MOSCOW: The Russian rouble strengthened slightly in early trade on Thursday, supported by broadly stable oil prices and the start of local monthly tax payments earlier this week. At 0902 GMT, the rouble was up 0.3 percent against the dollar at 59.23, around its strongest level since July 21, and had gained 0.57 percent to trade at 69.51 versus the euro. Local monthly tax payments usually prompt export-focused companies to convert part of their foreign currency revenues to meet local liabilities. According to a Reuters poll, tax payments could reach 1.35 billion roubles ($23 million) this month.
Oil prices edged up early on Thursday, clawing back some ground after losses in the previous session, but then fell slightly after U.S. data showed a big fall in crude stockpiles but also an increase in production. Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 0.2 percent at $50.15 a barrel. “Oil is flirting with a $50/bbl mark, which is worrying, in our view, but unless it slips below $45/bbl, does not carry a substantial downside for the rouble,” VTB Capital said in a note. Russian share indexes were also up. The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.33 percent at 1,033.100 points, while the rouble-based MICEX was up 0.1 percent at 1,944.76.