The Russians are rallying! The Russians are rallying!
As crazy as it sound, the RTS index, one of the major benchmarks for the Russian market, is up 30 percent in U.S. dollar terms since its intraday low set on March 14 of this year; it's also up 24 percent since that day's close.
If the Russian markets can shrug off tensions on the Ukrainian border, should you?
"Only in Russia can an index rally 30 percent from its lows in under two months and still be down 8 percent on a year-to-date basis," said Richard Ross, global technical strategist at Auerbach Grayson. "That's really the story here."
Ross, a "Talking Numbers" contributor, doesn't see any reason for investors to chase the index given recent moves. After a head-and-shoulders top late last year, according to his charts, the RTS plunged to astonishing depths.
"I love the 'Hunt for Red October' but this 40 percent decline from last year's high is a little ridiculous," Ross said. He sees the RTS reversing direction in a head-and-shoulders bottom formation but is currently hitting resistance at its 200-day moving average.
Ross believes the longer-term chart makes it difficult to buy into the RTS just yet.
"I'll give you another reason to pump the breaks on the Russia enthusiasm," said Ross. "This multiyear distributive top that's been forming over the index [is] almost a technical Kremlin."
Ross also sees a well-defined downtrend channel in the RTS. "Until we break back above that channel, it's hard to get excited about Russia here," he adds.
Gina Sanchez, founder of Chantico Global, is also wary of the RTS index. She points out the RTS is cheap relative to other markets. In fact, the index is priced at 5.5 times earnings compared with the S&P 500's 16.7 times earnings or France's CAC 40 at 19.6 times earnings.
"This has always been the cheapest market in the emerging markets," said Sanchez, a CNBC contributor. "But lately, it has been far cheaper than normal. That has clearly been because of tension in Ukraine. And, I think a lot of the positives you can take in terms of the cheapness in Russia may have already gotten priced in."
Besides being fairly cheap, Russian stocks also have Russia’s relationship with Europe to thank for the country’s relative security. Russia is a major exporter of much-needed oil and gas to Europe. There is also a deep financial relationship between European institutions and Russian stocks.
"A lot of its companies are basically owned by banks," notes Sanchez about the Russian market. "A lot of those banks are sitting in Europe, an already fragile and vulnerable system. Europe can't exactly afford for Russia to default on them so they're not going to impose any sanctions."
Even so, Sanchez believes the situation in Russia may be too risky for investors at the moment.
"I would be very careful," Sanchez said. "This market has tended to be cheap partially because it is an energy-dominated [market] and they've always been one of the cheapest out there. However, given the politics, keep that in mind and recognize that maybe the cheap levels that they used to be before ought to be a little cheaper now."
To see the full discussion the RTS index, with Ross on the technicals and Sanchez on the fundamentals, watch the above video.
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