-The Russian rouble touched a more than five-week high in early Moscow trade on Friday before settling in the 83-84 range to the dollar, and Russian stocks climbed, with investors eyeing events in Ukraine and an ongoing gas payments saga.
By 1319 GMT, the rouble was 0.2% weaker against the dollar at 83.37, earlier clipping 80.3325, its strongest mark since Feb. 23. It had gained 0.2% to trade at 92.31 versus the euro.
On the interbank market, the rouble was as strong as 75 against the dollar earlier this week and was hovering near 81 on Wednesday. The rouble was at 83.1 to the dollar on the EBS electronic platform.
European governments and companies were working on Friday on a common approach to President Vladimir Putin’s demand that they pay for Russian gas in roubles as the threat of an imminent halt in supplies eased.
Putin’s move has boosted the rouble in the past two weeks.
The currency’s lightning-fast recovery to levels last reached in the days before Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine is partly down to a genuine improvement in Russia’s finances, but also due to being artificially inflated by capital controls.
Other factors that have been working in the rouble’s favour include a just-expired quarterly tax period that forces foreign companies to convert dollars and euros, and the finance ministry’s offer to buy back FX bonds for Russian holders, said Konstantin Svyatny chief portfolio manager at Aton Brokerage.
“Taking all this into account, it is likely that we have already seen some kind of local minimum for the (dollar rate against the) rouble,” he said.
Russia’s central bank said it was softening restrictions on foreign fund transfers for individuals for six months, permitting limited monthly transfers in foreign currency that may ease the strain on Russians who regularly send funds to relatives abroad.
The bank said the measures would not apply to people from countries that have supported sanctions against Moscow.
“This step looks like a signal that if the rouble strengthens further, we can expect further measures to reduce currency control restrictions,” said Promsvyazbank analysts in a note.
Russian stock indexes hit their highest since Feb. 22 before paring some gains.
The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 2.3% at 1,042.8 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 2.3% higher at 2,759.1 points.
Shares in energy giant Gazprom were up around 3.7%.
Russian companies whose depositary receipts are traded abroad will be obliged to return to Russia, unless other solutions arise, Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said on Friday.