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Russia central bank urges brokers to prioritise Russian stocks

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MOSCOW, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Russian brokerages should primarily offer Russian stocks to retail clients to make their money work for the economy at home rather than being invested in companies abroad, Sergei Shvetsov, the central bank's first deputy chairman, said on Tuesday.

A record-high number of Russian amateur investors turned to trading this year amid coronavirus lockdowns and low interest rates, buying into shares in foreign companies offered by Russia's bourses.

"It is very important that investment houses, brokerages that offer various financial instruments offer Russian stocks foremost," Shvetsov told a stock market conference.

"To my regret, a bit more is being invested into foreign stocks than in Russian stocks," Shvetsov said.

According to Russia's second-largest bourse, St Petersburg Exchange, Russian investors this year preferred U.S. tech stocks, such as Tesla, Amazon and Apple.

Shvetsov said foreign stocks could be part of an investment portfolio but "it is much more important for us that these funds work for the Russian economy".

Russia's largest bourse, the Moscow Exchange, began offering access to shares from the U.S. S&P 500 index in August, a break-through for its long-awaited project, which was slowed by Western sanctions.

"Russian stocks look attractive nowadays," Shvetsov said, pointing at their high dividend yields.

ROUBLE CONCERNS

While Russia offers one of the higher dividend yields in the world, the falling rouble can deter investors from buying into Russian stocks.

Riding strong waves of volatility in 2020 amid the COVID-19 crisis and falling oil prices, the benchmark rouble-denominated MOEX index has gained 3% so far this year. The rouble has shed nearly 20% of its value against the dollar year-to-date.

The Moscow Exchange said on Tuesday it sees around 17,000 new retail accounts being opened on a daily basis, with the number of clients having surpassed 8 million by end-November.

The bourse has said it plans to offer more foreign securities denominated in roubles to ensure convenience for Russian investors.

Russian brokerages would like to trade around the clock and are against possible restrictions on purchases of foreign stocks, Vladimir Krekoten, CEO at Otkritie Brokerage, said on Tuesday, responding to Shvetsov's comments. (Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh Editing by Gareth Jones)