* Russian stock indexes down 1.5-1.6 pct
* RTS index hits lowest level since September 2009
* Rouble up v. dollar but down v. euro, supported by
(Adds comments and details, updates prices)
MOSCOW, March 13 Russian stocks slid further on
Thursday, before a referendum in Crimea that investors fear
could bring harsh Western sanctions against Russia.
At 1400 GMT, the dollar-denominated RTS index had
fallen 1.5 percent to 1,084 points. The rouble-denominated MICEX
was down 1.6 percent at 1,254.
The RTS index fell to its lowest since September 2009 and
MICEX to its lowest since May 2012. The indexes have lost 13-14
percent since the beginning of the month.
"The further down (the market) goes, the more people sell
because they get margin calls," said one Moscow-based trader.
"People are scared that U.S. funds will be forced to sell
because of sanctions. (They are scared) the U.S. is going to
implement tough sanctions that will hurt the economy and cut
Russia off from the market."
Renaissance Capital trader Alexei Bachurin said stocks rose
briefly on Thursday morning because investors were buying to
cover short positions, bets the market would fall.
"There is nowhere to make sales," he said. "For now there
are such pessimistic expectations that people are defending
The Moscow-backed parliament in Ukraine's Crimea has voted
in favour of joining Russia. Residents of the region will vote
on Sunday in a referendum on whether to secede from Ukraine and
join Russia. Most Western countries say the vote is illegal.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of
"massive" political and economic damage and a "catastrophe" if
Russia proceeded with the annexation of Crimea. EU foreign
ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss further sanctions
The international stand-off over Ukraine is also expected to
curb the growth of Russia's economy, which was already
On Thursday, Goldman Sachs cut its forecast for Russian GDP
growth this year to 1 percent from 3 percent, citing tension in
Ukraine and an acceleration in capital outflows.
The bank estimates a net $45 billion to $50 billion of capital
has left Russia so far this year and says the flow for the full
year may reach $130 billion, double last year's.
Individual stock performances were mixed. Major losers
included leading bank Sberbank, which fell 3.8
percent, and airline Aeroflot, down 7 percent. But VTB bank
was up 1 percent and gas giant Gazprom was
down just 0.2 percent.
The rouble weakened slightly, supported by central bank
interventions that kept the rouble within a floating corridor
against a dollar-euro basket.
The rouble firmed 0.2 percent against the dollar to 36.43
on stronger oil prices but gave up 0.2 percent
versus the euro to trade at 50.84.
The Russian currency was down 0.1 percent at 42.95 against
the dollar-euro basket that the central bank uses to
guide the rouble's nominal exchange rate.
The central bank shifted the rouble's corridor by 10 kopecks
as of Wednesday, to 35.90-42.90. That implies the rouble was
trading on Thursday at a level where the central bank carries
out unlimited interventions to support it.
The bank releases its intervention data with a two-day lag,
but VTB Capital estimates the bank spent about $2 billion on
Wednesday to prop up the rouble.
"More hawkish headlines might follow the Crimea referendum
on Monday, which is likely to fuel some more rouble weakening,"
VTB Capital analysts said in a note. "Nevertheless, we think the
central bank needs to address it with an increase of forex
For rouble poll data see
For Russian equities guide see
For Russian treasury bonds see
Russia in graphics: link.reuters.com/dun63s
(Reporting by Jason Bush, Megan Davies, Lidia Kelly and Olga
Popova; Editing by Larry King)