Russia Moves to Help Lift Sinking Ruble

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from The Wall Street Journal,

With Its Currency Tumbling, Moscow Raises a Key Interest Rate by 6.5 Points.

A spiraling currency crisis, fueled by the bite of Western sanctions and the plummeting price of oil, spurred Russia’s central bank to raise interest rates late Monday, a drastic move aimed at shoring up the collapsing ruble.

The surprise action came at the end of a turbulent day for global financial markets. Currencies and stock markets from several developing nations were buffeted by the deepening oil-price slump and worries about future interest-rate increases in the U.S.

The epicenter of the troubles was Russia, where the ruble plunged to a record low in its biggest one-day decline since 1999.

The ruble’s fall, described by analysts as “staggering” and “extreme,” prompted Russia’s central bank to hike a key interest rate by 6.5 percentage points, to 17%, after New York’s trading day had ended. One dollar now buys more than 65 rubles, compared with 33 rubles at the start of the year.

Russia’s central bank, which announced its decision after a late-night board meeting, said it increased rates because of devaluation and inflation threats. It also raised another key benchmark, known as the repurchase rate, to 18% from 11.5%. The moves risk pushing Russia closer to recession and are liable to be a blow to Russian consumers, who will face much higher rates to borrow the currency.

“Goodbye growth,” said Luis Saenz, head of equities and derivatives-sales trading at Moscow-based BCS Financial Group.

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