Rouble firms past 60 vs dollar, Gazprom shares rally

The rouble firmed beyond 60 against the dollar in Moscow trade on Tuesday, shrugging off a slide in oil prices below $100, while Russia’s benchmark stock index rose towards its highest point in two months, led by energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM).

The rouble finished the day 0.8% stronger against the dollar at 59.94 and 0.7% firmer against the euro at 60.00 .

The rouble gained in light trade even though analysts had said it could weaken after the peak of a month-end tax payments period, in which Russia’s exporters usually convert foreign currency earnings into roubles, passed last week.

The rouble has spent most of August near 60 per dollar. Volatility has subsided since it hit a record low of 121.53 per dollar in Moscow trade in March, soon after Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine. It then rallied to its strongest in seven years of 50.01 per dollar in June.

So far this year, the rouble has been the world’s best-performing currency, buoyed by emergency capital controls rolled out by the central bank in a bid to halt a mass sell-off. This helped to avoid economic meltdown that many had predicted.

“The national currency’s moves are determined by … fundamental factors, in particular the state of the country’s balance of payments,” said Alexander Dzhioyev, an analyst at Alfa-Capital.

Russia’s current account surplus – largely reflecting the positive balance between exports and imports – more than tripled year-on-year in the first seven months of 2022, to a record $166.6 billion, as energy export revenues soared while sanctions caused imports to plunge.

STOCKS
The rouble-based MOEX Russian index (.IMOEX) rose 0.5% to 2,306.6 points, earlier touching a two-month peak of 2,314.53 points.

Its dollar-denominated peer RTS (.IRTS) gained 1.2% to 1,212.1 points.

“The Russian stock market should continue to head north as it is fully isolated from the Western negative,” said BCS Global Markets in a note. “The key supportive factor is the oil market – Brent should hold above $100/bbl in the short-term, though volatility would persist as bears and bulls fight for the crude market.”

Brent crude oil , a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 6.5% at $98.32 a barrel, having started the session near its strongest level in a month.

Gazprom shares strongly outperformed, up 7.4%, with flows on the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany due to halt from 0100 GMT on Aug. 31.

Moscow-listed shares of tech giant Yandex’s gained 4% after Russia’s anti-monopoly service approved its asset-swap deal with rival VK .