“The central bank had to step in as this was getting a bit too uncomfortable,” said Edwin Gutierrez, the London-based head of emerging-market sovereign debt at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “Now we need a better overall emerging-market environment for that to be enough to support the ruble.”
The ruble fell as far as 69.01 per dollar Thursday, the lowest since early 2016, but rebounded after the central bank’s announcement to trade as much as 0.9 percent stronger, making it the only major emerging-market currency to gain versus the dollar on Thursday. The ruble later trimmed the advance and was down 0.2 percent at 68.1850 as of 6:48 p.m. in Moscow.
“The central bank’s decision to put on hold foreign-currency purchases on behalf of the Finance Ministry will ease the selling pressure on the ruble,” Rabobank emerging-market currency strategist Piotr Matys said. “However, the prospect of the U.S. imposing far harsher sanctions that would have negative consequences for the Russian financial sector should keep the bias skewed toward further ruble depreciation in coming weeks.”
Sanctions are compounding the impact of turmoil in Turkey, Argentina and Brazil, putting the Russian economy on track to grow 1.8 percent in 2018, down from an earlier projection of 1.9 percent, Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin told reporters in Sochi late Wednesday. “All of this is clearly affecting the Russian market,” he said.
Updated forecasts to be released next week will show a smaller gain in gross domestic product this year and a weaker ruble than anticipated, with outflows accelerating in the next 12 months, he said.
Investors have been fleeing Russian government bonds, as well, forcing the Finance Ministry to cancel its auction this week, the first time since April.