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The Russian rouble gained in light trade on Friday, heading towards its strongest levels since 2018, while the benchmark MOEX stock index was near an all-time high as oil prices rose. At 0811 GMT, the rouble was 0.4% stronger against the dollar at 61.96, close to the 61.51 reached this week, its strongest level since May 2018. Versus the euro, the rouble gained 0.1% to 68.96.

Market activity in Russia is below average after the Christmas holiday in the West and ahead of Russia's long New Year and Russian Orthodox Christmas holidays from Jan. 1-8.

So far this year, the rouble has gained 12% versus the dollar, making it the second best-performing currency against the greenback after the Ukrainian hryvnia.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia's main export, was up 0.3% at $68.14 a barrel after data showed record online spending by US consumers, stoking faith in the world's biggest economy even before a hoped-for end to the trade war between Washington and Beijing. "The oil market lives in hopes of higher consumption, while the Chinese industrial sector shows signs of improvement. We expect the domestic market to try an reach fresh record highs," Otkritie Brokerage said in a note. The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.7% to 1,545.7 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.2% higher at 3,037.8, approaching its record high of 3,039.9 hit this month.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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