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Russian stock exchange resumes trading with restrictions a month into war

Russia has allowed some stock-trading on the Moscow Exchange to resume after stocks initially cratered following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Moscow Exchange resumed trading for 33 of the ruble-denominated stocks on Thursday. The market leaped as much as 12% after the exchange reopened and ended up closing with gains above 4%.

There were key restrictions in place to prevent another freefall like what the exchange experienced the day after Russia began bombing Ukraine. Trading was limited to only four hours on Thursday, and short selling was banned for the time being. Non-Russian investors are also forbidden from selling their assets until at least April 1.

Major Russian oil companies Rosneft and Lukoil climbed 16.97% and 12.41%, respectively. Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia, finished up 3.9%. Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, tumbled 16.4% during Thursday’s session.


The move comes after the stock exchange was opened for a limited time on Monday, but only OFZ bonds, the Russian acronym for federal loan obligations, were able to be traded.

At the outset of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the exchange's index plunged as much as 45% before rebounding to trade down 33%. After the massive losses, the government shut down all trading activity as U.S. and European sanctions rained down on Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Sberbank lost nearly half its value in one day as the ruble collapsed under the weight of the conflict.

Since its value plummeted to less than a penny, the ruble has clawed its way back a bit and is now worth just about one U.S. cent.

President Joe Biden’s deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh called the reopening a “charade” and said Moscow was “artificially propping up the shares” of the few companies that were allowed to be traded.

“This is not a real market and not a sustainable model — which only underscores Russia’s isolation from the global financial system,” said Singh. “The United States and our allies and partners will continue taking action to further isolate Russia from the international economic order as long it continues its brutal war against Ukraine.”

In perhaps the most biting punitive measure, the U.S., the United Kingdom, and the European Union restricted the Russian central bank from accessing a large amount of its more than $600 billion in foreign currency reserves, which it would otherwise use to halt the ruble’s decline. By doing so, the West prevented Russian efforts to insulate its economy from the other sanctions.

Western countries announced that certain Russian financial institutions would be cut off from the SWIFT system, the main secure messaging system that facilitates cross-border financial transactions and money transfers.

“Sanctions will cause tremendous financial distress in Russia and will throw it into a deep recession. Russia has said it had ‘sanction-proofed’ its economy, but the slump in Russia’s currency today shows that this isn't true,” Chris Miller, an assistant professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Washington Examiner after the sanctions were first imposed.


As Biden huddles with NATO leaders in Europe on Thursday, the U.S. announced the imposition of a new tranche of sanctions against Russian defense companies and hundreds of Russian lawmakers.