Russian current account surplus, capital outflows plunge in first quarter

Russian central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina attends the annual conference of the Association of Russian Banks in Moscow, Russia, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s current account surplus shrivelled by more than half in the first quarter of 2016 compared with a year earlier, while capital outflows declined more than fourfold, central bank balance of payments data showed on Monday.

The declines show that while low oil prices are weighing on the value of Russia’s exports, a reduction in the burden of foreign debt repayments has greatly reduced the size of the capital flows the country makes abroad.

According to the data, the first quarter current account surplus was worth an estimated $11.7 billion, down from $30 billion a year earlier.

In a statement, the central bank said the decline was “the consequence of a more than halving of the positive trade balance of goods in conditions of a significant reduction of exports along with a slowing down in the fall in imports”.

The price of oil, Russia’s biggest export, hovered near $30 per barrel for most of the first quarter of 2016, compared with around $50 per barrel in the first quarter of 2015.

However, pressure on the overall balance of payments has been eased by a significant fall in capital outflows.

The first quarter net capital outflow by companies and banks was an estimated $7 billion, down from $30 billion in the first quarter of 2015.

“As before, the main constituent in the structure of the net capital outflow remains the repaying of foreign obligations, although in significantly smaller amounts than in the analogous period of last year,” the central bank said.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Jason Bush