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Rouble Firms past 100 vs Dollar after Putin Announces Gas Currency Switch

March 23 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble briefly leapt to a three-week high past 95 against the dollar on Wednesday in Moscow, before settling close to 100, after President Vladimir Putin said Russia would start selling its gas to "unfriendly countries" in roubles.

The potential ramifications of that move, which Putin ordered his government to sort out in one week, could boost the Russian currency, with a host of European countries still dependent on Moscow for much of their energy supplies.

By 1313 GMT, the rouble was 3.4% stronger against the dollar at 100.02 , earlier clipping 94.9875, its strongest since March 2. It had gained 3.5% to trade at 110.50 versus the euro .

The rouble had stabilised near 105 to the dollar in recent sessions after falling to a record low of 120 in Moscow this month and even further on the interbank market to 150.

Russia has taken a hit from unprecedented Western sanctions over events in Ukraine, what it terms a "special operation", that started on Feb. 24.

Before that, the rouble traded at about 80 to the dollar.

Trading in OFZ bonds resumed this week, and the Bank of Russia announced some stock market trading would resume on March 24 after a near month-long hiatus, with 33 securities included into the benchmark IMOEX index set to be traded on the Moscow Exchange for a limited period of time and with short selling banned. 


Russia appeared to have averted default on foreign debt by making a coupon payment on a sovereign Eurobond, maturing in 2029, in U.S. dollars. A bondholder said the payment had been received.

But Russian holders of domestic corporate Eurobonds face delays in receiving payments settled through international agents, as transactions get snarled up by sanctions, Russia's National Settlement Depository (NSD), companies and analysts said. 

Demand for rouble liquidity has declined as the central bank sold 0.8 trillion roubles ($7.7 billion) at a one-day "fine-tuning" repo auction on Wednesday, lower than in previous days.

"Demand at overnight repo auctions is falling fast," Veles Capital brokerage said in a note, explaining that even though banks' liquidity levels have fallen to their lowest since June last year, lenders are repaying previous repo debts to the central bank.


Trading on the OFZ bond market continued for a third day after it was shut in late February.

The central bank said last week it would begin buying OFZ bonds to limit volatility, after it held its key interest rate at 20% in the wake of an emergency rate hike in late February. read more

The central bank has so far not disclosed the size of its interventions on the OFZ market that helped stabilise prices and provided extra liquidity to the financial system.

Yields on benchmark 10-year OFZ bonds, which move inversely to their prices, stood at 13.90% on Wednesday after hitting a record high of 19.74% on Monday . ($1 = 103.9070 roubles)

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Edmund Blair, Bernadette Baum and Alex Richardson

Source: Reuters

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