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9 Mar, 2020 10:37

Russia swiftly reacts to bloodbath in markets, says it’s ready for $25 oil

Russia swiftly reacts to bloodbath in markets, says it’s ready for $25 oil

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund has enough reserves to cover budget deficit for years, even if oil prices stay between $25 and $30 per barrel, the Finance Ministry announced amid a dramatic oil market crash.

Despite Monday being a public holiday in Russia, both the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank were quick to react to the overnight drop in oil prices of nearly 30 percent. The former said that the Russian National Wealth Fund has $150 billion (more than 10 trillion rubles) worth of liquid assets from additional oil and gas revenues, which is enough to offset a possible shortfall from falling crude prices for 6-10 years.

The oil market turmoil dragged down Russia’s national currency, which fell sharply against the US dollar and the euro. The ruble slid about eight percent, trading at 74.1 to the dollar on Monday morning. Against the euro, the ruble was at 84.4, its weakest since late February 2016.

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The Central Bank of Russia announced that it is temporarily halting foreign currency purchases on the domestic market under its fiscal rule mechanism. The regulator said the 30-day pause is aimed at reducing financial market volatility, adding that it is ready to take up additional measures to ensure the country’s financial stability. The resumption of operations will depend on the how the situation develops in March.

Before the members of OPEC and allied oil producers met last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that while Moscow must be prepared for any scenario, it has enough reserves to stay afloat even if the situation continues to deteriorate. At that time, however, crude prices were higher.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov earlier said the Russian economy could withstand an oil price of about $30 per barrel, but noted that it wouldn’t be optimal for balancing the budget.

Last week, OPEC agreed on deeper production cuts to boost oil prices amid the coronavirus outbreak, but Russia refused to support the initiative, recommending prolonging existing cuts. As a result of the disagreement, the current deal expires next month, creating the risk of additional oversupply in the market, which is already bracing for reduced imports by coronavirus-hit China, one of the main importers of oil.

In a shock announcement on Sunday, Saudi Arabia said it wants to increase oil production instead of cutting it, and also offered a discount for buyers of its oil. The move was seen as the start of a price war, triggering massive losses in global benchmarks Brent and WTI.

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