Russian rouble slips after Navalny reported dead

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 6:01 AM

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian rouble weakened on Friday after the federal prisons service said jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny was dead. The central bank’s decision to hold its key interest rate at 16% also nudged the currency lower.

The rouble dropped to 93 against the dollar in the moments after the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, where Navalny had been serving his prison sentence, said that Navalny “felt unwell” after a walk on Friday, and “almost immediately lost consciousness”.

The rouble had earlier slipped after the central bank left borrowing costs unchanged following five successive rate hikes as inflation pressure persists. Governor Elvira Nabiullina will shed more light on monetary policy and other issues at a news conference at 1200 GMT.

By 1141 GMT, the rouble was 0.6% weaker against the dollar at 92.81, earlier hitting its lowest level since Jan. 4, bar a momentary drop on Feb. 9 that traders attributed to an algorithmic trading error by a major player.

It had lost 0.3% to trade at 99.64 versus the euro and shed 0.2% against the yuan to 12.76.

“We believe that today’s decision by the central bank generally coincided with market expectations and therefore will not have a significant impact on the rouble rate,” said Mikhail Vasilyev, chief analyst at Sovcombank.

All 23 analysts polled by Reuters this week had predicted the rate hold.

The rouble has lost some support this month as the state slightly reduced its daily FX sales, but should get a boost as exporters convert foreign currency revenues to pay taxes later in the month.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 1% at $82.03 a barrel.

Russian stock indexes were lower.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 0.8% to 1,104.9 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.3% lower at 3,255.8 points.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Gareth Jones, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Barbara Lewis)