(Adds details, analyst comment, budget surplus)
MOSCOW, March 13 Higher international prices for
oil and gas, Russia's main export commodities, boosted Russia's
foreign trade surplus in January to a level well above
expectations, central bank data showed on Thursday.
Exports rose 58 percent in year-on-year terms to $34.04
billion while imports rose only 34 percent to $15.78 billion,
reversing the trend of a shrinking trade balance seen throughout
"The reason is gigantic exports," said analyst Yevgeny
Nadorshin from Trust Bank. Analysts estimated Russia's foreign
trade surplus at $10.5 billion and expected much lower exports.
They forecast renewed growth in imports starting from March.
For a full table, please double-click on [ID:nMOS005260].
Russia's current account surplus fell in 2007 to $77 billion
from a record $94 billion in 2006 due to rapidly rising imports,
and officials expect the current account surplus to disappear
within the next two to three years.
"If energy prices continue to rise, it will happen later,"
said Yaroslav Lissovolik, analyst at Deutsche Bank.
"However, all fundamental factors, such as gross domestic
product growth and the strong rouble, speak in favour of a
continued rise in imports," Lissovolik said.
Analysts view the shrinking current account surplus as a
major factor in the next few years, which may have long-ranging
implications for Russia's economic and even foreign policy.
International oil prices hit a record high on Thursday while
Russia continues to raise prices for natural gas, another key
export commodity, for its ex-Soviet neighbours.
The Finance Ministry said Russia ran a budget surplus of
416.7 billion roubles ($17.47 billion), or 8.2 percent of gross
domestic product, in January-February, in line with the same
period of last year.
The Finance Ministry expects a fiscal surplus of 3.0 percent
of GDP, with the budget calculated using the average annual
price of oil at $74 per barrel. Russia's Urals crude oil export
blend currently trades at above $104 per barrel.
For a table on the Russian budget, please double-click on
(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)