Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Tehran threatens to speed up push for nuclear weapons

Iran’s parliament has decided to accelerate the adoption of a bill increasing activities in the nuclear field. This is how the Iranian authorities have reacted to the November 27 killing of nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

The bill’s passing will mean an almost complete revision of Iran’s obligations under the nuclear deal. The country’s parliament is scheduled to consider the document on Wednesday and Iran still has time to backpedal. It is possible, given that a lot of things about Fakhrizadeh’s assassination remain unclear.

“Many in Iran are drawing comparisons between his killing and the slaying of General Qasem Soleimani that took place in the beginning of the year. However, Trump claimed responsibility for his assassination back then and now everyone is silent. If Iran wants the United Nations to discuss Fakhrizaden’s killing, like with Soleimani’s death, it will have to provide evidence proving accusations against Israel, the US or Saudi Arabia. Nothing is known of such evidence as of now,” Head of the “Europe – Middle East” Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe Alexander Shumilin pointed out.

The changing situation will prevent a forceful retaliation on Iran’s part. Donald Trump has lost the presidential election to Joe Biden, who is likely to continue the policy of Barack Obama, one of the architects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran makes no secret of the fact that it expects Biden to ease or remove sanctions.

Meanwhile, a conflict in the petroleum-rich region will lead to a rise in oil prices, Artem Tuzov from Univer Capital noted. “If Iran, the United States and Israel carry out missile strikes, oil prices will soar and we will see the Brent crude price reach the $60 mark,” head of the Alpari analytical center Alexander Razuvayev predicts. BCS Investment Strategist Alexander Bakhtin believes, however, that the Iranian leadership won’t go beyond tough rhetoric. “And as for the US, where the transition of power has just begun, Washington is also unlikely to take military action,” he said.

Izvestia: What a Biden administration means for Venezuela

Joe Biden may soften US rhetoric towards Venezuela once he assumes office. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the incoming US administration will probably ease some of the economic sanctions initiated by Donald Trump. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is confident that the future White House occupant will put as much pressure as possible on President Nicolas Maduro, while the Venezuelan head of state has said that he is ready for dialogue with the United States.

Venezuela has been under US sanctions for a long time now. After Maduro ran for his second presidential term in 2019, the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and introduced more restrictions against Caracas. The country’s oil sector, including the PDVSA state oil company, had to face particularly hard times.

Under a Biden White House, tensions may ease between the US and Venezuela, but the sanctions are too strong for some of them to be removed right away, said Ronal Rodriguez, a researcher at Colombia’s Del Rosario University. With the change of government in the US, the parties may start searching for a platform for talks that will make it possible to find a way out of the Venezuelan crisis, which has become a regional one, Rodriguez pointed out.

According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, Guaido’s game is already over, particularly because his parliamentary mandate will expire on January 5 and Trump, his main supporter, is on his way out.

The Guaido operation has failed and Maduro now has more political room so he will seek dialogue with the new US administration in order to get rid of the sanctions that led Venezuela to the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1821, Spanish political scientist Jose Antonio Edigo told the paper. According to Rodriguez, Guaido has taken a back seat and few Venezuelans sympathize with him.

Kommersant: Investors show increasing interest in Russian market

November has become the best month for emerging markets and developed markets’ stocks since January 2018. Over the past four weeks, international investors have poured $20 bln and $75.5 bln into those assets respectively. In hopes of a rapid defeat of the coronavirus, investors began purchasing the securities of financial, oil and gas companies. Given this situation, investor interest in the Russian stock market is growing, Kommersant notes.

“Despite a global rise in infections, markets prefer to focus on the next year when everyone hopes the pandemic will be defeated, the transit of power in the US will be completed and the implementation of stimulus programs will continue,” said Senior Partner at FP Wealth Solutions Alexander Varyushkin.

There has been a change in the sectoral preferences of international investors. They mostly bought the shares of high-tech companies during the year but their interest in those plunged in the past month. According to Yevgeny Linchik at Sber Asset Management, the IT sector has become very expensive, while others have accumulated significant potential for the recovery of asset prices.

The Russian market has benefited from the global change. According to EPFR, nearly $500 mln were invested in the shares of Russian companies in less than a month, the highest figure since the beginning of the year.

The global rotation of investor interest may continue, experts said, though they doubt that the demand for ruble assets will be sustainable. Gazprombank analyst Ilya Kupreyev believes that this progress may go on for several months but in the long run, high-tech shares will remain more attractive to investors because of higher business growth rates.

Izvestia: Trump may deprive Chinese companies of access to dollars

US President Donald Trump continues to stir up trouble for his successor, particularly by worsening relations with China. He has already banned investment in Chinese military companies and now seeks to drive the Asian powerhouse’s companies out of the US stock market. He may also limit the access of Chinese banks to dollar funding, Izvestia writes. However, experts are doubtful that Trump will succeed in implementing the initiative because he simply won’t have time for that. “Pushing a clearly anti-Chinese document through Congress will at least require paperwork. Trump doesn’t have enough time to fully agree on everything. This is why he can saber-rattle but he won’t be able to take steps that would prove to be really painful for China,” said Senior Analyst at Alpari Anna Bodrova.

On the other hand, limiting China’s access to the dollar system constitutes a significant risk to the United States, the analyst pointed out. For instance, if Washington froze China’s share of the US public debt or limited Beijing’s actions in that field, it would trigger changes in global rules for financial markets. All that may negatively affect the US dollar and public debt.

In theory, Trump could impose severe sanctions on Chinese banks. However, a great number of US financial interests are linked to China, so the toughest scenarios will hardly be implemented, said leading analyst at Otkritie Broker Andrey Kochetkov. “The reality is that these banks serve the interests of US businesses in China. In fact, restrictions against China’s major credit institutions may put an end to US exports to China and deprive American companies of the possibility to trade and carry out production activities,” the expert emphasized.

Izvestia: Black Friday 2020 results in biggest success in four years for Russian online retailers

The number of online purchases made during the Black Friday 2020 weekend skyrocketed in Russia by 145% compared to last year’s campaign, Izvestia writes, citing data from the Platforma OFD fiscal data operator. Online retailers confirm that the number of their customers at least doubled that of 2019. In 2020, people preferred to stay at home and shop online over fears of the coronavirus.

Online retailers left offline stores far behind this year, a Platforma OFD spokesperson pointed out. One of the reasons is that Russians have gotten used to online shopping amid the coronavirus restrictions. Besides, the number of retailers participating in this event grows with every year.

The 2020 Black Friday weekend proved to be the most successful one for Russian online retailers in four years, particularly because of changes in customer behavior, YuMoney Director General Ivan Glazachev noted.

Russia’s online shopping audience has doubled, President of the Association of Internet Trade Companies Artem Sokolov emphasized. The rise in consumer interest particularly stems from the coronavirus restrictions as Russians seek to limit their social contacts.

National Association of Distance Selling President Alexander Ivanov, in turn, stressed that according to the preliminary results, this year’s sales were at or above the 2019 level. According to the expert, such an outcome may be viewed as a success amid the drop in consumer demand.

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Source: TASS