* Renaissance forum attendees say new investments on hold
* Say fears over U.S., euro zone outweigh Russia
* Russian economy will not protect it from global crisis
By John Bowker and Melissa Akin
MOSCOW, June 29 (Reuters) - Foreign investors in Russia are gripped by fears of a renewed global economic meltdown and are holding off from investing fresh capital, a host of fund managers and bankers said on Tuesday.
Attendees at an annual investor conference in the sun-drenched Russian capital told Reuters that while the Russian financial climate had improved markedly on a year ago, global factors made it hard to be truly confident.
“There are a lot of people hesitating ... the whole market is a little bit shaky ... Europe is not stable and (a crisis) would affect Russia and the CIS,” said Joseph Belle, managing director of Zurich-based VT Wealth Management, at the Renaissance Capital-organised event.
Russia’s sharp recovery from its first recession in a decade made its stock markets the best performing in the world in 2009, although the dollar-based RTS index .RTS is down 17 percent since April.
“Last year saw a recovery from a major crisis ... there is a palpable sense of relief the doomsayers have been proven wrong, but there is still uncertainty,” said Eric Kraus, chief financial strategist at Moscow broker Otkritie.
Fears that other European nations could follow Greece into a debt-fuelled financial crisis as well as concerns over the fiscal health of the United States were playing on investors minds, he added, even though the Russian recovery has been impressive.
“Now, all are scared to death of the West,” he said.
Michael Seighart, a fund manager at Vienna-based Ithuba Capital, said falling Russia share prices in 2010 could present an opportunity but it was still far from clear cut.
“We are starting to review the situation here (in Russia).. but is it an obvious screaming buy-as-much-as-you-can? Probably not,” he said.
He added that oil-dependent Russia continued to have long-term issues, while the collapse in shares prices in 2008 remained in investors’ memories.
Renaissance, founded in Russia in the mid-1990s but now also operating in markets from South Africa to Kazakhstan, said on Monday’s opening day of the forum that the case for Russia has “rarely looked better”. [ID:nLDE65R1BI]
But on the second and final day — garlanded by a closed-door speech on emerging markets from former United States President Bill Clinton — investors failed to regain the confidence of previous years.
“The mood is OK but three years ago it was more enthusiastic, more entrepreneurial — you could do business here (at the conference),” Belle said, while adding that perennial favourites Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and Sberbank SBER03.MM remained top equities picks. (Editing by Simon Jessop)