Russia's oil-price headache is only getting worse


ruble russia

Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters

A girl runs past an art installation depicting a shark at the Museum of Optical Illusions in St. Petersburg.

Oil prices crashed to a 14-year low on Thursday morning.

And that could be a nuisance for Russia, given that the ruble has historically been tied to oil prices.

Already, the ruble fell 3% versus the dollar in the last two days, according to data from Barclays.


Moreover, on Wednesday the currency plunged to 75.1 rubles to the dollar - the lowest rate since December 2014 - after Brent crude fell to its lowest level in 11 years.

Currently the ruble is at 74.9 rubles to the dollar, up 0.39% up from earlier this morning.

But the bigger picture here is that if lower oil prices persist, it could affect what the Russian Central Bank does at its January meeting.


"The Russian ruble was hit hard; we now expect ruble weakness to prevent the central bank from cutting rates at its next meeting," Barclays' Guillermo Felices wrote on Thursday.

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In fact, Capital Economics' Liza Ermolenko previously wrote in a note that any further falls in the ruble could lead the CBR to delay its next rate cut until March.

Still, none of this is particularly surprising. After all, analysts have long suggested that future interest-rate decisions by the CBR would be determined by moves in the currency given Russia's delicate economic situation.


"On the one hand, the recession in the economy and extremely tight credit conditions argue for a rate cut," as Ermolenko previously explained to Bloomberg. "But on the other hand, easing policy at the time when the ruble is weakening sharply could cause it to fall even further, creating risks for inflation and financial stability."

Back in December, the Russian central bank left rates unchanged at 11% for the third meeting in a row, but noted that it will again start easing if inflation risks subside and price growth slows.

The CBR next decides on interest rates on January 29.


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Ruble versus the dollar, 1 month.

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