Russia Stocks Surge as Market Reopens, U.S. Data Lifts Gazprom

Russia’s benchmark stock index rallied to a two-week high after better-than-expected U.S. data spurred confidence in the global economic recovery, boosting OAO Gazprom, the country’s biggest company by market value.

The Micex Index added 0.9 percent to 1,504.05 by the close in Moscow. Of 50 stocks, 39 increased and 11 decreased. Gazprom, Russia’s natural-gas export monopoly with the second-biggest weighting in the Micex, gained 2.2 percent to its highest this month, erasing a two-day, 1.9 percent drop. The dollar-denominated RTS Index closed up 0.5 percent at 1,539.87.

Russian markets were closed for a public holiday March 8 when U.S. data showed employment rose 236,000 last month, beating a forecast for a 165,000 increase. OAO Lukoil climbed for a fifth day, its longest winning streak since August, on optimism Russia’s second-biggest oil producer will boost output and dividends.

“Gazprom faltered last week, now it’s bouncing back,” Mark Rubinstein, head of research at Metropol IFC, said by phone from Moscow.

OAO Magnit, the country’s biggest food retailer by market value, erased earlier gains of as much as 3.3 percent, dropping

2.5 percent, the second-biggest decliner on the Micex. Magnit’s February sales rose 26 percent to 41.9 billion rubles ($1.4 billion).

Lukoil Dividends

Oil in New York slipped 1 percent to $91.04, dropping for the first time in three days. Oil and natural gas account for about 50 percent of Russia’s budget revenue. Standard & Poor’s GSCI Index of raw materials declined 0.6 percent to 645.10.

Lukoil will invest more than $16 billion this year to lift output by 18 percent by the end of 2015, Chief Executive Officer Vagit Alekperov said March 7. The company will consider boosting dividend payout ratios from next year when investment demands ease, Alekperov said. The Moscow-based company will distribute 23 percent of net income in 2012 and is looking to boost shareholder payments to 30 percent of profit in the medium term, he said.

Ten-day price swings on the Micex climbed to 13.37, while the number of shares traded on the gauge was 40 percent below the measure’s 10-day average, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Russian Depositary Index fell 1.2 percent to 1,729.46, led by Magnit’s depositary receipts dropping 3.3 percent. Depositary receipts of AFK Sistema rallied 1.8 percent, as the holding’s Indian telecom subsidiary won spectrum auctions in eight areas, the company said in a statement today.

T+2 Transition

The Moscow Exchange will start moving to a two-day transaction settlement system on March 25 for Russian government OFZ bonds and the most liquid equities, the bourse said in an e-mailed statement.

M. Video, Russia’s biggest electronics retailer, rallied

3.8 percent to 268.81 rubles, the most since Sept. 14. EON Russia declined 2.9 percent, the most on the Micex.

The Micex trades at about 5.6 times estimated earnings and has added 2 percent this year. That compares with a multiple of 11 times for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, which increased

0.7 percent over the same period.

The Market Vectors Russia ETF, the largest dedicated Russian exchange-traded fund, gained 1.5 percent to $29.48 on March 8. The Bloomberg Russia-US Equity Index of the most-traded Russian stocks in the U.S. added 2.5 percent last week.

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