By Alexander Marrow and Andrey Ostroukh
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian rouble drifted lower on Wednesday, slipping past 74 versus the dollar for the first time in a week as investors focused on central bank meetings this week, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Russia.
By 1722 GMT, the rouble was 0.7% weaker against the dollar at 74.33, its weakest since Dec. 7. It had lost 0.7% to trade at 83.67 versus the euro.
The dollar was holding onto recent gains as investors looked towards a pivotal U.S. Fed policy meeting to see if it would reinforce growing market expectations for earlier and additional interest rate rises next year.
Russian assets have come under pressure from rising East-West tensions in recent weeks, with the United States and Western capitals voicing fears over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine.
“Geopolitical noise” related to Ukraine remains an important factor for the rouble, but it could firm towards 72-73 versus the dollar in the near term due to month-end taxes that prompt export-focused companies to convert FX revenues to meet local liabilities, said Dmitry Polevoy, head of investment at Locko Invest.
The rouble could also get support from the central bank that is expected to raise interest rates on Friday by a hefty 100 basis points as inflation hovers near its highest since early 2016.
“The high level of real rates and comfortable commodity prices will support the rouble in 2022,” VTB Capital Investment said in a note. It revised its end-2022 forecast for the dollar-rouble pair to 68 from 70, citing tighter central bank monetary policy and expected higher oil prices.
Russian stock indexes were mixed.
The dollar-denominated RTS was down 0.5% at 1,541.0 points. The rouble-based MOEX was up 0.1% at 3,621.8 points, though still near its lowest level since April of 3,532.29 touched on Tuesday.
“Russian stocks now appear to be oversold, given their solid fundamentals, and we see upside even in a bear case pandemic scenario,” Sinara bank analysts said in a note.
($1 = 73.9110 roubles)