Sunday, January 4, 2015

4/1/2015: Russian Economy Update

As I noted earlier, Russian economy posted an estimated decline in real GDP of 0.5% in November for the first time since 2009, while Russian inflation accelerated to 11.4% y/y in December, up from 9.1% in November. Latest guesses for economic growth in 2015: -4.0% at average crude prices of USD60 bbl via Finance Minister, Siluanov. Previous estimate by CBR consistent with this oil price level was 4.5-4.7% contraction.

To reduce inflationary pressures and to alleviate 'precautionary demand' (stockpiling) of some core goods, the Government is considering imposing a freeze on some food prices, according to Andrei Tsiganov, deputy head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service.

Still, according to CBR First Deputy Governor Ksenia Yudaeva, long term inflation target remains in place at 4% by the end of 2017. Good luck to that…

Largest driver for inflation was mid-December Ruble crisis (December 16-17). While Ruble posted some recovery in subsequent days, it came at a hefty price tag for the Russian foreign exchange reserves and Ruble resumed slide last week as CBR refrained from intervening in the markets from December 22nd.

Key driver for the upside of the Ruble has been, in addition to aggressive interventions by the CBR, the decision on December 17th to mandate five largest Russian state-owned enterprises: Gazprom, Rosneft, Alrosa, Zarubezhneft, and Kristall to reduce their foreign exchange holdings to the levels of October 2014. The deadline for this is March 2015. The companies will report their forex levels on a weekly basis. Behind the scenes, President Putin started discussions with larger private enterprises to also reduce their forex deposits.

Talking about deposits, to reduce pressure on retail banks, Duma passed the legislation to raise deposit insurance coverage from RUB700,000 to RUB1.4 million on December 19th. Russian Finance Ministry supported the bill, having previously resisted smaller increase. On corporate funding side, CBR announced, on December 23rd, new forex credit lines of 28-days and 365-days basis.

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