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Russian currency stabilizing despite oil's fade

Ruble undervalued by about 10 percent, Russia's finance minister said.

By Daniel J. Graeber

MOSCOW, March 23 (UPI) -- The value of the Russian currency has stabilized despite the fading of the February rally in crude oil prices, the Russian finance minister said.

The ruble traded Monday at around 59.27 to the U.S. dollar, recovering from the historic low-water mark of around 62 reached in late 2014. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on the "Vesti on Saturday" television program the nation's currency has stabilized.

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"Even if oil prices deviate to a certain extent from the current figures, the ruble will not react much," he said.

Brent crude oil prices dipped below $50 per barrel in January, but gained more than 35 percent by early March. The price since the beginning of the month is down nearly 12 percent.

A forecast for 2015 from the Russian Economy Ministry said export revenues would decline as Russian energy products wane from the world market, but Siluanov said last week it was unclear how long the recession would last.

Russia's economy depends heavily on oil and gas revenue. A decline in energy prices on the world market, coupled with Western economic sanctions imposed in response to crises in Ukraine, has put a strain on the country's financial health.

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The International Monetary Fund in January warned the low price of oil is "clearly bad news" for economies like Russia's that depend heavily on export revenue. The adverse effect for Russia, the fund warned, is likely to be "very large."

Siluanov said the Russian currency was likely undervalued by about 10 percent.

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