March 19, 2020 / 12:28 PM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 3-Battered rouble hovers near 80 vs dollar, sells FX

(changes headline only)

* Rouble recovers to 80 vs dollar from 4-yr low of 81.97

* Stocks jump after steep losses

* Russian says steps up FX selling

* board meeting in focus

By Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble on Thursday recovered from a four-year low against the dollar to hover around 80 versus the greenback in volatile trading amid oil price swings and uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak.

The double hit from the slump in oil prices and a fast-developing global health crisis has made the rouble one of the worst-performing currencies against the dollar this year here losing around 25% of its value since late 2019.

By 1705 GMT, the rouble was 1.3% stronger against the dollar at 79.82, having swung between 79.10 and 81.97 - its lowest since January 2016.

It gained 3.6% to trade at 85.17 versus the euro , having traded in a wide range of 85.10-89.60 during the day.

Russian assets got a boost from Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, that gained 12.4% to $27.93 a barrel, after sliding to its lowest since May 2003 on Wednesday.

Market analysts are focused on the central bank’s board meeting on Friday, at which it is seen announcing measures to ensure financial stability after a rapid slide in the rouble from around 64 against the dollar seen just a month ago.

The central bank has already sought to support the rouble through foreign currency purchases, its first such intervention in five years, and repo auctions to inject liquidity into the banking sector.

“The Bank of Russia has developed a sales mechanism, designed to strengthen the stabilising effect of the budget rule at low oil prices, thus facilitating economic and financial stability,” said the central bank.

Daily forex sales of between $50 million and $70 million will be topped up by additional sales by the finance ministry to fund its purchase of the central bank’s stake in the country’s top lender, Sberbank.

“Additional currency sales, initiated by the central bank, lower the risk of a key rate hike at tomorrow’s meeting, which was beginning to look very likely, given the currency market situation yesterday,” said Nord Bank analysts.

According to the terms of the Sberbank deal, the volume of foreign currency sales on the open market may be topped up by up to $800 million a month, said analysts at VT Capital.

Russian stock indexes were visibly higher after steep drops in previous sessions.

Shares in oil giants Rosneft and Lukoil were both up 13% and 15.4%, respectively, tracking the rise in oil prices.

The dollar-denominated RTS index finished the day 8.5% higher at 902.63 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 7.7% higher at 2,275.7 points, still away from an all time-high of 3,226.89 it hit in January.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see (Reporting by Alexander Marrow, additional reporting by Andrey Ostroukh, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Elena Fabrichnaya; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Elaine Hardcastle)

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