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Russian energy shares were propelled to new highs this week. The main market driver appeared to be optimism about the crude price outlook, with little in the way of positive company-specific news to influence investors.
The world appears to have decided that Russia will take action in support of Opec's output cuts following a visit to Moscow by Opec general-secretary Ali Rodriguez and president Rilwanu Lukman (see p1). Following talks with Russian government officials, Rodriguez expressed optimism that some sort of commitment from Russia would be forthcoming.
This helped drive crude prices up by well over a dollar, fuelling enthusiastic buying of Russian oil stocks. The Russian Trading System (RTS) surged to a new post-1998 high on 5 March, reaching 319.86 points before slipping marginally the following day.
But there appears to be little real basis for the assumption that Russia will make even a symbolic gesture in support of Opec. The Russian side gave little away following their talks with Rodriguez and Lukman. And Russian crude export data suggests that Russia's much-vaunted first-quarter export "cuts" are nonexistent (see p7).
Among Russian oil companies, Yukos was a major …