Mar 18 - The European Union has taken the first step in imposing sanctions on Russia over Crimea, but the measures have been widely dismissed as lacking bite. As Ivor Bennet reports Russia's stock market was up again on Tuesday as some investors saw potential for bargain hunting.
Sanctions, what sanctions? For equities so far, the only way's been up. There were fears the measures by the EU and US would trigger a dangerous tit-for-tat between Russia and the West. But with Putin now promising to stop at Crimea, investors believe a new Cold war has been put on ice. Saxobank's Nick Beecroft. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK BEECROFT, CHAIRMAN AND SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, SAXOBANK, SAYING: "Ukraine, the Russia story, Crimea, will fade in the market's minds and find itself on page 3 or 4 of the newpapers within a few weeks. There's too much at stake for Germany, not enough strategic interest in Ukraine I feel to make anything but the most sanction-soft measures the most likely outcome." Russia's Micex index has taken a battering since Moscow's incursion in Crimea - plummeting more than 10 percent since the end of the February. But the low point has now got bargain hunters licking their lips. Russian stocks rising a further 2 percent today on top of gains of 4 percent when sanctions were announced. Despite the rally, BGC Partners Mike Ingram thinks it's still a big risk. SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, MARKET COMMENTATOR, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: "Well i think there's a lot of event risk up the road at the moment, so I'd be pretty cautious unless you're one of these people who's prepared to clip the tick as it were, I probably wouldn't be going in with both feet right now." For now though Russia's central bank is presenting a confident front. Ruling out capital controls despite fears of a flight. But all may not be as it seems. The rouble continues to fall - and major privatisation deals have been put on hold. Long term stability is by no means guaranteed.