© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view shows a Russian rouble coin and a U.S. dollar banknote in this picture illustration taken October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
(Reuters) – The Russian rouble edged higher in Moscow trade on Wednesday as investors hoped for peace talks over the Ukraine crisis sooner rather than later and the market focused on whether Russia would manage to pay coupons on sovereign debt due later in the day.
At 0731 GMT, the rouble was 1.5% stronger against the dollar at 108.51 and had gained 0.5% to trade at 117.95 versus the euro – small moves compared with recent wild swings.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said peace talks were sounding more realistic but more time was needed, which some analysts said was helping risk appetite, even as fighting in Ukraine continued.
Russia has $117 million in payments due on Wednesday on two dollar-denominated Eurobonds. Its finance ministry has said it will make the payments in roubles if sanctions prevent it from paying in dollars – a move markets would view as a default.
Fitch Ratings said on Tuesday that if the payments were done in roubles, it would constitute a sovereign default if not corrected after a 30-day grace period.
Events in Ukraine and the sanctions that followed against Moscow in response have triggered the worst economic crisis in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The European Union on Tuesday launched a new barrage of sanctions, including bans on Russian energy sector investments, luxury goods exports to Moscow and imports of steel products from Russia.
The Moscow stock market stayed largely closed by order of the central bank, and will remain so for the rest of the week. Stocks last traded in Moscow on Feb. 25, after which the central bank imposed restrictions.
Russian brokerage ITI Capital said on Tuesday it had launched a programme to buy or sell Russian blue chips while trading on the Moscow Exchange remains suspended.
Last week, Russia’s central bank banned http://cbr.ru/press/event/?id=12738 selling of dollars and euros via banking branches, in another step to protect forex liquidity held by local banks as the country was largely cut off from the global financial system by western sanctions.
While forex transactions are limited, including with bank accounts and purchases abroad, Russians can still buy and sell forex online, with local banks charging between 104 to 108 roubles to buy a dollar and offering to sell for 112 to 129.
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