Hedge Funds Bullish on Russia's Ruble for First Time Since July

Hedge funds have started betting the Russian ruble will strengthen, turning bullish for the first time since July after the currency jumped the most in emerging markets in the last two months amid signs a rout in oil, the country’s main export, had been contained.

Hedge funds and large speculators were net long 1,171 futures contracts on the currency in the week ended Oct. 13, wagering that the ruble will increase in value, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data published Friday. That compares with net short positions of 128 in the prior five trading days.

Speculators turned bullish on the ruble as Brent crude stabilized around $50 a barrel while eased tension in Ukraine raised the prospect that sanctions imposed to punish President Vladimir Putin for supporting a rebellion there may be lifted. The ruble was the worst performer among the world’s major currencies from mid-May through late-August as oil slumped to the lowest level since 2009, prompting a surprise interest-rate increase to 17 percent from 10.5 percent.

Investors “probably have taken into account the fact that oil is bottoming out and is poised to rise,” Wayne Lin, a money manager at QS Investors LLC in New York, said by phone. “The oil price is effectively oversold, and the equilibrium is that oil prices should be at about $65 to $70 per barrel.”

The ruble gained 0.5 percent this week, widening its gain from a record low at the end of August to 16 percent. Brent crude, the oil grade traders use to price the country’s main export blend, settled at $50.46 a barrel.

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