Rouble falls as Russia relaxes capital controls; Rosbank shares jump 40%

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FILE PHOTO: A view shows Russian rouble coins in this illustration picture

(Reuters) -The rouble weakened sharply on Monday, reversing some of the previous week’s gains, after Russia relaxed temporary capital control measures aimed at limiting a drop in the currency.

Shares in Rosbank, a Russian subsidiary of French bank Societe Generale, jumped 40% after SocGen said it would quit Russia and take a 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) income hit from selling Rosbank to Interros Capital, a firm linked to Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin.

By 1500 GMT, the rouble had lost more than 4% of its value in jittery trade, sliding to 79.45 to the dollar, and was down 4.5% to 86.45 against the euro.

During the trading session on Moscow Exchange, the rouble fell to 82.0950 against the dollar, from the 71 roubles hit on Friday which was its strongest since Nov. 11.

Late on Friday the central bank said it would scrap a 12% commission for buying foreign currency through brokerages from April 11 and lift a temporary ban on selling foreign exchange cash to individuals from April 18.

“The central bank gave markets a unequivocal signal that a further rouble strengthening was undesirable,” said Vladimir Evstifeev, an analyst at Zenit Bank.

The decision to scrap the 12% commission on FX operations means speculators will be able to trade again, Alor Brokerage said, adding market players were tending to lock in even small profits.

The rouble retains support from the obligatory conversion of 80% of FX revenues by export-focused companies as well as from high interest rates, even though the central bank unexpectedly cut its key rate from 20% to 17% last week.

ITI Capital analysts said Russia receives about $1.4 billion a day in export revenues and the rouble could firm further, given Russian capital controls and shrinking imports.

The central bank’s cut supported Russian OFZ government bonds. The finance ministry said at the weekend that it wouldn’t borrow on local or foreign debt markets this year.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov also said Russia would take legal action if the West tried to force it to default on its sovereign debt.

Yields on 10-year OFZs, which move inversely with their prices, fell to 10.45% on Monday. That was their lowest since Feb. 21, three days before Russia started what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine, triggering unprecedented Western sanctions against Russia.

On the stock market, the dollar-denominated RTS index fell 5.8% to 1,017.4 points and the rouble-based MOEX Russian index shed 1% to 2,566.6 points, with losses limited by the rouble’s slide.

(Reporting by ReutersEditing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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