Shares of Russian companies traded in US plummet as tensions rise over Ukraine crisis

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Shares of Russian companies traded in the U.S. are plummeted Monday as the country’s military forces streamed into Ukraine, raising the possibility of sanctions by Western governments.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he may “find himself with asset freezes on Russian business.” There are also talks of boycotting the Group of Eight summit of leaders in the Olympic host city of Sochi this summer.

BNY Mellon’s Russia ADR Index slumped 9 per cent Monday morning, and is now down more than 27 per cent for the year. Stocks in the index include metals company Mechel, which fell 7 per cent to $1.76; Russia’s biggest mobile communications operator, Mobile Telesystems, tumbled 9 per cent at $15.60. Another mobile phone company, VimpelCom, is off 7 per cent to $9.44.

In addition, U.S.-traded shares of Yandex, Russia’s biggest Internet search engine, fell 13 per cent to $32.49.

Global markets were shaken by the developments in Ukraine and Crimea, as fears of contagion spread. A number of Europe’s biggest banks fell sharply.

Russia essentially took control of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula with strategic importance, and the new Ukrainian government in Kyiv fears a wider invasion. The West responded by questioning Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight leading industrialized democracies, and the U.S. threatened possible asset freezes and trade penalties.

In Moscow, the Russian stock market dropped about 10 per cent and the ruble — already down nearly 10 per cent this year — fell to its lowest point ever against the dollar and the euro.

Russia’s central bank decided to temporarily increase its key interest rate by 1.5 percentage points, to 7 per cent, in a bid to keep the ruble’s fall from driving up inflation.

Markets also fell elsewhere in Europe. In the U.S., the Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped 12 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,847 as of 11 a.m. Eastern time.