Trading Halted as Market Hits 2000 Low

Top Russian shares and the benchmark market index closed at 2000 lows Thursday as losses on global market jitters and fears of financial instability in Turkey sent the already depressed local market tumbling.

Traders said heavy selling by Western investors, including by hedge funds trying to cut losses from other falling world markets, snowballed throughout the day.

The dollar-denominated Moscow Times Index of 50 leading stocks fell 10.45 percent to 117.23 on turnover of $24.913 million. The RTS index plunged 10.89 percent to close at 143.42 on volume of $23.2 million. The Reuters Russian Composite lost 10.96 percent to 1,066.69.

"There was massive Western selling. Today [Western investors] initiated losses. Western brokers were giving paper away at rates lower than what were on the market," said Andrei Kukk, head of share trading at NIKoil.

"There was panic-selling among both Russian and Western investors and there is nothing to show that it has ended yet," said a trader at a Western bank.

Sharp losses just 90 minutes before the close triggered a circuit breaker, halting trade on the Russian Trading System for more than an hour before the Federal Securities Commission gave the OK for it to resume.

Market bellwether Unified Energy Systems was among shares closing at fresh 2000 lows. It ended down 11.01 percent at $0.0808, well beyond the previous year low of $0.0883.

Top oil producer LUKoil closed down 13.65 percent at $9.11, also beyond its former low, as was Surgutneftegaz, slumping 13.9 percent to $0.1890.

"Now this is reminding me of a snowball," said Renaissance Capital trader Dmitry Kulyashenets. He said that each wave of selling was provoking another in its wake.