(Reuters) – The Russian ruble eased slightly on Wednesday, hovering around 104 to the dollar in Moscow as the central bank prepared to reopen trading in shares of major Russian companies on Thursday after a nearly four-week hiatus.
The Bank of Russia announced that some stock trading would resume on March 24, with 33 stocks included in the IMOEX benchmark to be traded on the Moscow Stock Exchange for a limited period and short selling banned.
Russia, which has been hit by unprecedented Western sanctions for launching what it calls a “special operation” in Ukraine, appears to have avoided a default on its external debt by paying a coupon on a sovereign Eurobond in US dollars.
Russia was due to make a $66 million payment to bondholders on the Eurobond maturing in 2029 on Monday. A bondholder said the payment had been received.
But Russian holders of domestic corporate Eurobonds are facing delays in receiving payments settled by international agents, as transactions are blocked by sanctions, Russia’s National Settlement Depository (NSD) has said. , companies and analysts.
As of 12:03 GMT, the ruble was down 0.2% against the dollar at 103.79 and gained 0.5% to trade at 113.88 against the euro.
The ruble stabilized after falling to a record low of 120 in Moscow this month and even further in the interbank market to 150 as Russia was hit by unprecedented Western sanctions following its invasion of the Ukraine, what it calls “a special operation”, which began on February 24.
Before that, the ruble traded at around 80 per dollar.
Promsvyazbank analysts said in a note that they expect further consolidation of the ruble in the 100-105 range.
Demand for ruble cash declined as the central bank sold 800 billion rubles ($7.7 billion) in a one-day “fine-tuning” auction on Wednesday, down from days previous ones.
“Demand at overnight repo auctions is falling rapidly,” brokerage firm Veles Capital said in a note, explaining that even as banks’ liquidity levels fell to their lowest since June this year last, lenders repay previous repo debts to the central bank.
Trading on the OFZ bond market continued for a third day after it closed in late February.
The central bank said last week it would start buying OFZ bonds to limit volatility, after keeping its benchmark rate at 20% following an emergency rate hike in late February.
The central bank has so far not disclosed the extent of its interventions in the OFZ market that have helped stabilize prices and provide additional liquidity to the financial system.
Yields on benchmark OFZ 10-year bonds, which move inversely to their prices, stood at 13.88% on Wednesday after hitting a record high of 19.74% on Monday.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Edmund Blair and Bernadette Baum)
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