MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - Standard and Poor's said on Friday it has raised Russia's sovereign outlook to positive from stable, expecting growth to improve as the country emerges from a two-year recession.
"We expect GDP growth in Russia will pick up, averaging about 1.7 percent in 2017-2020, and we see a lower risk of large capital outflows, therefore moderating external pressures", said S&P, which currently rates Russia BB+.
The agency said it might raise its ratings if the Russian economy continued to adapt to the relatively low oil prices.
Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin said in a statement: "A precondition for the rating to be raised to investment grade this year is finalization of a plan of structural changes and the start of its implementation."
The Russian economy, hurt by weak energy prices and Western sanctions, returned to growth late last year after seven quarters of contraction. The economy ministry expects gross domestic product to grow 2 percent in 2017. (Writing by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)