POLL-Russian stocks to recover losses by year-end on higher oil, stronger economy


* cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=stock-index-poll poll data

MOSCOW, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Russian stocks are seen rising around 2 percent from current levels in the last quarter of 2017 to erase losses made earlier this year, driven by higher oil prices and a recovery in the Russian economy.

Russia's stock market has been volatile in recent years due to sharp swings in commodity prices and geo-political tensions between Moscow and the West.

The dollar-denominated RTS index fell 13 percent in the first half of the year as initial hopes U.S. President Donald Trump would improve ties with Russia faded and relations between the two countries deteriorated further.

But higher oil prices and increasing signs of improvement in Russia's economy after a two-year downturn have supported the index in recent months with stocks rallying 13.6 percent in the third quarter.

The median forecast of 12 analysts polled by Reuters in the past week was for the RTS to finish the year at 1,153 points, roughly matching its 2016 close of 1,152.33.

"We think that growth in Russian stocks by the end of the year will be helped by a stabilization of the oil market and the continuing revival of the economy," said Evgeny Loktyukhov at Promsvyazbank.

"The attraction of the Russian market also means stable dividend expectations for a number of liquid securities," he said, predicting the RTS would end 2017 at 1,215 points compared with its close on Tuesday of 1,129.9.

End-2017 RTS forecasts in the quarterly poll ranged from 900 to 1,250. The range was narrower than in the previous quarter but still reflected continued uncertainty among analysts.

Despite mostly bullish predictions, many analysts acknowledged substantial risks remained for the Russian market. They cited a possible dip in oil prices or a tightening of Western sanctions as risks that raise uncertainty.

"Aside from oil, news about possible anti-Russian sanctions will rock both the rouble and Russian stocks," said Danske Bank's Vladimir Miklashevsky.

Trump grudgingly signed new sanctions against Russia into law in August and tensions between Moscow and Washington have since escalated in a tit-for-tat diplomacy spat.

Supporting Russian stocks, however, oil prices rose around 20 percent in the third quarter - the biggest increase for that quarter since 2004 - thanks to efforts by global producers, including Russia, to reduce output and remove a supply glut.

Analysts also pointed to further rate cuts by the Russian Central Bank, which help stimulate spending and erodes the appeal of investing into bonds rather than stocks, as a reason for Moscow-listed shares to rise.

The bank cut its key rate by 50 basis points to 8.5 percent in September, down from 10 percent at the beginning of the year, and Governor Elvira Nabiullina has promised further reductions in coming months.

"The proposed further softening of the Russian Central Bank's monetary-credit policy could, in our view, look better for the market," said Dmitry Alexandrov at Univer Capital.

(To read other stories from the Reuters global stock markets poll)

(Editing by Andrey Ostroukh)