Russian Trade Surplus Narrows as Falling Oil Cuts Exports

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Russia’s trade surplus narrowed in September to the lowest in seven months as falling oil prices cut export revenue during President Vladimir Putin’s escalating standoff with the U.S. and the European Union over Ukraine.

The surplus fell 20 percent from a year earlier to $13 billion, the central bank in Moscow said today on its website. The median estimate of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was $15.7 billion. Imports decreased 10 percent to $25.8 billion and exports fell 13 percent to $38.8 billion.

Russia’s central bank said yesterday that the sanctions, compounded by falling oil prices, are weighing on the economy of the world’s biggest energy exporter. Growth is the slowest since a 2009 recession and may be zero next year, it said. Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU accuse Putin of stoking the crisis in Russia’s western neighbor. The Kremlin denies military involvement.

“A stronger-than-expected decline is negative for the ruble as the trade surplus is the main underlying factor of support for it,” Vladimir Osakovskiy, chief economist for Russia at Bank of America Corp. in Moscow, said by e-mail. “However, we think that the dated nature of the release should constrain its negative market implications.”

A weaker local currency has crimped imports by making them more expensive. The ruble has depreciated 23 percent in the past three months, the most among more than 170 currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The ruble weakened 1.5 percent to 46.5605 per dollar at 5:10 p.m. in Moscow.

Russia’s Federal Customs Service reported yesterday that the trade surplus widened $8.6 billion in the first nine months from a year earlier to $164.7 billion. January-September imports fell 5.8 percent to $217 billion and exports slipped 1.2 percent to $381.3 billion, it said.

In retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine, Russia in August banned some imports of meat, fish and other food items from countries including the U.S. and the European Union.