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Markets

Rouble firms past 78 vs dollar, sanctions and COVID-19 in focus

  • At 0802 GMT, the rouble was 0.2pc stronger against the dollar at 77.91 after briefly touching 78.20, its weakest since Oct. 7.
16 Oct 2020

MOSCOW: The Russian rouble firmed slightly on Friday but traded near recent lows under pressure from fresh Western sanctions against Russian officials and lingering concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

At 0802 GMT, the rouble was 0.2pc stronger against the dollar at 77.91 after briefly touching 78.20, its weakest since Oct. 7.

Against the euro, the rouble was 0.2pc stronger at 91.28, hovering near its weakest level since early 2016 of 93.32, which it hit in late September.

The already-battered rouble took a hit from new sanctions against top Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in what became the response from the European Union and Britain to the August poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

"We do not think the sanctions announced by EU foreign ministers, targeted at six individuals and one corporation, will have substantial market or economic impacts on Russia," BNP Paribas said in a note.

"Our main concern relates to potential US measures," it said, adding that more financial restrictions against Russia could be considered after the US presidential election in November.

The upcoming US election remains the only 'strategic' obstacle for a quick recovery in the rouble, said Rosbank, a Russian subsidiary of Societe Generale.

Rising coronavirus cases at home and abroad limited room for a recovery in Russian assets, with new lockdown restrictions and pessimism over US stimulus measures reducing risk appetite.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia's main export, was down 0.7pc at $42.87 a barrel, dragged down by concerns that a spike in COVID-19 cases in Europe and the United States is curtailing demand.

Russian stock indexes were mixed.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.2pc to 1,134.2 points.

The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.4pc lower at 2,807.8 points.