Russian rouble steadies on eve of central bank rate decision

Russian rouble steadies on eve of central bank rate decision

(Reuters) – The rouble steadied on Thursday, with the market looking ahead to Friday’s interest rate decision, as favourable month-end tax payments propped the Russian currency up amid a significant drop in oil prices.

By 1322 GMT, the rouble was 0.2% stronger against the dollar at 81.44 and had gained 0.6% to trade at 89.76 versus the euro. It had firmed 0.3% against the yuan to 11.72.

The rouble has been under pressure from cheapening oil, a major source of income for Russia, but the tax period has so far allowed it to withstand external pressure, said Otkritie Research analyst Andrei Kochetkov in a note.

Month-end tax payments that usually lead exporters to convert foreign currency revenue to meet local liabilities are putting a floor under the rouble. Those taxes are due on April 28.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was up 0.1% at $77.75 a barrel, just off a one-month low hit in the previous session.

Oil prices dropped almost 4% on Wednesday, extending sharp losses from the previous session, driven by fears of a U.S. recession and an increase in Russian oil exports which dulled the impact of OPEC production cuts.

The market is also looking ahead to Friday’s interest rate decision.

Weekly consumer prices rose marginally last week, data showed on Wednesday, cementing expectations for the central bank to hold rates at 7.5%, with the risk of inflationary pressure limiting room for manoeuvre on any monetary easing.

“We still see no reason for the central bank to change the rate and its rhetoric, but inflation risks will continue to concern the central bank more than economic growth,” said Dmitry Polevoy, head of investment at Locko-Invest.

Russian stock indexes were higher.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.6% to 1,017.5 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.4% higher at 2,630.2 points.

Shares in lender VTB gained about 5% on the day after the bank posted high first quarter net profit as the wider banking sector recovers and the cost of risk normalises.

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