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Bank Of Russia Surprises With Unexpected Rate Cut, Brings YTD Total Of Nations Easing To 14

Yesterday we reported that in less than 1 month in 2015, so far a whopping 13 countries have proceeded with "surprising" rate cuts: Singapore, Europe, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, India, Turkey, Egypt, Romania, Peru, Albania, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. As of this morning, make that total 14, because in one of the more "surprising surprises" so far, it was none other than the Bank of Russia which cut its main interest rate from the 17% shocker it instituted at an emergency session on December 17 to halt the Ruble collapse (as a result of the crude price plunge) to 15% less than an hour ago. At the same time it cut the deposit rate to 14% and the repo rate to 16%.

More rate cuts may be coming:

  • NABIULLINA SAYS 15% RUSSIA'S KEY RATE STILL FAIRLY HIGH

Not surprisingly, the ruble tumbled in response with the USDRB jumping to 72, while the RTS stock index was down 2% at last check.

The question why Russia decided to cut rates now is relevant, and likely has to do with both the recent stabilization of crude prices in the mid-$40s, coupled with pressure from the administration to lower rates which have led to the Russian economy and banking sector grinding to a near halt.

More from the WSJ:

This was the first rate-setting meeting with Dmitry Tulin, a former deputy chairman who replaced Ksenia Yudaeva as monetary-policy chief earlier this month.

 

The statement issued after the central bank’s board meeting was the latest acknowledgment by Russia’s leadership that its economy will face protracted pain amid falling oil prices and a confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

And Bloomberg's take:

The last time the currency weakened past 70 was on Dec. 17, a day after it tumbled past 80 in a rout that spread across emerging markets. The ruble has fallen 14 percent in January, weighed by oil’s slide and worsening violence in Ukraine. European Union foreign ministers gave the go-ahead on Thursday to prepare steps that would move beyond last year’s decisions to ban financing for Russian state-owned banks and prohibit the export of advanced energy-exploration technology.

 

“The central bank might have weighted in the risk of a further selloff in the ruble versus the repercussions of the drastic rate hike in December for the domestic banking system and decided to cut rates,” Bernd Berg, a London-based emerging-market strategist at Societe Generale SA, said by e-mail. “Official reasoning for this rate cut is a stabilization of CPI inflation expectations.”

 

“It looks to me like the wrong timing in easing monetary policy, as geopolitics remains a negative driver,” Luis Costa, the chief strategist for eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Citigroup Inc. in London, said by e-mail.

The good news is that with the month of January effectively over, it will be a stretch to get any more central bank surprises in the remaining hours of the month. In February, however, expect even more capitulations from central banks around the globe as the relentless rise in the USD wreaks havoc to the global monetary system.