The Moscow Exchange Head Fake

Russia got caught off guard by the severity of the western economic sanctions imposed in response to their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Lavrov (in place as Foreign Minister for 14 years and a member of the permanent mission to the UN before that for 10 years) said as much this week, a very surprising admission by the Empire Builders.

Putin and his puffer coat crowd thought they were pretty clever hiding lots of foreign currency reserves overseas — there is really no place to hold foreign currency that is safe inside Russia. Apparently, based on their foreign currency reserve hoarding, they’d been planning their move on Ukraine for almost two years.

No surprise there as Russia began to press against the Ukrainian border with troops almost a year ago.

So, when the west unshackled many of the Russian banks from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) system with 11,000 member institutions and 42,000,000 messages a day in more than 200 countries, they were caught unable to access those reserves because the conduit — the SWIFT system — was blocked.

SWIFT also threw Iran out of the system in 2012 – 2016.

One of the things Russia did immediately on Invasion Ukraine Day, 2-24-2022, was to close down its Moscow Exchange, their biggest stock market and the place where Russians and foreigners owned Russian stocks.

In London where many of these stocks also trade, the Russian stocks were down as much as 98%, so the prospect of a gargantuan sell off was very real.

The Moscow Exchange

The Moscow Exchange was created on 19 December 2011 in a shotgun marriage of the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (1992) and the Russian Trading System (1995), so it is a very new financial institution and since Russia has a GDP that is 25% smaller than Italy, there isn’t all that much vigor as there are only 219 equities traded and a total of 700 +/- issuers of all kinds including bonds and currency traders. It is still the biggest deal in Russia.

The exchange has the following markets:

Equities — stocks of Russian companies, lots of energy related

Bonds — corporate and gov’t bonds

Derivatives — credit default swaps [no BLSs – bilateral swap lines, this is getting into the weeds, sorry]

Foreign exchange — foreign currencies

Money markets

Precious metals/commodities — gold, wheat

In addition to making markets in these areas, the Moscow Exchange is also the nation’s central securities depository, its settlement depository, and the clearing service provider. This is a very centralized operation.

Who owns the Moscow Exchange, Big Red Car?

The Moscow Exchange is a public company itself with its ownership broken down as follows:

Central Bank of Russian Federation – 11.8% (Russia’s largest bank)

Sberbank of Russia – 10.0% (big Russian bank)

Sovereign Gov’t of Russia – 8.4% (Putin)

European Bank for Reconstruction & Development – 6.07% <<< pulling out of Russia

Capital Research & Mgt Co – 4.76% (global investors)

Massachusetts Fin’l Svcs – 3.09%

JPMorgan Asset Mgt UK – 2.81%

Vanguard Gp Inc – 2.13%

Comgest SA – 1.72%

BlackRock Fund Advisors – 1.23%

In addition, there are 370,000 Russian shareholders and 1,000 companies <<< numbers from the MOEX website.

Interestingly enough the “free float” for the common stock is reported to be 63% which means the potential for buying/selling the stock is high.

So, Big Red Car, what happened?

Here’s what happened, dear reader:

 1. On 2-24-2022, the MOEX began to crater and the next day Russia told the Moscow Exchange to close down because there was a sell off and the London market for Russian stocks was cratering.

 2. The Russians kept the MOEX closed until 3-24-202, a month later.

3. When they did reopen, it was with a bunch of Mickey Mouse rules that showed they were scared AF.

 a. Trading was limited to 4 hours a day

 b. Only 33 of 50 Ruble denominated stocks were available to trade

 c. No foreign investors can sell Russian stocks until 1 April 2022. Of course, they anticipate that any non-Russian with a brain will dump their stocks and the prices will plummet.

 d. No short selling by anybody — very bush league

 4. Putin got into the act by trying to insist that all Russian gas, oil, and coal contracts must pay Russia in Rubles which was an attempt to prop up the disastrously weakening Ruble.

These payments are part of long, long, longstanding contracts and this absurd unilateral attempt to manipulate them will not work.

It is actually a very weird and dangerous game of Russian Roulette as Russia needs foreign currency to pay its bond obligations which are likely to default.

 5. One of the most aggressive defensive curbs instituted was to prohibit short selling whereby an investor borrows a stock certificate, sells it, puts the money in an account, buys the stock back when its price has crashed, pays for it with the money in the account, and pockets the difference.

Orderly, rational markets don’t fear short sellers, but jittery markets with big cracks in their foundation fear short sellers because they bring drama and kinetic energy to the short side of the ledger which changes the narrative and stocks sink like a falling crowbar.

 6. The sovereign government of Russia, Putin’s circle jerkers, have pledged $10B to buy stocks to prevent them from falling into the toilet when no buyers step forward.

 7. In a generally unreported development of substantial significance, investment operators have quietly gotten rid of their Russian focused investments like ETFs, mutual funds, fund managers, and benchmarks.

This is an indication that the investment world believes Russia and Russian stocks are “uninvestable.” This is a stank that will take a long time to wash off.

 8. It is very old news that the American NYSE and the Nasdaq have halted US trading of Russian stocks.

 9. Another overlooked story was the unanimous decision by the board of the Federation of European Securities Exchanges to kick the MOEX out of the club and to cease any cooperation amongst their bourses.

This is actually quite important as it reduces the MOEX to a Central Park hot dog stand with no hot dogs.

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

OK, let me tie this in with the recent fake news that the Russians are pulling back from Kyiv.

 1. The Russians are getting their asses handed to them on the ground.

They are not withdrawing, they are withdrawing units to refit and rearm. This is all a head fake.

 2. The economic sanctions must really be working, why not?

a. Kicked out of SWIFT, unable to access foreign currency outside of Russia.

b. Ruble very mercurial and dangerously fallen.

c. MOEX cut off from the real world and trying to pretend it isn’t in fatal pain. Ouch.

d. Inflation skyrocketing.

e. Interest rates more than 20%.

f. More than 450 companies pull out. No Big Macs. No SBUX. Putin trying to nationalize these industries.

Great jobs gone with the wind.

g. No planes, replacement parts, maintenance. No Aeroflot except inside Russia.

h. No Amex, Visa, MC, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Pay Pal — this is 72% of all consumer transactions.

 3. In addition, Russian KIAs are more than a division — 17,000 men — and WIAs will be 3X that number.

The Russians have lost the equivalent of 4 US divisions. That’s a corp. Wow!

 4. The myth of Russian conventional arms invincibility is Gone With The Wind. They are a shit show of a conscript army who have no idea why they are killing fellow Russian ethnic people including babies, children, mothers, women, and old persons.

They cannot bag Kyiv, can’t slip the noose over their head because the sporty Ukrainians are fighting like gods. Bravo and well played.

So, there you have it.