The rouble and the hryvnia

November 11, 2014

A reflection of a yearly chart of U.S. dollars and Russian roubles are seen on rouble notes in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw

Ukraine’s currency shed nearly 5 percent on Monday after a weekend that saw the heaviest shelling in a month of the main rebel stronghold in the east and signs that Moscow had dispatched troops and tanks to reinforce separatists. The prospect that a two-month-old ceasefire could collapse has helped drive the currency 12 percent lower since the central bank abandoned an unofficial peg a week ago.

Russia’s rouble has also been in freefall but firmed yesterday after the central bank let the currency float. Vladimir Putin hopes the decision would help stabilise the currency and said its recent slide was due to speculators who could be punished by the central bank.

The rouble has slumped over 25 percent against the dollar this year on plunging oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. It has opened a little weaker against both the dollar and the euro this morning.

Nigeria has also been trying to defend its currency, the naira, as the drop in oil prices has unnerved foreign investors.
A suicide bomber dressed as a student killed at least 48 people, most of them students, in a horrific attack that injured 79 others at a school assembly in the northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum on Monday. Goodluck Jonathan may formally declare his intention to run for president for a second term today.

Minutes are due of the Swedish central bank’s last meeting, at which its rate setters were unanimous in cutting interest rates to zero. The Riksbank has said it doesn’t see the need for unconventional policy but stands ready to act if necessary.
The Riksbank will also hold a news conference on action to deal with Sweden’s household debt mountain, specifically on interest-only mortgages.

The Financial Stability Council – which comprises the government, central bank, Debt Office and Financial Supervisory Authority – is holding a meeting to put forward measures to stem growth of household debt which, at over 170 percent of disposable income, is among Europe’s highest.

The British Retail Consortium reported overnight that spending recovered modestly last month after falling sharply in September.

After a weekend U.S. air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul destroyed 10 Islamic State vehicles leaving what was believed to have been a gathering of its leaders, it’s still not clear whether the group’s top commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in the convoy. If he has been killed or injured it would send a morale-sapping message about the ability to take out IS leaders from the air. One of Baghdadi’s aides has been killed in an air strike near the city of Falluja.

Military experts say Western air power means IS can’t easily use the tanks and heavy artillery it has got its hands on and there are hints that it is at least levelling the playing field for Baghdad’s forces. Iraqi troops have reached the centre of the northern city of Baiji in an effort to break an Islamic State siege of the country’s biggest refinery. IS seized the city in June after a lightning advance across northern Iraq. Oil is probably the main source of revenue for the insurgents.

Pressure is growing for French for President Francois Hollande’s top official to resign after giving contradictory accounts of a conversation with an opposition politician about ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is seeking the UMP party’s ticket to run for president in 2017 but is implicated in a series of legal cases. He says he is the victim of a plot.

Hollande’s secretary-general, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, last week denied a report that he discussed Sarkozy’s troubles with Francois Fillon, a potential conservative rival for Sarkozy. But at the weekend Jouyet conceded the matter had indeed come up.

Little progress was made in two days of Iran nuclear talks with the United States and European Union in Oman. Nov. 24 is the deadline for a final agreement although it could be extended if agreement is close. But the gap remains wide.

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