Moscow Exchange puts off U.S. blue chip plan over sanctions

A view shows information screens at Moscow Exchange in Moscow, Russia March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Moscow Exchange MOEX.MM said on Friday it had put off plans to offer access to the 50 most liquid U.S. shares due to a political standoff with the West.

Russia is bracing itself for more U.S. sanctions that could dent foreign investment in Russian sovereign debt amid another wave of tension between Moscow and Washington.

The Moscow Exchange had planned to expand its range of trading tools by offering access to around 50 U.S. companies with the most popular and liquid shares in the third quarter.

“We will keep you posted on this project,” Moscow Exchange Chief Executive Alexander Afanasyev said, explaining the delay was as a result of the risks of new penalties that other countries are considering imposing on Russia.

Opening the access to U.S. stocks would require “gigantic efforts in explaining all the nuances to investors,” said Sergei Shvetsov, first deputy governor at the central bank, speaking at the same conference with Afanasyev.

Investment into foreign shares would have deprived the Russian economy of investment capital, Shvetsov said.

“We, as the regulator, look at the stock market not only as at a source for growth of prosperity of our citizens but also as at a source for economic growth funding,” Shvetov said.

“Maybe you could earn more by investing into foreign securities but, if we put everything together, we are indeed interested in Russian citizens investing into Russian assets.”

Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Alexander Smith