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Markets

Rouble falters after finance ministry switches to FX purchases

  • The rouble, however, should benefit from the increase in global prices for oil, Russia's main export.
  • the rouble had pared losses sustained after the announcement and was 0.3% weaker against the dollar at 73.74
13 Jan 2021

MOSCOW: The Russian rouble slipped on Wednesday after the finance ministry surprised analysts with a plan to switch to buying foreign currency from selling it, but held near a more than one-week high touched earlier.

The finance ministry said it would buy foreign currency worth almost $100 million every day between Jan. 15 and Feb. 4, depriving the rouble of support from state FX selling it has had since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic and an oil price dive sent it spiralling.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast a reduction in regular FX sales to around 15 billion roubles, but not the switch to purchases.

The rouble, however, should benefit from the increase in global prices for oil, Russia's main export, to above $55 per barrel, Sofya Donets, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, told Reuters.

By 1440 GMT, the rouble had pared losses sustained after the announcement and was 0.3% weaker against the dollar at 73.74 , having touched 73.3750 in early trade, its highest in more than a week.

The rouble is seen averaging 70 against the dollar in 2021, climbing to 68 by the end of this year, said Vladimir Osakovsky, chief Russia economist at Bank of America.

It had gained 0.1% to trade at 89.70 versus the euro , just shy of a nearly four-week high.

The rouble received additional support at the first two government bond auctions of the year, with the finance ministry enjoying healthy demand of 48.9 billion roubles ($664.5 million)in total for its OFZ bonds maturing in 2028 and 2030.

These bonds are popular among foreign investors for their lucrative yields.

Brent crude oil was down 1.1% at $55.94 a barrel, earlier reaching its highest since February last year, and sending shares of the Russian oil majors Rosneft and Lukoil higher by 1.9% and 0.1%, respectively.

Russian stock indexes were marginally lower.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 0.6% to 1,457.3 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.6% lower at 3,452.5 points.