Paper Introduces Index For Russia's Stock Prices

UNTIL now, if you played the market on Russia's nascent stock exchanges, you had little to go on but your hunches.

There was no popular stock index, such as the Dow Jones industrial average, that investors could use to judge the market's mood. Indeed, investors had no reliable way to find out how much a stock was trading at. Different clients could pay widely varying prices for the same security traded at about the same time.

This week, though, the Moscow Times, the city's leading English-language daily, introduced its own index as a step toward taming the savage capitalism that runs rampant in Russia. Russia has no centralized stock exchange, and the vast majority of shares in the country's newly privatized firms are traded outside the exchanges that do exist.

Despite the lack of regulation in the market, foreign investors and speculators are rushing to buy. Foreign investment in Russian shares has leapt to $500 million a month this year, and the booming market offers rich pickings.

In the first two weeks since the Moscow Times compiled an index of the 30 biggest companies, the market has jumped by more than 15 percent - from 100 points to 116.2 points - an indication of how fast the market can move.

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