Business confidence improving for oil-rich Russia

Market report finds general optimism emerging, though Russia still lags behind the rest of the world.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  March 13, 2017 at 7:10 AM
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March 13 (UPI) -- With crude oil prices improving over last year's slump, a market report finds most companies in Russia are expecting modest recovery.

A November forecast from the International Monetary Fund found the Russian economy had absorbed the shocks from the dual strains of lower crude oil prices and sanctions imposed because of the Kremlin's role in lingering conflict in Ukraine.

Crude oil prices sank below $30 per barrel and were holding steady above $55 per barrel for most of the year, though supply-side pressures from the United States have dragged on oil price momentum recently.

As an economy with a stake in the energy game, Samuel Agass, an economist at analytic group IHS Markit, said business confidence in Russia's private sector is the highest it's been since 2013.

"These are signs that the Russian economic upturn will likely gain further momentum over the year ahead," he said in a statement.

In February, the board of directors at Russia's Central Bank said they were keeping their key rate unchanged at 10 percent, adding "internal and external developments" had diminished the appetite for rate cuts this year. Bank Gov. Elvira Nabiullina said the rate of inflation is expected to be close to its low-end outlook of around 5.5 percent this year.

Russia relies heavily on oil and natural gas for revenue and, after a budget shortfall in February, the country's Finance Ministry said it expected to receive around $1.5 billion in oil and natural gas revenue this month.

Agass said survey data show the net balance of firms are expecting new business and new hires, with most of the companies expressing confidence of sustained economic recovery.

"That said, business confidence is still subdued in comparison to both the current worldwide average and historical outlook data, suggesting not all private sector companies are convinced the upturn in the Russian economy can be sustained," he said.

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