Despite another stable week for Russia's currency, which made further marginal gains against the dollar, the ruble seemed strangely unimpressed by the IMF's announcement Wednesday. On fairly low volumes, the ruble/dollar exchange rate strengthened from 24.67 to 24.23 last week.
Analysts said currency dealers had expected the IMF's decision but expressed concern that Russia will have difficulty meeting the Fund's conditions. One analyst pointed out that the very currency controls that have so effectively supported the ruble this month are precisely the measures that the IMF opposes.
Specifically, the IMF has announced its strong opposition to the restriction on foreigners purchasing hard currency with rubles in their correspondent accounts. If this measure is lifted, capital flight is sure to increase.
A second, larger concern is that money promised by the IMF is not even enough to cover what Russia is supposed to pay back to the Fund in 1999. The $4.5 billion figure will leave Russia short by $2 billion.
Despite such glaring fiscal gaps, traders said that the simple fact that the IMF has agreed on a figure this week would be enough to support the market in the short-term.
Another piece of positive news for the ruble was the announcement that the Central Banks foreign currency and gold reserves were up $100 million this week from $10.8 billion to $10.9 billion.