Feb. 17 (UPI) -- As oil prices stabilize in the wake of an OPEC-led production deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin said signs of economic strength are becoming clear.
The president sat with his top economic advisors for the second time this year, saying there are clear signs of positive momentum. By his read, the 0.2 percent decline in gross domestic product last year was better than expected.
"The trends are becoming more or less clear, and we have an overall understanding of the ongoing developments," he said. "Overall, we are seeing positive economic momentum."
The International Monetary Fund said it expected a 0.6 percent contraction for Russia last year, but growth would return at 1.1 percent in 2017. After keeping its key lending rates unchanged in early February, the Central Bank of Russia said growth would be "in the positive zone" even if crude oil prices returned to $40 per barrel.
Brent crude was trading at around $55.50 per barrel early Friday. Crude oil prices recovered from historic lows last year after members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries pledged to keep production levels steady in an effort to balance a market that was heavily oversupplied. As a non-member state, Russia vowed to do its part to keep a lid on production.
OPEC economists said Russian oil production declined 120,000 barrels per day in January to 11.2 million bpd. Fourth quarter output was slightly higher year-on-year and, after slight declines forecast for the six-month duration of the OPEC supply agreement, Russia could return to January levels by the latter half of the year.
Broker PVM reported Thursday that Russian crude oil exports could increase by more than 5 percent this year.
The Russian Ministry of Economic Development said it expects to see GDP range between 1.5 percent and 2 percent growth this year. Though contracting in the second half of last year, the decline was the slowest pace since first quarter 2015.