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Russian markets hold ground as Moscow fights new sanctions

While analysts are debating the overnight sanctions imposed by Washington on Moscow, Russian markets don't seem too irked by these moves.

Russian assets have seen a fairly encouraging year with the Russian stock index Micex up more than 25 percent since the start of the year and the Russian rouble outperforming major currencies.

Sonja Laud, investment director, Global Multi Asset Group at Barings Asset Management, told CNBC Friday that President-elect Donald Trump's willingness to reset ties with Russia is just one factor benefiting markets.

"If you look at the underlying fundamentals that has been quite encouraging and I think that has been the main driver why the Ruble and the Russian assets have done quite well ahead of the U.S. elections and then accelerated because there is a very good connection between the President-elect Trump and Vladimir Putin so that has accelerated the positive newsflow," Laud said.

Laud said economic data suggests that there is potential for the central bank to ease further and that makes it a good mix to buy in further into Russian assets.


The rouble is currently trading at 61 against the dollar and is up by 17 percent since the start of the year. However, the ruble is down more than 43 percent since the sanctions were imposed on Russia in late 2014.

A number of analysts have said that the election of Republican candidate Donald Trump will benefit Russia not just politically but also help money move into Russian assets. While the new sanctions could mean some tough times for U.S.-Russia relations, Barings' Laud thinks there is a possibility of a reversal.

"We have to wait until we have more information and I think we should not forget that it is in the Presidential powers of President-elect Trump once he is inaugurated to remove these sanctions. We do not know yet but this is a possibility so that is why markets have reacted negatively but not over reacted in a meaningful way."


In a short statement Thursday, the President-elect downplayed the White House's actions, which came after the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Russian government directed cyberattacks on some American political organizations. Trump said he will meet with intelligence officials next week to get briefed on the situation.

"It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation," Trump's statement said.

Trump a life-saver for Russia?

Meanwhile, some analysts have said that Trump's victory is a life saver for Putin.

Alastair Winter, chief economist at Daniel Stewart, told CNBC last month that Trump offers Russia three benefits, the most important is the lifting of sanctions which will feed through to a revival in economic growth.

"We know the Italians are eager to lift sanctions, as are several German parties including the SPD. Of course, (Angela) Merkel and her CDU want to retain sanctions but would struggle to hold the line if the U.S. lifts them and it could be a major election issue," Winter said.

Secondly, the reduced influence on U.S. foreign policy of the neoconservatives who according to Winter remain as paranoid about Russia as ever.

The third and final benefit for Russia would be the international prestige that comes with being a superpower, Winter said, but the key question is when these benefits start to flow.

"Prestige has already arrived in a pink bow. The Neocons will be difficult to displace even after Trump is in office and lifting the sanctions is far from certain. This explains why Russian assets rallied last week in the glow of the election result but have not since held on to all their gains."


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