February 12, 2019 / 8:17 AM / 6 days ago

Ruble firms as U.S. postpones hearing on Russian sanctions

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The ruble firmed on Tuesday after the U.S. House Financial Services committee said it had postponed a planned hearing on sanctions against Russia due to scheduling changes.

An employee counts Russian ruble banknotes at a private company's office in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

The committee was due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the United States’ international sanctions programs on North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, “with a particular focus on Russia”.

But a short notice on its website said the meeting had been postponed until an unspecified date, citing scheduling issues.

The ruble, already boosted by higher oil prices, rose further after the postponement and was 0.25 percent stronger against the dollar at 65.68 and also 0.1 percent stronger against the euro at 74.14 by 1533 GMT.

It would have strengthened even further if it had not been for gains in the U.S. dollar, Artem Zvonarev, a trader at VTB Capital in Moscow, said.

“Gains in the ruble that are driven by positive factors, such Russia’s sovereign rating upgrade or the postponement of the U.S. congress hearing, are now capped by the situation on the global forex market where the dollar has been strengthening lately against other currencies,” Zvonarev added.

Traders were also watching the weekly auctions of OFZ government bonds after the finance ministry said last week it was considering scrapping its usual practice of setting a maximum amount of paper on offer.

“As we interpret it, the ministry is trying to avoid spooking investors at all costs if the ambitious 2.4 trillion rouble borrowing plan is to be accomplished,” analysts at Rosbank said in a note.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was up 1.18 percent at $62.7 a barrel.

The dollar-denominated RTS stock index rose 1.11 percent to 1,214.64 points and the rouble-based MOEX Russian index rose 0.92 percent to 2,533.32 points.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya and Vladimir Abramov, Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Potter

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