Oil climbs, rouble falls as markets take Russian mutiny in stride

SINGAPORE: Oil was slightly higher on Monday and the rouble lower as an abortive weekend mutiny by Russian mercenaries raised questions about Russian stability and crude supply, but left investors hesitant to draw any further conclusions.

Brent crude futures were last up 0.2% at $74.02 a barrel having earlier fetched as much as $74.80. The rouble dropped to a 15-month low early in Moscow.

MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped to a three-week low, as small falls in China, Taiwan and Australia offset minor gains in South Korea.

Japan’s Nikkei eased 0.1%. The battered yen rose marginally on hints at looming government intervention to support it and after a summary showing a central bank board called for an early revision of yield curve control.

European futures gained 0.3%, S&P 500 futures rose 0.2% and FTSE futures added 0.1%.

Russian mercenaries made a short-lived rebellion on Saturday, seizing the southern city of Rostov and advancing on Moscow demanding the removal of Russian military commanders in charge of the war in Ukraine.

The private Wagner army then withdrew after striking a deal guaranteeing their safety and the passage of their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to Belarus.

The consequences for the Ukraine war were not clear, though the challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority was the starkest in decades of his leadership.

“I don’t think the market can get its head around working out if there are implications,” said Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney.

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets said one concern was the possibility of martial law in Russia and its effect on the workforce at ports and oil production facilities.

Gold, which had hit a three-month low on Friday, rose 0.2% to $1,925 an ounce. U.S. Treasuries were firm with yields, which fall when prices rise, marginally lower.

Two-year yields fell 2 basis points to 4.731%. Ten-year yields fell 1.8 bps to 3.721%.

“This putsch … has revealed cracks and fragilities that now cannot be unseen,” said Mizuho economist Vishnu Varathan.

“It undeniably amplifies global geopolitical risks.”

With the mutiny being on the watchlist rather than driving action in Asia, investors were left to pore over the latest signs of China’s recovery stalling, which on Monday was softer-than-hoped-for travel figures for last week’s holiday.

S&P Global also followed most Wall Street banks and cut its 2023 GDP growth forecast for China on Sunday.

Blue chip stocks fell 0.7% in Shanghai.

The yuan slid to catch up offshore falls during the break on Thursday and Friday, but the People’s Bank of China fixed the midpoint of its trading band surprisingly strong, suggesting it might not be so tolerant of further weakness.

The yuan was last at a seven-month low of 7.2199 per dollar.

The risk-sensitive Australian dollar was steady at $0.6683. The euro nursed last week’s modest drop at $1.0903 and sterling held at $1.2730.

The yen, down nearly 9% this year as global interest rate expectations rise and Japan’s central bank stays dovish, bounced as much as 0.3% to 143.27 per dollar, partly thanks to speculation around intervention or a policy shift.

Japan’s top currency diplomat Masato Kanda toughened his tone on Monday, describing recent moves as “rapid and one-sided” in a possible prelude to intervening to buy yen.

A Bank of Japan policymaker also called for revision to its yield curve control policy, a summary of opinions at the June meeting showed on Monday, suggesting the central bank’s ultra-loose monetary settings may be at a crossroads.


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