Oil and Gas

Retail investors flock to Moscow Exchange in March

MOSCOW, April 6 (Reuters) - Retail investors flocked to Moscow’s stock exchange in March opening twice as many accounts as the monthly average in 2019 and ploughing more than half a billion dollars into shares during a volatile month’s trading.

The Moscow Exchange (MOEX) slumped to a one-year low on March 19 as global investors fled riskier assets due to uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak and oil prices collapsed as demand worldwide dried up. Since then, the main share index has pared half its losses since mid-February.

MOEX did not say why there had been a jump in retail activity in March though it pointed out that many Russians were now staying at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“During the period of self-isolation, Russian financial markets have been operating continuously,” said Boris Blokhin, stock department director at the exchange, adding that having all services operating digitally and remotely had made this possible.

The exchange said the number of retail investor accounts rose 320,000 in March compared with a monthly average increase of 159,000 last year while the number who made a transaction came to 606,700, well above the 2019 monthly average of 244,900.

According to the MOEX’s monthly report, private investors ploughed 43.7 billion roubles ($573 million) into Russian stocks on the platform in March, twice as much as the maximum volume of purchases for any month in 2019.

MOEX said the number of individuals with a brokerage account on the exchange had reached 4.57 million by the start of April.

Russia’s largest lender Sberbank led the way in the first quarter of 2020 opening 857,000 new stock exchange accounts for retail investors, VTB Bank opened 336,000 and digital bank Tinkoff, of TCS Group, had 257,000.

The most popular shares in March were Gazprom, which was included in 23.6% of portfolios, and Sberbank’s common and preferred shares at 20.1% and 8% respectively.

The Moscow Exchange had previously said total turnover in March for all types of investor and security on its platform hit a record high. ($1 = 76.2404 roubles) (Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Katya Golubkova and David Clarke)