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Ruble Strengthens Against Basket as U.S. Supply Drop Spurs Crude

The ruble strengthened against the central bank’s target dollar-euro basket and yields on local-currency debt fell after a report showed U.S. crude stockpiles dropped last week, signaling higher demand for Russia’s chief export earner.

The ruble appreciated as much as 0.2 percent before trading up 0.1 percent at 33.4865 against the basket at the close in Moscow, paring yesterday’s loss. Russia’s 114 billion rubles ($3.9 billion) of local OFZ bonds due March 2021 rose for the first day in three, pushing the yield down one basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 7.82 percent.

Crude futures gained 0.4 percent to $106.54 per barrel in New York after the Americal Petroleum Institute said U.S. supplies shrank by 1.4 million barrels last week. Oil and gas together provide about 17 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product and 50 percent of state revenue, according to government estimates.

“Stable global prices, oil prices especially, are the main reason,” Vladimir Musyankov, senior currency trader at OAO TransCreditBank in Moscow, said by e-mail. “Taxes to be paid in Russia next week are also contributing to the strong ruble.”

A total 900 billion rubles ($31 billion) may be due in taxes this month, Alexei Moiseev, chief economist at VTB Capital in Moscow, said by e-mail March 20. Exporters convert foreign exchange revenues into rubles to pay the government in the second half of every month, boosting the Russian currency.

“People are waiting for a huge supply of dollars from exporters due to the tax period this and next week, so they’re keeping short on the basket” against the ruble, Aleksey Kulakov, a currency trader at OAO Promsvyazbank in Moscow, said by e-mail.

The ruble was 0.2 percent stronger at 38.64 per euro and steady at 29.27 per dollar. Investors increased bets on the currency weakening, with non-deliverable forwards showing the ruble at 29.6497 per dollar in three months, compared with expectations of 29.6288 per dollar yesterday.

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