Russian ruble hits a new low as oil prices weaken

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2016 11:06 AM
Russian ruble hits a new low as oil prices weaken

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian ruble, battered by weak oil prices, on Monday fell to an all-time low against the euro and dropped to its lowest level in more than a year against the dollar.

The Central Bank set the official exchange rate at over 85 rubles to the euro on Monday. The national currency declined by 2 percent to 79.1 rubles to the dollar in Moscow, its lowest trading level since December 2014.

Oil, the mainstay of the Russian economy, recently plummeted to under $30 a barrel, a 13-year low. The ruble is also under pressure from economic sanctions that the West imposed on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

Russia is running a budget deficit of 3 percent of GDP this year, and the government is looking to cut 10 percent from the federal budget, which was drafted with oil prices of $50 a barrel in mind.

All Russian ministries are expected to present their proposed cuts by the end of the month with a view to cutting 500 billion rubles ($6.3 billion) in government expenses, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in televised comments on Monday, said that the government finds the price of oil "difficult to predict" and that Russia should use this moment to diversify its economy away from oil since it "has got a chance now to do it as quickly as possible."

The government has recently downgraded its economy forecast for this year, from 0.7 percent growth to a 0.8 percent decline.

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told Russian news agencies in Hong Kong that the government and monetary officials are discussing ways to spur growth and hoping GDP will be flat this year compared with 2015.