MOSCOW, March 3 Russia's central bank will
nearly halve its daily purchases of foreign currency in March,
the finance ministry said on Friday.
Russia resumed buying dollars and euros last month, part of
an effort to replenish the country's depleted reserves. It had
not previously bought forex since 2015.
The finance ministry said the central bank would buy the
equivalent of 3.2 billion roubles a day ($54.34 million) between
March 7 and April 6 after purchasing around $106 million a day
The reduction brings daily interventions below market
expectations -- analysts on average predicted that the central
bank would buy some $80 million a day.
The ministry said the central bank would buy the equivalent
of 70.5 billion roubles between March 7 and April 6 and might
increase its buying in future if market conditions remained
The finance ministry says the purchases are aimed at
shielding Russia from external shocks, but critics say they are
an attempt to stop the rouble from strengthening too much.
A weaker rouble means revenues from oil exports earned in
dollars translate into more roubles for the Russian budget,
allowing Moscow to boost spending.
That is convenient for Russian authorities in the run-up to
next year's presidential election. President Vladimir Putin is
widely expected to seek a new term, but has not yet confirmed if
he will run or not.
People involved in top-level discussions on the forex
purchases told Reuters the central bank wanted to distance
itself from the interventions, fearing they would damage its
credibility and cast doubt on the rouble's free float.
($1 = 58.8897 roubles)
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Andrew Osborn)