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Russian rouble little changed post-Fed; focus on Putin speech

MOSCOW: Russia’s rouble was little changed early on Thursday after the Federal Reserve raised rates as expected, and attention switched to Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference for clues on the leader’s thinking on the economy, the Syria crisis and Ukraine.
At 0740 GMT, the rouble was 0.1 percent weaker against the dollar at 70.48 but had gained 0.4 percent to trade at 76.50 versus the euro.
Its reaction was also muted late on Wednesday, when the Fed announced its 25-basis-point increase, in line with market expectations.
“The rouble remains moderately attractive in the context of high domestic interest rates,” analysts at Rosbank said in a note. “But it will of course trade with an eye on oil prices.”
Last week Russia held rates at 11 percent, bowing to inflation risks.
On Thursday, the Russian currency was supported by forex sales ahead of upcoming tax payments to the state budget but pressured by lingering oil price weakness.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 0.3 percent at $37.3 a barrel, not far off multi-year lows touched earlier in the week.

Putin’s news conference is set to begin around 0900 GMT. In past years it has been a marathon affair, lasting several hours and touching on a range of domestic and international issues.
Investors are likely to focus this year on the president’s message on Ukraine and Syria, two conflicts over which Russia has clashed with the West.
Other important issues are Russia’s standoff with Turkey over the downing of a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border and the Russian economy, which is set for its deepest slump in 2015 since the global financial crisis.

Russian share indexes moved higher early on Thursday, in line with moves on global markets.
The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 1 percent to 793 points, while its rouble-based peer MICEX traded 1.1 percent higher at 1,774 points.

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