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Ruble tumbles further along with oil prices

MOSCOW: The Russian ruble tumbled against the dollar and the euro for the second day in a row on Tuesday, punished as oil prices plunged further.

The ruble was worth 64.68 against the dollar and 76.43 against the euro at around 0900 GMT, down from 63.17 and 74.68 on Monday evening.

Stocks in the oil exporting nation were also hit, with the RTS index down 2.64 percent at around 0900 GMT.

Russia’s budget depends heavily on revenues from oil and gas, and the ruble’s fall on Tuesday came as the price of a barrel of Brent fell to around $46, approaching 6-year lows.

“The performance of crude oil remains the key focus for ruble traders,” VTB Capital analysts said in a research note.

The ruble’s plunge has also been fuelled by the fallout from the crisis in Ukraine that has seen the West slap the toughest sanctions on Moscow since the end of the Cold War.

The sharp depreciation of the national currency has propelled official inflation to over 11 percent.

The falling ruble sparked panic among Russians in December, with people rushing to convert their savings into dollars or euros, peaking on December 15 and 16 when the ruble lost around a quarter of its value in two days.

The ruble then stabilised, but still ended the year down 41 percent against the dollar, and has remained weak in January as oil prices have continued to fall.

In late December, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov predicted that if a barrel of oil was worth $60 the Russian economy could contract by 4 percent in 2015 after having edged out 0.6 percent growth this year.

At that price, which is above the $50 average price per barrel in 2015 the US investment bank Goldman Sachs now forecasts, Russia would record a budget deficit of 3 percent after balancing the budget for many years.

Russia’s central bank said Monday that it had spent $76 billion to prop up the ruble in 2014, leaving currency reserves of less than $400 billion for the first time in five years. (AFP)

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