(Corrects series of names misspelled by automated check)
By Sujata Rao
LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The rouble fell 2.5 percent on Friday to breach the key level of 70 per dollar, after an unexpected rate cut put more pressure on a currency already reeling from debt repayments, sanctions and falling oil prices.
Investors were watching for comments from Russia’s central bank, which cut interest rates by 2 percentage points to 15 percent, despite the rouble’s 16 percent fall so far this month.
“A read from this is that the central bank is comfortable still with the rouble continuing to take the strain,” Standard Bank analyst Tim Ash said. “The move will be seen as politically-driven, and further erosion of (central bank) credibility.”
Meanwhile, escalating violence in eastern Ukraine is prompting the West to consider fresh sanctions against Moscow.
“... Growth is going to contract significantly, oil prices are not rebounding. The last thing that Russia wants now is an escalation of sanctions, which would make corporate refinancing even more expensive and challenging,” said UBS strategist Manik Narain.
Rosneft, the Russian oil company, must repay a $7.1 billion loan due Feb 13, and many link its last big repayment with the rouble’s lurch lower in December. Overall, companies must repay $15 billion in external debt in February and $17 billion in March, according to SEB analysts.
In Belarus, dollar bonds rebounded as much as 8.5 cents, after falling 13 to 15 points when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said the country might restructure its debt. The government later backtracked on the comments and said it had paid a $43.7 million coupon.
Its yield spreads over U.S. Treasuries tightened almost 220 basis points.
Elsewhere, the dollar pulled back, leading to some gains by some emerging-market currencies. Most Asian currencies rose.
Emerging-market assets had weakened after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s meeting this week, when the Fed suggested U.S. rates would rise as expected this year. Falling U.S. Treasury yields and euro weakness has helped rebuild some investor interest.
MSCI’s main emerging equity index fell 0.5 percent as China saw its first weekly drop in a year because of margin trading investigations. The index is still set to post its first monthly gain since October.
Turkey’s lira approached record lows after data showed the trade deficit fell, reinforcing expectations of a rate cut . JPMorgan predicted a 50 bps cut next week, and said “lower rates and more importantly the erosion in (central bank) credibility could increase the pressure on the lira.”
For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/jus35t
For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/weh36s
For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging Europe performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/jun28s
For GRAPHIC on MSCI frontier index performance 2015, see link.reuters.com/zyh97s
For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see
For TURKISH market report, see
For RUSSIAN market report, see ) (Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Larry King)