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08/13/1998 17:04:55 Russian "black Thursday" wobbles ex-Soviet markets

By Chris Bird

KIEV, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Investors in a belt of ex-Soviet

states around Russia were shaken though not panicked by the

fallout from the plunge in Moscow's financial markets on

Thursday, economists said.

"There's been a calm reaction here to Russian events," said

Madina Duzhimova, research director for investment house

Kazkommerts Securities in Kazakhstan's financial capital Almaty.

Stocks plunged in Russia, with trade suspended on the

benchmark RTS trading system for a short time, while yields on

short-term debt soared to 210 percent from Wednesday's previous

28-55 percent range.

Most foreign investors see the economic fortunes of Moscow's

former colonies being closely linked to Russia's despite major

differences between them.

Kazakhstan's tenge currency and debt have remained

remarkably stable despite the jitters in emerging markets across

the globe, though earlier this month the Central Asian state's

central bank hiked its key refinancing rate to 20.5 percent from

18.5 percent.

Billions of dollars in investment have begun to flow into

the republic's oil and gas industry.

"I think Kazakhstan has started to pull away from Moscow,"

Duzhimova said. "But the Russian market still has a strong

psychological effect," she said.

But away from the parched Kazakh desert and west across the

steppes to Ukraine, talk of a threatened rouble devaluation and

the renewed spectre of a cash crunch -- the government has to

find $500 million to redeem bonds this month -- boded ill for

that country's economic fortunes.

"Foreigners have reacted, there have been a lot of sell-offs

as people are leaving markets in Russia," said Tomas Fiala, head

of investment house Wood and Company in the Ukrainian capital

Kiev.

Fiala predicted Ukraine's central bank would be prompted to

raise interest rates once more to try and persuade investors to

stay in the debt market. He said yields on short-term treasuries

in the secondary market were 65-70 percent, up from around 55-60

percent earlier this week.

While they can take days rather than seconds to react,

Ukraine's share and debt markets track the Russian market in

slavish fashion.

Ukraine's benchmark PFTS share index closed down 12 percent

on Thursday.

"If the rouble goes (devalues), then the hryvnia (Ukrainian

currency) will have to go too," said Fiala, explaining that 40

percent of Ukraine's foreign trade was with Russia.

Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko is attempting

to maintain a Soviet-style planned economy, appeared to soldier

on heedless of Asian and Russian dominoes in emerging markets.

The head of the Belarussian state securities commission,

Valery Kulazhenko, said foreign investors' holdings of stocks in

the republic had risen in value to 300 billion Belarussian

roubles compared with 237 billion roubles last year.

But when the inflation-prone "zaichik" -- or "hare" as the

Belarussian rouble is nicknamed -- is converted into dollars,

this foreign investment is valued at just $3.5 million.

((Kiev Newsroom, +380 44 244 9150

e-mail:kiev.newsroom@reuters.com))

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