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Russian Ruble Rebounds Vs. Dollar

September 9, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s battered ruble rebounded against the U.S. dollar today amid an apparent shortage of the local currency.

The dollar for next-day delivery was trading between 15 and 16 rubles at the central Moscow interbank exchange, compared with 20 to 25 rubles at the start of the session and Tuesday’s Central Bank rate of 20.8.

While some Moscow traders did not rule out that the ruble’s gains could be caused by a Central Bank intervention, most said that commercial banks apparently were selling dollars to obtain rubles for client transactions.

Ruble supplies at Russian banks have dropped recently when most rushed to invest in dollars or other foreign currencies, spooked by the ruble’s fall in the aftermath of the treasury market collapse in August.

One major commercial bank, Oneximbank, called on private clients to convert their ruble accounts to dollar deposit accounts under favorable conditions.

Many street exchange points around Moscow appeared to have run out of rubles and the exchange rate varied wildly, from 12 rubles to the dollar to 18 rubles or so per dollar.

Russian government officials, who on Tuesday attacked the ruble’s exchange rate as unrealistic, praised the currency’s gains.

A rate above 20 rubles to the dollar had a ``considerable speculative component″ and was largely due to psychological factors, said government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov.

He also called on stores and wholesalers to lower the prices for goods and food correspondingly. Although high post-crisis prices did not go down, Moscow stores were restocking shelves and people seemed less worried about food shortages.

Customs officials said today that economic turmoil has halted about 300,000 tons of goods that were awaiting clearance at customs warehouses, including 48,000 tons of foodstuffs in Moscow region alone.

But imports in August were 32 percent down from July, deputy customs committee chairman Oleg Svirodov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

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