Russian rouble falls to weakest since mid-September

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian rouble fell to its weakest level since mid-September in thin trade on Wednesday, breaking through the 69 mark against the dollar, as the market continued pricing in a slump in oil prices to their lowest in more than a year.

A view shows Russian rouble coins in this picture illustration taken October 26, 2018. Picture taken October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The rouble hit 69.42 versus the U.S. dollar, a level last seen on Sept. 12, bringing its year-to-date loss to 17 percent.

The decline came as the price of oil, Russia’s key export, slid to its lowest since mid-2017 amid fears for the global economy. <O/R>

Looming New Year holidays in Russia, which run from Dec. 31 until Jan. 9, usually also have a negative impact on the rouble as market players tend to minimize exposure to riskier assets.

At 1102 GMT, the rouble was trading 0.9 percent down against the dollar at 69.26 and shed 0.8 percent to 78.85 versus the euro .

In the short term, the rouble is seen trading between 68.5 and 69.5 against the dollar, analysts at Nordea Bank said in a note.

The finance ministry was in focus on Wednesday amid reduced market activity abroad due to the Christmas holidays as it managed to sell all OFZ treasury bonds on offer at a weekly auction.

Demand for the bonds is a gauge of market sentiment, given uncertainty about whether the United States will impose sanctions on holdings of Russian state debt.

Oil prices also remained in focus after Brent crude hit their lowest since mid-2017 this week. On Wednesday, Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was up 1 percent at $50.98 a barrel, hovering slightly above a psychologically-important level of $50 a barrel.

Russian stock indexes were up.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.3 percent at 1,051.3 points, while the rouble-based MOEX was 0.9 percent higher at 2,310.5 points.

“Oil prices are attempting to grow. The U.S. market is quite capable of rising in the upcoming trading session. There is no motivation for more selling on the domestic (Russian) market,” brokerage Otkritie said in a note.

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For Russian treasury bonds see <0#RUTSY=MM>

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Gareth Jones