August 8, 2018 / 8:16 AM / 3 months ago

U.S. sanctions threat hurts Russian banks, rouble steady

MOSCOW, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Shares in Russia’s top lenders Sberbank and VTB fell on Wednesday after the Kommersant daily said they could be banned from operating in the United States under proposed U.S. sanctions legislation, but the rouble remained steady.

Kommersant published what it said was the full text of a draft U.S. law outlining possible penalties against Russia. The document cited potential restrictions on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the United States.

Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced the legislation earlier this month to impose stiff new sanctions on Russia and combat cyber crime, the latest effort by lawmakers to punish Moscow over its alleged interference in U.S. elections and its activities in Syria and Ukraine.

The measure’s prospects are unclear. It would have to pass both the Senate and House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Shares in Russia’s largest lender Sberbank dropped to 198.67 rouble on the Kommersant report, their lowest since late June, before recovering to 201.5 roubles as of 0728 GMT, down 0.1 percent on the day.

Shares in Russia’s second-largest bank VTB were down 0.6 percent, underperforming the benchmark stock index MOEX that declined 0.4 percent to 2,303.2.

Russian business conglomerate Sistema saw its shares fall 2 percent, hit by a threat of targeted sanctions after Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the most senior Representative from Florida, said on her Twitter account on Tuesday that an investigation was underway into Sistema’s chairman Vladimir Yevtushenkov for “operations in illegally annexed Crimea.”

Sistema’s spokesman said the company had no investments in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The rouble was little changed in thin summer trade, looking for new momentum.

Against the dollar, the rouble was steady at 63.51 and eased 0.1 percent to 73.76 against the euro .

“The rouble is currently supported by Brent crude prices but the escalation of risks of sanctions still limits the room for strengthening,” analysts at Rosbank said in a note.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was up 0.1 percent at $74.70 a barrel, up from levels of around $73 seen late last week.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see (Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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