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Rouble Firms, Volatile Offshore, Coupon Payment News Awaited

March 17 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble firmed in Moscow on Thursday and saw volatile trade offshore but stayed weaker than 100 to the U.S. dollar in both markets, with investors watching Russia-Ukraine talks and foreign currency coupon payments on Russia's sovereign debt.

Russia said it had made debt payments that were due this week but the announcement did not end a wait for what could be Moscow's first default on external borrowing in more than a century as creditors said they had yet to receive the funds. 

By1217 GMT, the rouble was 2.2% stronger against the dollar at 105.6 and had gained 1.5% to trade at 115.9 versus the euro , small moves compared to recent wild swings.

On foreign exchanges, the rouble dropped sharply back to trade in line with the rate in Moscow. It slipped around 16% on the day, having seen bids as strong as at 89 per dollar earlier in the session.

International outrage over events in Ukraine grew on Thursday, as fighting continued. Western nations have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia in response, triggering the worst economic crisis in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"On the Russia-Ukraine front, global markets have taken heart in headlines that each camp was floating rhetoric that the potential for real 'compromise' was emerging on some core issues," said BCS Global Markets.

Russia's annual inflation accelerated to 12.54% as of March 11, its highest since late 2015, while shortages and a sharp increase in sugar prices led the competition watchdog to start investigating major sugar producers.

The Moscow stock market stayed largely closed by order of the central bank, and will remain so for the rest of the week. Stocks last traded in Moscow on Feb. 25, after which the central bank imposed restrictions.

Last week, Russia's central bank banned households from buying cash dollars and euros at banking branches, another step to protect foreign exchange liquidity in local banks as the country was largely cut off from the global financial system by Western sanctions.

The central bank is now in focus as it will hold a rate-setting meeting on Friday. The bank is expected to keep the key rate at 20% and could shed more light on its future plans to regulate financial markets. read more

While forex transactions are limited, including with bank accounts and purchases abroad, Russians can still buy and sell forex online, although spreads are wide.

Reporting by Reuters

Source: Reuters

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