Relief bounce. Russian equity indices and the ruble have recorded double-digit gains since the start of November. This is because of the oil price rally, itself driven by optimism that Covid vaccines will be available early in 2021, and because the decline seen in September and October is deemed excessive by traders.
Joseph Biden is, de facto, President Elect of the United States. Converting that “de facto” status into “de jure” will take time, may be ugly and may even be violent. Still, no recounts or litigation are likely to alter the reality nor slow Biden’s progress to the White House in January.
Second wave shows signs of peaking. Not much has changed over the past week. New cases in Uzbekistan have clearly peaked and are now declining. Belarus is moving from a swell to a surge, with new cases approaching the highs of the first wave. Ukraine and Russia are seeing similar hopeful signs with the occasional down day, but it is too early to predict a peak. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia continue to see new daily highs. Only Kazakhstan has managed to avoid a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
EU goes by the book. The list of individuals sanctioned by the EU appears as highly formalistic and based on a textbook understanding, or misunderstanding, of Russian politics. With the possible exception of FSB Director Bortnikov, it is hard to rationalize why any of those sanctioned would actually have been involved.
Moved into active recovery spend phase. The government has moved into the more proactive phase of its plan to restore economic activity to pre-Covid level. The US$100 billion program started October 1st.
New government support. The Ukrainian government announced a package of an additional US$155 million of financial support for agriculture. This is in keeping with a recent increase in other general supports for agriculture. While officials have long favored consumers in their agricultural-food policies, it now appears to be pursuing a program of greater budgetary assistance for the sector.
Major escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh. News media showed a major escalation in the fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijan forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Sunday. There is no evidence, as yet, that the intensity may ease, and casualties are continuing to mount.
It may surprise the world, but American presidential elections actually have a fairly short formal campaign period. By tradition, campaigning starts on Labor Day — September 7th this year — leaving only two months till election day.
United Russia governor candidates do well. The candidates for governor positions who had been publicly blessed by President Putin all won in the Russian regional elections. The only non-United Russia governor who won is Alexei Ostrovsky, the LDPR governor in Smolensk, but he was also officially “blessed”. Both turnouts and majorities were healthy.
Ruble has been hit badly this year. The ruble has lost 18% against the US dollar and 22% against the euro since the start of this year. The initial collapse was caused by the oil price plunge, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the global economy, but the weakness has been sustained because of political concerns and the fear of more sanctions against the Russian financial system.