March 5, 2020 / 1:47 PM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 1-Russian rouble slides as OPEC uncertainty increases volatility

(Updates pries, adds analyst comments, finance ministry background)

By Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW, March 5 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble fell in volatile trading on Thursday amid uncertainty over whether Russia will agree to OPEC supply cuts aimed at reducing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on oil prices.

By 1342 GMT, the rouble was 0.7% weaker against the dollar at 66.73 and had lost 1.1% to trade at 74.61 versus the euro.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 0.7% at $50.8 a barrel and has been fluctuating heavily throughout the day.

OPEC ministers are meeting in Vienna on Thursday and Friday to discuss extra cuts in oil supply in a bid to prop up prices which have tumbled by a fifth this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. However, Russia has been resisting steps to implement a new agreement according to OPEC sources.

Analysts from Sberbank CIB, an investment arm of Russia’s largest lender Sberbank, warned that disappointing news for investors from OPEC’s meetings and falling oil prices would spell trouble for Russian markets.

Global markets were only temporarily reassured by measures taken on Wednesday, including the approval by the U.S. House of Representatives of an $8.3 billion bill to fight the virus and develop vaccines for the highly contagious disease, and the IMF making $50 billion available in emergency funding.

This support was “decisive”, said research analysts at the Bank of St Petersburg, adding that investors will remain cautious until the prospect of containing the virus becomes clear.

This week, the rouble gained domestic support from the finance ministry after it said it would almost halve its daily foreign currency purchases between March 6 and April 6.

The finance ministry on Wednesday sought to “facilitate the stabilisation of the market situation” by cancelling its weekly OFZ treasury bonds auction.

Russian stock indexes also fell.

The dollar-denominated RTS index fell 1.8% to 1,324.7 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.7% lower at 2,806.2 points.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see

Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Amy Caren Daniel

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