Russia's central bank to even out key lending rates

Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:17am EST

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MOSCOW, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Russia's central bank plans to even out the terms under which it offers rouble liquidity via foreign currency swaps and secured loans, simplifying its interest-rate toolkit as it shifts to inflation targeting.

The Bank of Russia has traditionally focused on keeping the rouble's exchange rate stable to the dollar, but is now prioritising interest rates to manage growth and inflation expectations.

In the next key change, the central bank will this year bring into line the repo rate - at which it lends money in exchange for eligible collateral - and the rate at which it offers roubles via currency swaps.

In its forex swap operations, a borrower can deposit dollars or euros at the central bank and receive overnight rouble liquidity at a fixed interest rate, with the cash flows reversed the following day.

"Borrowing against foreign currency would be on the same terms in terms of maturity, margin calls, interest rates and would be equal to repo operations," Central Bank Deputy Chairman Shvetsov told a briefing on Tuesday.

He said he expected the Moscow Exchange, Russia's main financial market, to introduce a platform for swap auctions this year.

The overnight fixed foreign exchange swap rate for roubles with the central bank is currently set at 6.5 percent, compared to a minimum repo rate of 5.5 percent.

The forex swap rate is expected to move into line with the minimum repo rate - the central bank's key money market rate - in what would amount to a de facto easing of monetary conditions without having to cut key policy rates.

Forex swap operations account for more than half of daily money market turnover, which now averages about 700 billion roubles ($23 billion), as Russian banks tend to use their clients' export revenues as collateral for borrowing.

Business and politicians have been pushing the central bank to cut interest rates to revive flagging economic growth, but the bank has said it would like to see inflation - now above 7 percent - fall before it cuts rates.

The bank last eased policy in December 2011 when it cut the refinancing rate. ($1 = 30.3825 Russian roubles) (Reporting by Maya Dyakina and Oksana Kobzeva; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Susan Fenton)

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