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Russian rouble firms past 62 vs dollar, Yandex shares fall after EU sanctions

·2-min read
Illustration shows Russian Rouble and U.S. Dollar banknotes

(Reuters) -The Russian rouble firmed past 62 to the dollar in Moscow trade on Friday while shares in internet giant Yandex fell sharply after EU countries imposed new sanctions against Russia.

EU countries have agreed their sixth package of sanctions against Russia over what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine, including an import ban on all Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products in six to eight months.

The rouble firmed despite the negative development, as it is continued to be driven by capital controls that Russia imposed to protect its financial system soon after sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

At 1405 GMT, the rouble was 0.3% stronger against the dollar at 61.55 and firmed 0.6% to 65.11 against the euro.

The rouble has become the world's best-performing currency http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/GLOBAL-CURRENCIES-PERFORMANCE/0100301V041/index.html so far this year, boosted artificially by capital controls and supported by high prices for commodities, Russia's key exports.

New gas payment terms for EU consumers that require conversion of foreign currencies into roubles and a fall in imports have also supported the Russian currency, helping it to shrug off economic hurdles at home and risks of a looming default on sovereign debt.

Most of the gas payments were due in May, Gazprom and the Kremlin have said, and German, Italian and French companies agreed to use the new scheme where end-payments are made in roubles. Buyers from Denmark, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Poland and Finland were cut off after refusing to pay under the new rules.

Following lower activity from the foreign gas buyers to exchange foreign exchange for roubles, the euro continued to rise against the rouble and the dollar, Promsvyazbank said in a note, suggesting that the rouble might have found a balance between supply and demand against the euro and the U.S. dollar.

"The rouble looks balanced to us at the current levels, and we expect it to continue trading at 61-62 versus the dollar today," Sberbank CIB said in a note.

On the domestic bond market, yields on 10-year OFZ treasury bonds fell to 9.08%, their lowest since early 2022, after inflation data underpinned expectations for another rate cut by the central bank as soon as next week.

Russian stock indexes were down. The dollar-denominated RTS index fell 2% to 1,172.9 points, while the rouble-based MOEX Russian index was also 2% lower at 2,293.3 points.

Moscow-listed shares in Yandex fell 6% on the day to 1,496 roubles after the sanctions prompted Arkady Volozh to step down as Yandex chief executive and leave the board. Yandex shares hit a record high of 6,217 in November.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by David Clarke)

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