Russian rouble near 5-year highs versus euro, stocks up

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Illustration/File Photo
A view shows Russian rouble coins in this illustration picture taken March 25, 2021.

The Russian rouble firmed past 64 per dollar on Monday, briefly jumping to 62.71 to the greenback, and climbed towards its highest in nearly five years against the euro, supported by continuing restrictions on currency trading.

The rouble is the world’s best-performing currency so far this year, although this is due to artificial support from capital controls that Russia imposed to shield its financial sector in late February after it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

The situation on the domestic currency market has been the same for several weeks, and the rouble keeps firming as foreign currency supply exceeds demand, Alexander Dzhioev, an analyst at Alfa Capital, said.

Central bank data showed on Monday that Russia’s current account surplus more than tripled from January to April to $95.8 billion, boosted by higher proceeds from imports and a drop in imports

“It seems the point of equilibrium has not been found so far,” Dzhioev said of the rouble rate.

It was unclear whether President Vladimir Putin’s demand for gas payments in roubles had also supported the currency.

At 1500 GMT, the rouble was 1.5% stronger against the dollar at 63.59 RUBUTSTN=MCX, close to its strongest since early February 2020 of 62.6250, which it hit on Friday.

“The current capital control measures brought the rouble back to pre-pandemic levels,” Rosbank analysts said in a note, forecasting that the rouble would slide to 90 to the dollar by year-end.

“In the near future, a new committee on FX market regulation may adjust these restrictions, but until then, the USD/RUB consolidation may stick to the lower bound of the 63.0-70.0 range.”

Against the euro, the rouble rose 1.6% to 66.05 EURRUBTN=MCX, staying near its strongest level since June 2017 of 64.9425, which it touched on the Moscow Exchange on Friday.

Moscow’s standoff with the West and fears of a new sanctions package to punish Russia for what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine are in focus. But their impact is cushioned by the requirement export-focused companies convert foreign currency and other restrictions.

“The rouble firming today may be moderate but the dollar rate could gradually decline to 62,” Promsvyazbank analysts said in a note.

Russian stock indexes jumped higher.

The dollar-denominated RTS index .IRTS was up 3% at 1,165.7 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index .IMOEX rose 2% to 2,354.1 points.

It was possible the MOEX index would enter the 2,400-2,500 range this week, Promsvyazbank said.