March 15, 2019 / 3:26 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Russian rouble firms towards 5-month high vs dollar

(Updates prices, adds detail)

MOSCOW, March 15 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble rallied on Friday to its strongest level since October 2018, helped by month-end tax payments, which usually prompt export-focused companies to convert their foreign currency to meet local liabilities.

Taxes could amount to as much as 2.9 trillion roubles ($44.3 billion) this month, nearly double February’s level, a Reuters survey of eight analysts indicated.

At 1507 GMT, the rouble was 0.5 percent stronger against the dollar at 65.22 after briefly touching 65.14, a level last seen on Oct. 24.

Against the euro, the rouble rose 0.2 percent to 73.89 in light pre-weekend trade.

The rouble is likely to strengthen towards a range of 64.50-65.00 against the dollar in the near term, said Dmitry Polevoy, chief economist at Russian Direct Investment Fund.

“Despite a lower correlation between the FX rate and oil in the past months, the rouble still receives substantial support from the oil market in conditions of a geopolitical lull,” Rosbank analysts said in a note.

Some market players were selling currency ahead of tax payments, while some were closing long foreign currency positions they had before, said a dealer at a major Russian bank, adding there was a chance the rouble could soon firm to 65 to the dollar.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, played a positive role for Russian assets but moved away from a 2019 high of $68.14 touched the day before. Brent futures were 0.7 percent lower at $66.78 a barrel.

Russian stock indexes edged higher.

The dollar-denominated RTS index rose 0.9 percent to 1,192.8 points, while the rouble-based MOEX Russian index gained 0.5 percent to 2,469.3 points.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see

$1 = 65.4098 roubles Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Vladimir Abramov; Editing by Mark Potter

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