The Russian rouble dipped slightly against the US dollar on Thursday morning as large currency interventions from the government and exporters counter fresh pressure on the Russian currency from the geopolitical backdrop.
AT 0800 GMT, the rouble was 0.1% weaker against the US dollar at 68.85. The currency was flat against the euro at 74.31.
Analysts say large FX sales by the government - which is offloading up to 3.2 billion roubles per day of Chinese yuan - and exporters buying roubles to pay domestic tax liabilities are shielding the currency from further downwards lurches.
Buoyed by the interventions, the rouble was 0.4% stronger against the yuan at 10.1.
The rouble has been under external pressure for the past six weeks after a Western price cap on Russia’s oil sales came into force in early December alongside a European Union embargo of Russian oil exports.
Russia is selling its oil at a steep discount - around $50 a barrel compared to global benchmark Brent, which was trading down 0.7% at $84.35 on Thursday - and well below the level it needs to balance its state finances. Moscow has been forced to tap its sovereign wealth fund to plug to gap in domestic spending.
The value of the fund - which saves in gold and foreign currencies - was down $38.1 billion in December, data published on Wednesday showed, as the government spent some $35.1 billion to cover its budget deficit.
Rouble firms slightly in early trading amid rising oil prices, finance ministry support
Analysts have said Russia’s attempts to plug its budget deficit by selling foreign currency reserves could lead to a vicious circle that pushes the rouble higher and further reduces the Kremlin’s crucial export revenues from oil and gas.
Russian stocks followed global indexes lower in trading on Thursday.
The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 0.8% to 998.1 points.
The rouble-based MOEX Russian index shed 0.5% to 2,184.4 points.
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