* Moscow Exchange allows neighbours to trade on forex
* Russia to extend yuan settlements, introduce swaps
* Russia promotes rouble as regional reserve currency
By Maya Dyakina
MOSCOW, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The Moscow Exchange said on Thursday it would allow banks from Russia’s economic allies to trade forex on its platform as part of a wider Kremlin-backed drive to establish the rouble as a regional reserve currency.
Russia, a net creditor with half a trillion dollars in central bank reserves, has long eyed a greater role in world financial markets amid growing concerns over the stability of established reserve currencies like the dollar, euro or yen.
But transforming the rouble, which was not convertible in the Soviet era and was heavily devalued in the 1990s, into a credible reserve asset is a long-term project for Russia, which this year chairs the Group of 20 global economic forum.
The Moscow Exchange, which turns over $16 billion in forex deals daily, said on Thursday it would start settling transactions in the currencies of the members of the Eurasian Economic Union: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The news comes as the Moscow Exchange markets its own $500 million initial public offering of shares.
“This will contribute to a greater role of the rouble as a regional reserve currency,” Igor Marich, head of money market operations at the Moscow Exchange, told reporters.
“People won’t just come to trade the Belarusian rouble, they will trade the rouble against the dollar, at a venue with higher liquidity.”
The Belarussian arm of Russia’s biggest lender, Sberbank , will be the first non-resident bank admitted to trade forex on Moscow’s bourse. Banks from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan may follow, Marich said.
“We are interested above all in the Russian rouble, as it accounts for 64 percent of our foreign trade turnover and currency settlements, and of course, in dollars and euros,” said Alla Doubenetskaya, deputy chairman of BPS Sberbank.
Liquidity on the Moscow Exchange is mostly confined to dollar/rouble - the dollar being traditionally the most important currency for Russia’s export-focused economy, and that is not likely to change much in the near term, said Marich.
Russia’s foreign trade with the Eurasian Economic Union totalled $55.8 billion in the first 11 months of 2012, or 7.3 percent of the total.
Russia started trading Chinese yuan against the rouble in 2010 and plans to launch trading pairs with the Swiss franc and sterling this year.
The Moscow Exchange plans to introduce swap operations and extend the settlement date on yuan transactions to ‘tomorrow’ in the first half of this year, in a move to boost trading volumes.
“Yuan will be on a par with dollar and euro in terms of trade facilities,” Marich said, adding that yuan settlements in Moscow now total 1 percent of the overall turnover.
China, the world’s No.2 economy, is a growing market for exports of Russian oil and metals and accounts for 10.5 percent of total foreign trade turnover. (Reporting by Maya Dyakina; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Stephen Nisbet)