May 18, 2018 / 3:45 PM / a month ago

Ruble eases before weekend as Russia forms new government

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian ruble pared earlier gains on Friday after President Vladimir Putin gave a green light to a new government line-up at the start of his six-year stint.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds new 200 and 2,000 rouble banknotes in a bank in Moscow, Russia November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The ruble came under pressure from market players’ regular moves to reduce risk exposure before the weekend, as well as from the U.S. dollar’s advance against emerging market FX .DXY.

As of 1455 GMT, the ruble had shed 0.5 percent to 62.49 versus the dollar RUBUTSTN=MCX, heading away from its strongest point touched on Friday of 61.83.

Before the announcement of the new government, which mostly confirmed incumbents in office but elevated two newcomers with ties to the intelligence services, the ruble traded at around 62.07 versus the dollar.

Looking further ahead, the ruble is likely to remain under pressure from geopolitical tensions, notably over possible Moscow retaliation to the latest round of U.S. sanctions imposed in early April.

Danske bank said in a note it raised dollar forecasts as “anti-Russian sanctions could hit the ruble anytime.” Danske now sees the ruble at 61.50 versus the dollar in a month, versus its earlier call for levels of 59.50.

The ruble’s downside, however, is likely to be limited next week by the looming tax payment period that usually prompts export-focused companies to convert part of their dollar revenues to meet local currency obligations.

Versus the euro, the ruble eased 0.2 percent to 73.44 EURRUBTN=MCX.

Brent crude oil LCOc1, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, remained supportive for Russian assets, hovering 0.2 percent higher on the day at $79.47 per barrel.

The Russian stock indexes were mixed at the end of the trading week.

The dollar-denominated RTS index .IRTS fell 0.6 percent to 1,174.4 points, while the ruble-based MOEX Russian index .IMOEX was 0.2 percent higher at 2,326.4 points.

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Jon Boyle

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