Ruble Firms after Sanctions Threat, Supported by Oil Prices

A day after the threat of new U.S. sanctions unnerved Russian financial markets, the country’s currency, supported by rising oil prices, steadied against the dollar on Friday, Reuters reports.

The ruble was unchanged against the dollar at 66.66 and traded at 75.20 versus the euro at 0730 GMT. The Russian currency touched 67 against the dollar on Thursday, its weakest since Jan. 15.

This week, U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill that would impose stiff new sanctions on Russia over its policy toward Ukraine and allegations that it meddled in U.S. elections.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, hit 2019 highs above $65 per barrel on Friday amid OPEC-led supply cuts and a partial shutdown of Saudi Arabia’s biggest offshore oil field.

“Sanctions expectations brought the rouble down, but the Russian currency could now strengthen due to rising oil prices,” said Georgy Vashchenko of Freedom Finance.

The ruble was also supported by export-focused companies converting hard currency revenues to pay local taxes.

After falling on Thursday, government-issued OFZ bonds showed signs of stabilizing and stock indexes were up.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 1.19 percent at 1,170.12 points. The ruble-based MOEX Russia index was 0.75 percent higher at 2479.45 points.