The lowdown on the ruble
Right now, the Russian ruble is particularly unstable after fluctuating dramatically over the last twelve months.
If you're heading to Russia soon, we've put together this update detailing everything you need to know about the Russian currency.
Here’s our guide to exactly what’s been going on.
The ruble at the end of 2014
Back in December of 2014, the Russian ruble was facing a crisis. Its value had effectively halved in the year since December 2013, taking it from around 30 rubles to the dollar to around 60. Russia’s economy had been hurt by two things: the falling price of oil around the world and economic sanctions placed on Russian countries by Europe and the US.
About half of Russia’s revenue is generated by the oil and gas industry, and so when a weaker demand around the world meant that the price per barrel fell from $110 to $60 towards the end of 2014, Russia felt the repercussions first hand.
Russia’s Central Bank ended 2014 trying to fight the tumbling of the country’s economy. First, it used its stocks of foreign currency to buy rubles, hoping to increase their price through demand. On the 15th December, the Central Bank announced a huge increase in interest rates in the hope that people would be happier to keep their money in rubles.
Neither of these moves worked, however, and the ruble fell a further 20% the next day as traders and investors rushed to get their money out of Russian assets. One US dollar was now buying 68.46 rubles and Russia fell into its worst crisis since the 1998 debt default. The ruble closed 2014 as the world’s second worst performing currency after the Ukrainian hryvnia, when comparing its performance to the start of the year.
The ruble’s recovery of early 2015
Kicking off 2015, the Russian ruble saw an impressive turn around. Between 1st February and 16th April, the currency gained against all of the world’s key benchmarks, strengthening from 69.65 to 49.92 rubles to the dollar. In fact, it was the world’s best performing currency in the first few months of 2015. This can largely be attributed to a rise in the world’s oil prices, as well as lowered interest rates and a cooling in Ukraine hostilities that once again made investing in rubles a more attractive prospect.
By 17th May, the ruble was performing at a rate of 48.67 rubles to the dollar and the world waited to see if this resurgence would last.
The ruble falls once more
By the end of May, things began to go downwards once more. The world’s oil prices were back down after China revalued its yuan, making raw-material imports more expensive for everyone – and with the ruble moving almost in tandem with oil prices, the Russian economy is hurting again.
By August 24th, Russia’s currency had weakened all the way to 70.86 against the dollar, down over 20% from its 17th May peak of 48.67.
However, Russia may eventually benefit from China’s devaluation of the yuan. In the face of the US and EU sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, Russia is hoping to reduce its dependency on Europe and move towards China taking a bigger share of the country’s exports. This means that if the yuan devaluation succeeds in reviving Chinese growth rates, Russia and the ruble will stand to benefit too.
Indeed, an increase in crude oil prices has already seen the ruble back on the road to recovery, trading at around 62 rubles to the dollar by early November.
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