-to-1 on July 10, the lowest since January, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The number of bullish options outstanding climbed 12 percent from the June 21 options expiration to 66,210 on June 10, according to the data. During that time, open interest for puts rose 2.2 percent to 101,019.
January $30 calls, with an exercise price 13 percent above the last close, were the most owned among bullish contracts, followed by August $32 calls, the data show. The three contracts with the largest open interest were bearish.
Implied volatility for three-month options with an exercise price closest to the Russian ETF slipped 19 percent from its nine-month high on June 25 to 25.27 at the end of last week, data compiled by Bloomberg show. During that time, the measure for the emerging-markets ETF lost 8 percent to 23.75.
United Co. Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer, sank 2 percent to HK$2.93 in Hong Kong trading as of 10:16 a.m. local time. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.3 percent.