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Ruble Drops 2nd Day as Tax Period Ends, Bank Rossii Stems Gains

The ruble weakened for a second day amid speculation the central bank bought dollars and euros to curb gains and as the monthly tax period ended.

The Russian currency depreciated 0.1 percent to 29.07 to the dollar at the 7 p.m. close in Moscow, paring its monthly advance to 3.8 percent. The ruble slipped 0.3 percent to 39.13 against the euro and retreated 0.2 percent to 33.5970 against the central bank’s target euro-dollar basket.

Bank Rossii manages the currency against the basket and at current levels is buying about $250 million a day to slow the ruble’s advance, according to Vladimir Kolychev, chief economist for Societe Generale SA’s OAO Rosbank unit in Moscow. About 400 billion rubles ($14 billion) in taxes were due to be paid Feb. 27 and 28 according to VTB Capital.

“The central bank is still on the offer side,” Kolychev said by e-mail today. “There’s no support from export sales as the tax period has ended.”

Investors increased bets the Russian currency would weaken, with non-deliverable forwards showing the ruble at 29.42 per dollar in three months, compared with expectations of 29.3463 per dollar yesterday.

Urals crude’s 9.5 percent gain in February helped the currency of the world’s biggest energy exporter rally for a second month. The ruble is more likely to strengthen than weaken in the first half of this year, Bank Rossii First Deputy Chairman Alexey Ulyukayev said in an interview published in the government’s official Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper today.

Bonds Climb

Developing nation bonds, stocks and currencies advanced and oil rose today as the European Central Bank provided lenders with a larger amount of cash than forecast and U.S. economic growth topped forecasts. Oil and gas account for about 50 percent of Russia’s state revenue.

Russia’s current-account surplus and $504.4 billion of reserves make it one of the least exposed Eastern European countries to the euro-area debt crisis, Standard & Poor’s said in an e-mailed note today.

The yield on the government’s $3.5 billion of bonds due 2020 dropped two basis point, or 0.02 percentage point, to 3.983 percent, the lowest on a closing basis since the notes first traded in April 2010.

Russia’s Eurobonds due 2015 rose for a fourth day, pushing the yield down three basis points to 2.326 percent. Dollar notes due the same year issued by OAO Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, yielded 16 basis points less than yesterday at 3.728 percent, while the yield on similar-maturity debt from state gas monopoly OAO Gazprom fell 15 basis points to 3.566 percent.

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