Russian ruble at lowest since 2016 on US sanctions fears

August 23, 2018 - 6:06 am

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian ruble briefly fell Thursday to its lowest level against the dollar since April 2016 amid fears of new economic sanctions by the United States.

Earlier, the ruble had fallen by around 2 percent to trade at nearly 69 to the dollar, but later recovered part of its losses to trade at 68.3 after the Russian Central Bank said it would suspend foreign-currency purchases.

The Central Bank said it wouldn't buy foreign currency until the end of September "to reduce the volatility on financial markets." An earlier foreign-currency buy announced this week by the Central Bank had increased downward pressure on the ruble.

The latest drop in the value of the Russian currency came amid talk that the U.S. was readying further sanctions. On Tuesday, the U.S. slapped sanctions on two Russian shipping companies over alleged oil trading with North Korea.

It could also impose much broader sanctions as a consequence of the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain in March.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called sanctions against Russia "counterproductive and senseless" following talks Wednesday with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

The last time the ruble reached similar lows was in early 2016 when oil prices fell sharply. Russia is heavily-dependent on revenues from its oil exports.

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