(Bloomberg) – The ruble tumbled as local traders got their first chance this week to react to a series of negative developments for Russia, including curbs on oil exports, the country’s main source of income .
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Since the currency’s last close on Friday, the US and UK have banned imports of Russian oil, Fitch Ratings has warned that default now looks ‘imminent’, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bloomberg LP have withdrawn Russian assets from their indexes.
“The ruble remains under selling pressure following another barrage of punitive measures,” said Piotr Matys, analyst at InTouch Capital Markets Ltd. “The market clearly lacks proper liquidity.”
Read more: US and UK ban Russian oil imports, urging Putin on war
The currency fell 11% to 117.3550 to the dollar, taking its fall this year to almost 40% – by far the worst retreat in the world. Trading was thin and in the offshore market before the open, the indicative bid-ask spread was 7.4% of the asking price, suggesting there may be little actual trading.
Read more: Russia Keeps Stock Market Closed; Ruble trade will resume
So far, a series of emergency measures taken by the Russian central bank have failed to stop the currency’s slide.
In addition to foreign exchange controls that prohibited foreigners from selling or receiving payments on local securities, the Bank of Russia temporarily banned banks from selling foreign currency in cash to citizens who do not yet have a foreign currency account. Last month, the monetary authority more than doubled its key rate to 20%.
In the offshore market, the ruble fell 4% to 133.8810 per dollar, more than 8% lower on the week.
“Russian markets will face illiquidity pricing, trade and financial sanctions,” said Ray Choy, head of economics and research at Opus Asset Management Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur. “The ruble can only weaken.”
Signs of distress
In Asia, the ruble fell to an all-time low of 20.5718 per yuan, from just 13.2817 at the end of February. A number of Chinese banks suspended trading in the currency pair last week as signs of distress appeared in the widest bid-ask spread on record.
While sentiment towards the ruble remains deeply negative, the currency’s almost 40% drop over the past month and the surging costs to sell it suggest that there is the prospect of at least a temporary rebound.
“From a speculator’s perspective, shorting the ruble now could be akin to arriving late to the party,” said Matt Simpson, senior market analyst at City Index in Sydney. With the Russian central bank “reviving onshore trade, it’s an act of confidence that is not ideal for a bearish scenario,” he said.
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