Russian rouble flat ahead of Putin speech, U.S.-China trade deal

MOSCOW, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble opened steady on Wednesday ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to lawmakers and the country’s ruling elite, and with an eye on the expected signing of the first phase of a U.S.-China trade deal later in the day.

The world’s two largest economies are expected to sign a Phase 1 trade agreement on Wednesday, bringing to an end 18 months of negotiations and potentially assuaging some trade tensions.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday, however, that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods will remain in place until the completion of a second phase of a trade agreement, which may hamper emerging currencies by keeping global risk appetite low.

At 0814 GMT, the rouble was marginally weaker against the dollar at 61.45, having reached its highest level since April 2018 on Friday. It was flat versus the euro , trading at 68.36.

The potential for further strengthening of the rouble remains, Gazprombank said in a note, with analysts saying the Russian currency could move beyond 59 per dollar in the first six months of the year.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 0.4% at $64.2 a barrel.

On the domestic market, Russia’s treasury bonds return to focus on Wednesday, with the first OFZ auctions of the year.

Yields on Russia’s 10-year treasury bond, which move inversely to their price, had risen to 6.23%, moving away from the 14-year low of 6.07% reached on Monday.

Russian stock indexes were down, with the rouble-based MOEX index falling away from Tuesday’s record high.

The MOEX index was 0.2% lower at 3,123.6 points, while the dollar-denominated RTS index was down 0.3% at 1,601.0 points.

Shares in Russia’s largest lender Sberbank were down 0.8%, after the bank announced 2019 profits of 870.1 billion roubles ($14.2 billion) under Russian Accounting Standards (RAS).

A 1.8% decrease in the bank’s loan portfolio was due to the strengthening of the rouble, Sberbank said in a statement.

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$1 = 61.4120 roubles Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Catherine Evans