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MOSCOW: The Russian rouble was lower against the dollar on Thursday before a long weekend and a European Central Bank meeting that's expected to increase volatility on the global currency market.

At 0715 GMT, the rouble was 0.04 percent weaker against the dollar at 66.01 and had lost 0.01 percent to 74.59 against the euro in thin trade. The Russian market will be closed on Friday for International Women's Day.

The rouble was supported by higher oil prices as Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia's main export, rose 0.2 percent to $66.09 a barrel amid OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against exporters Venezuela and Iran.

Russian stock indexes were fell. The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 0.3 percent to 1187.46 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was also 0.3 percent lower at 2485.95 points.

Mikhail Poddubsky of Promsvyazbank said the rouble could feel the effects of a ECB meeting later on Thursday where it's expected to slash lower growth forecasts.

"Under a baseline scenario we expect (the rouble) to consolidate near its current levels," he said in a note. "But we concede that the European Central Bank meeting today could theoretically increase volatility on the currency market."

The rouble could also be pressured by an increase in forex purchases by the Russian central bank on Thursday.

The Russian currency had reacted on Wednesday to comments by the Russian central bank's monetary policy chief Alexei Zabotkin, who told Reuters it would not need to increase interest rates further if the two rate hikes it carried out last year prove enough to keep inflation in check.

Russia's economy ministry revised its forecast for the rouble's average exchange rate this year to 66.4 per U.S. dollar from 63.9.

Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said the revision was linked to changed assumptions on the euro-dollar exchange rate and geopolitical factors, such as U.S. economic sanctions against Russia.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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