Russia Says Fed Plans Clear as Emerging Markets Caught Off Guard

Emerging-market governments complaining about unpredictable policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve should have done more to get ready for tapering, according to Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

“The Fed’s policy has been clear and predictable,” Siluanov said today in an interview in Hong Kong before flying to Sydney for a meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs. “The Fed was saying that they would reduce quantitative easing. Emerging markets just had to prepare for it.”

Russia is defending the Fed even though the ruble has suffered amid a rout in emerging-market currencies this year. India and South Africa have criticized U.S. policy makers for not paying enough attention to the impact their actions have internationally. Global finance chiefs will discuss the matter this weekend, Siluanov said.

Emerging markets “needed to work on structural reforms, such as reducing budget deficits and achieving sustainable balances of payments,” said Siluanov, who oversaw Russia’s G-20 presidency last year. “Nothing’s really happened on that.”

The ruble has tumbled 8.3 percent against the dollar this year, making it the worst performer after Argentina’s peso among 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The Russian currency depreciated 0.2 percent to 35.8430 per dollar as of 4:41 p.m. in Moscow, the weakest since March 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Budget Gains

Russia’s budget, which the government predicts will have a deficit of 0.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, stands to benefit from a drop in the ruble, he said. For each 1 ruble move in the exchange rate, Russia’s budget system gets about 180 billion rubles ($5 billion), he said.

“Our core macroeconomic indicators are better than in other emerging markets, so we haven’t had such a mass outflow of investors from the Russian market,” he said. Russia’s budget gets about half its revenue from oil and gas.

Elvira Nabiullina, the country’s central bank chairman, said Feb. 14 that Russia was ready to tighten monetary policy this year if the inflation target is at risk. The ruble’s continued weakness may make it more difficult to hold consumer price-growth to this year’s target of 5 percent, she said.

“Right now, it’s too early to talk about raising rates,” Siluanov said. “The ruble should stabilize in the near future, and there won’t be any need to raise rates.”

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