Putin's promises slide out of view as economy slows
Comment of the Day

June 12 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Putin's promises slide out of view as economy slows

This is an informative article by Ben Hoyle for The Times UK (requires subscription registration, PDF provided). Here is a brief section
Mr Putin returned to power in May last year with a populist manifesto that many experts think is unaffordable and an introspective, conservative domestic agenda which has done nothing to halt Russia's brain drain. An independent survey last week revealed that 45 per cent of students and 38 per cent of businessmen want to leave.

He has allowed Mr Medvedev, who represented the liberal economist faction in government, to become a national laughing stock. He has committed Russia to staging a series of harrowingly expensive sporting events, notably the Sochi Winter Olympics next year, for which the official budget is already almost four times the cost of the London Olympics and the 2018 football World Cup.

Gazprom, Russia's biggest company, is a quarter of the size it was five years ago and struggling. Bloomberg ran an article by a senior fellow at the influential Peterson Institute for International Economics under the headline "Gazprom's Demise Could Topple Putin". "Where Gazprom goes," Anders Aslund argued, "so does Russia and the Putin government."

Demand for Russian exports is waning, with the emergence of US shale gas a particular headache for the Kremlin, and the price of oil has dropped. Inflation has unexpectedly accelerated to 7.4 per cent, leading the central bank to yesterday keep interest rates at 8.25 per cent for the ninth month running.

David Fuller's view Fullermoney has long regarded shale oil and gas as hugely significant game changers in terms of global energy supplies, more than capable of lowering energy costs over the medium to longer term. This has already happened in the USA, which invented the fracking technology.

Many other countries are capable of adopting and mastering this extraction process for their own reserves of shale gas and oil. However, they have been slow to do so, to date, partly due to reservations about the fracking process and also prior commitments to other forms of energy development which are currently viewed as more socially acceptable.

Nevertheless, a new era of multiple energy sources, more efficient energy consumption, and slower global GDP growth following the West's credit crisis recession have combined to lower the price of crude oil relative to most forecasts in the previous decade. This has weakened Russia's economy which was spending on the outdated basis that energy supplies were increasingly scarce, ensuring that the demand for them could only drive the price of crude oil higher. Russia is also feeling the effects of lower than expected metal prices.

These factors are reflected by Russia's stock market (historic monthly & weekly) which has been an underperformer since 2Q 2011. It is approaching prior support from the October 2011 and June 2012 lows but a clear upward dynamic followed by a rally back above 1500 are the minimum required to indicate that demand beyond short covering is returning. This is unlikely while the global stock market correction continues.

Brazil's performance is even worse (historic monthly & weekly), sliding beneath the psychological 50,000 level to test the 2011 lows, but with more overhead supply evident this time. Here also an upward dynamic and push back above 57,500 are the minimum required to remove downward pressure. Peru is even weaker. Colombia and Chile are holding up somewhat better within lengthy ranges but all of these markets will need very clear upward dynamics to check the current downward bias.

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