Rouble dips as emerging market jitters outweigh Putin's pension move

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The rouble eased on Wednesday alongside other emerging market currencies after ratings agency Moody’s sounded more alarm about the Turkish banking sector, outweighing the positive impact of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s pension reform.

FILE PHOTO: A cashier holds new 200 rouble banknotes in a bank in Moscow, Russia November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Putin said he has decided to dilute unpopular draft legislation to reform the pension system which has hurt his popularity, but said serious demographic challenges meant some kind of reform was necessary.

By 1215 GMT, the rouble was down 0.3 percent to 68.07 against the dollar RUBUTSTN=MCX, having risen to 67.7 during Putin's speech. Last week it hit 69.01, its lowest since April 2016.

“Investors estimated the softening of the pension reform as a reduction of domestic political risks,” said Kirill Tremasov, the former head of the economy ministry’s macroeconomic forecasting department and now head of research at Loko-Invest.

Against the euro, the rouble fell lost 0.06 percent to 79.40 EURRUBTN=MCX, remaining under pressure even though the central bank halted its daily purchasing of foreign currency last week.

Analysts at Rosbank, a subsidiary of Societe Generale, said in a note that market players were buying dollars whenever there was no specific and important news to dictate otherwise.

Geopolitical concerns were a persistent pressure and the rouble was suffering from mounting global risk aversion, analysts said.

U.S. sanctions against Russia, tied to a nerve agent attack in Britain, came into effect on Monday and a second batch of penalties could be imposed after 90 days.

The rouble has also now lost support from month-end tax payments, and the foreign currency sales by exporters is seen running out of steam, VTB Capital analysts said.

Exporters usually convert their foreign currency revenues in order to meet local tax duties that fall in the second half of every month.

However, the rouble did glean some support from higher oil prices, and Russian stock indexes rose.

Brent crude oil LCOc1, a global benchmark for Russia's main export, was up 0.59 percent at $76.40 a barrel.

The dollar-denominated RTS index .IRTS was up 0.26 percent to 1,081.05 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index .IMOEX was 0.87 percent higher at 2,336.45 points, after hitting its highest level since July 16 at 2,239.72.

“Probably, the general undervaluation of our market on the back of a record high oil price in roubles supports a stable demand for Russian shares from many investors,” BCS brokerage analysts wrote in a note.

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Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Louise Ireland