The ruble headed for a record low, pressured by lower oil prices and concern the outlook for Federal Reserve interest rates will damp risk appetite. Russian stocks were set for the longest losing streak since July.
The currency weakened 0.3 percent to 38.54 per dollar, the biggest decline in emerging Europe and Africa, at 4:38 p.m. in Moscow. The Micex Index fell for a fourth day, losing 0.7 percent to 1,421.03. AFK Sistema extended the biggest weekly slide since 2008, declining 1.8 percent after the arrest of the investment company’s billionaire owner Vladimir Evtushenkov on Sept. 16. Diamond maker OAO Alrosa lost 2.3 percent after its chief executive officer stepped down.
Brent crude’s drop below $100 a barrel this month has hurt the ruble because Russia receives about half its budget revenue from oil and natural gas. The price fell 0.5 percent to $97.91 a barrel today, while concern over the timing and pace of Fed rate increases risks affecting investor appetite at a time when sanctions are reducing foreign currency availability in Russia.
“Oil is falling and that’s pressuring the ruble,” Maxim Korovin, a fixed-income analyst at VTB Capital in Moscow, said by phone. “A combination of declining oil and investors’ switch into dollar assets on expectations of the Fed’s tightening monetary policy are weighing on the currency.”
Fed policy makers on Sept. 17 raised by 25 basis points their median estimate for where the Fed funds rate will be by end-2015. The ruble lost 0.2 percent against the euro and weakened 0.2 percent to 43.4719 against the central bank’s dollar-euro basket, within 2.1 percent of 44.40 rubles, the level that would trigger a central bank intervention.
Russian shares have tumbled 3.5 percent since the arrest of Evtushenkov, the wealthiest Russian to face criminal charges since Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos boss who was arrested in 2003 and released last year. Sixty-eight percent of Micex stocks traded above their 50-day moving average on Sept. 19, down from 72 percent a day earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The case against Evtushenkov stems from a probe into OAO Bashneft, an oil producer Sistema acquired in 2009, Russia’s Investigative Committee said last week. Bashneft slid 2.1 percent, while its preferred shares declined 2.5 percent.
“Sistema and Bashneft have exacerbated the bearish attitude toward the Russian market,” Oleg Popov, who helps oversee $1 billion at Allianz Investments, the asset-management arm of Europe’s biggest insurer, said by phone from Moscow. “People don’t know what’s behind Alrosa’s management change and are fleeing the stock just to be on the safe side.”
The company cited medical reasons for Fyodor Andreev’s departure in a statement today. Russia’s Finance Ministry, the Federal Property Management Agency and Audit Chamber started a probe into Alrosa transactions, Kommersant reported Sept. 12, citing people it didn’t identify.
The dollar-denominated RTS Index decreased 0.8 percent to 1,160.91 today. On the Micex, OAO Megafon led gainers, increasing 2.8 percent. Russian U.S. exchange-traded funds saw $14.3 million inflows on Sept. 19, taking last week’s total to $105.7 million last week, the most among emerging markets after Brazil, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The yield on Russian bonds due February 2027 fell five basis point to 9.52 percent after climbing 116 basis points since President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March triggered the standoff with the U.S. and its allies.
Investors should buy the ruble when it weakens to 38.70 per dollar, Iskander Abdullaev, an analyst at Sberbank Investment Research, said in an e-mailed note. He cited an agreement over the weekend between the Ukraine government and insurgents and the projected 700 billion rubles ($18 billion) of tax payments due this week, which tend to shore up demand for the local currency.
© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.