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Stocks

Russian stock exchanges take a tumble over Crimea conflict

The political escalation surrounding Crimea has not left the Russian stock exchanges unfazed. The two major bourses in Moscow took a dive in early trading, with the ruble also losing more value as the week started.

Ukrraine turmoil hits the markets

The looming Russian military intervention in Ukraine over the Crimea peninsula sent shockwaves through the main stock exchanges in Russia on Monday morning.

Share markets opened down around 10 percent in early trading, with both Moscow's broad ruble-based index MICEX and the greenback-based RTS taking a dive.

The ruble lost more value, trading at 50 to the euro and 36.85 to the US dollar, both levels never seen before.

Damage containment

Investors chucked out Russian shares from their portfolios in large numbers, with natural gas supplier Gazprom being among the prime stocks hit hardest. The company's shares dropped by up to 12 percent after trading started to hit a seven-and-a-half-month low at 122.57 rubles (2.4 euros, $3.3).

Ruble hits new low

Russia's largest lender, Sberbank, also saw its stock dip by 12 percent, with its main competitor VTB even plummeting by 13 percent, a level last reached in 2009 in the middle of the global financial crisis.

In a surprise move, the Russian central bank had raised its benchmark financing rate from 5.5 percent to 7 percent.

"The decision is aimed at curbing inflation risks and threats to financial stability in increasingly volatile markets," the bank said in statement, not explicitly mentioning the situation in Ukraine.

On Monday, Russia's central bank sold up to $10 billion, or 2 percent of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, to stem the fall of the ruble, Moscow foreign exchange dealers estimated.

hg/hc (AFP, Reuters)

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