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MOSCOW: The rouble firmed marginally against the dollar on Monday, hovering near the 73.5 mark, and Russian stocks hit more than two-month lows as lingering geopolitical risks and lower oil prices hampered demand for Russian assets.

At 0729 GMT, the rouble was 0.1% stronger against the dollar at 73.34, edging away from its weakest point since Aug. 27, which it hit on Friday, apart from a seconds-long drop on the Moscow Exchange on Oct. 22 that was probably caused by a trading error.

It had gained 0.4% to trade at 82.68 versus the euro , which was struggling amid growing anxiety over the impact of surging COVID-19 infections in Europe.

The rouble is under strong pressure from sales of equities and OFZ treasury bonds, as well as the high volume of foreign currency purchases by the finance ministry this month, said Alor Broker chief analyst Alexei Antonov.

Geopolitics is also a factor.

After hitting its strongest level since mid-2020 of 69.21 against the dollar in late October, the rouble has come under selling pressure this month on Western concerns over possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border have spurred fears of a possible attack. But Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and complained about increasing activity in the region by the NATO military alliance.

"Russia is likely to remain out of favour as long as the political chest thumping and sabre rattling continues," said BCS Global Markets in a note.

Russia's risk measured by five-year credit default swaps that reflect the cost of insuring exposure to sovereign debt jumped to its highest since April 22 last week.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia's main export, was down 0.4% at $78.57 a barrel, adding to pressure on Russian stock indexes.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 0.3% to 1,718.3 points, earlier clipping its lowest mark since Sept. 20.

The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.3% lower at 4,003.2 points, after dropping below the 4,000-point mark in early trade for the first time in two months.

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