Thursday, March 26, 2015

26/3/15: Russian imports outlook 2015-2016

Per BOFIT, Russian imports "will react strongly in 2015, partly dragged down by the economic contraction" and in part by weaker ruble and continued counter-sanctions. Import volumes adjust sharply during Russian recessions: in 2009 imports volumes fell 30% as GDP contracted by 8%. However, current Ruble is in a weaker position than in 2009: "the real exchange rate of the rouble has now depreciated much more than in 2009: it is a quarter weaker than the average rate for 2014. Russia’s income on exports, which dropped by a third in 2009, will deteriorate under the forecast oil price assumption[USD55 pb], by almost a quarter in 2015."

All of this means that Russian "imports will have to adjust to the smaller export income even more than usual [more than in 2009], since it would be difficult to fund a current account deficit in the present situation." It is worth noting that Russian economy does not run current account deficits to smooth out volatility in imports. "The current account last posted a deficit for a short period only, during the crisis of 1998."

Which means that BOFIT projects sharper decline in imports this time around: "import volumes are estimated to fall by a fifth in 2015. [On top of already sharp contraction in 2014]. The decline in imports will level off after 2015 as the economic contraction eases. In addition, the rouble’s real exchange rate will strengthen, since inflation is considerably faster in Russia than in its trading partners (the difference has grown to over 10%). In the absence of shocks which would lead to capital outflows, the rouble’s nominal exchange rate is expected to remain fairly stable, because net capital outflows stemming from e.g. repayment of foreign debt by non-financial corporations and banks will not necessarily exceed the surplus on the current account."

In other words, BOFIT does not expect an external funding crisis to be triggered by the debt redemptions.

"The current account will be bolstered by diminishing imports and a recovery in Russia’s export income resulting from rising oil prices. The recovery in export income will, in turn, create room for an increase in imports."

All of which is consistent with the Government policy: "the Russian Government has increased reactive manual steering in several areas ahead of the recession. Import controls have been intensified, e.g. by raising certain import duties and favouring domestic products in public procurement and also projects of state-owned enterprises. Capital outflows have been restricted by e.g. strengthening banking controls and issuing instructions to state-owned enterprises. Companies have been encouraged to apply targeted price controls, although this has not been widely used, as yet."

Exporters to Russia, especially from the EU, can expect some rough years ahead.

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