日期:2014-12-19 13:51


MOSCOW — Russia has a new enemy: the currency markets.
Russia’s government is in the middle of an all-out fight to preserve the value of the ruble in the face of plummeting oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. In the boldest move yet to stanch the bleeding, the Central Bank of Russia announced a stunning interest rate increase in the middle of the night.

Its main deposit rate is now 17 percent, up from 10.5 percent when Russian banks closed for business on Monday. The rate increase, one of the largest ever announced by the central bank, echoes the drastic measures taken during the 1998 crisis when Russia defaulted on its debt and devalued the ruble.
The question is whether the move — announced on the central bank’s website at 1 a.m. in Russia — will appease the markets. If it doesn’t, investors may view the rate increase as a sign of increasing disarray.
Some economists are concerned that Russia is now stuck in the quagmire of stagflation, or high inflation and low growth. The government expects inflation of 10 percent or more by the end of this year and for the country to fall into a recession next year.
In a worrying sign, Russians have been buying up big-ticket items as the ruble depreciates, converting savings into consumer goods lest their savings become worthless. Appliance stores in Moscow have seen runs on refrigerators, washing machines and televisions.
The strategy behind the rate increase is straightforward. The central bank, led by Elvira Nabiullina, is hoping that the large rate increase will encourage Russian individuals, companies and banks to hold savings in rubles, rather than moving them into dollars. It is also aimed at helping to help keep inflation in check.
这次利率上调的战略很清楚。纳比乌里娜(Elvira Nabiullina)领导的俄罗斯央行希望大幅上调利率会鼓励俄罗斯个人、公司和银行继续持有卢布存款,而不是转向美元。同时这也是为了控制通胀。
“This decision is aimed at limiting substantially increased ruble depreciation risks and inflation risk,” the central bank said in its statement.
But the surprise rate increase also underscores the limited options for Russian policy makers. The central bank has spent at least $75 billion this year to prop up the ruble, with little effect.
The ruble plummeted yet again on Monday, by more than 10 percent, to about 64 per dollar. The ruble has lost nearly half its value since the start of 2014.
Aleksei L. Kudrin, a former Russian finance minister who is widely credited with having steered Russia through the 2008 financial crisis by persuading President Vladimir V. Putin to strengthen sovereign reserves, said that uneven policy making was adding to the erosion of confidence. “The fall of the ruble and the stock market is not only a reaction to lower oil prices and sanctions, but also distrust in the government’s economic measures,” Mr. Kudrin posted on Twitter.
俄罗斯前财政部长阿里克塞·库德林(Aleksei L. Kudrin)被广泛认为是帮助俄罗斯度过2008年金融危机的功臣,曾说服普京加强主权储备。他说,不平衡决策加剧了信心的流失。他在Twitter上写道:“卢布贬值股市下跌不只是对石油价格下跌和制裁做出的反应,也体现了对政府经济措施的不信任。”
The central bank is in a difficult position. The hope is that by stabilizing the value of the currency, the interest rate increase will reduce the sense of financial panic and rapid outflows of money. Russians have pulled more than $100 billion in capital from the country this year.
But the increase could also choke off growth in a Russian economy already reeling from falling oil prices. Oil and natural gas make up about 60 percent of Russia’s export earnings.
Earlier Monday, the Russian central bank said it expected the country’s economy to contract 4.5 percent in 2015 if oil prices averaged $60 a barrel. Oil is now hovering around that level.
The central bank had been striving to keep rates low to bolster business activity and growth. It shifted to raising rates only last spring after the Ukraine crisis put additional pressure on the ruble.
Since then, the central bank has steadily increased rates in relatively small increments. Just last Thursday, it increased rates to 10.5 percent, from 9.5 percent.
The dead-of-night action seemed to catch even seasoned market watchers by surprise. Russian news agencies close to the government described it in unusually breathless terms.
Noting the “rapid collapse of the ruble,” the Interfax news agency declared that the central bank had gone to “emergency measures, leaving far behind the most radical assumptions of analysts.”
提及“卢布的迅速崩溃时”,俄罗斯国际文传电讯社(Interfax news agency)称央行已经开始采用“紧急措施,分析师们此前甚至最激进的论断都已被远远超过。”
Analysts said that the rate increase might be a last-ditch move by the Russian government to try to contain the drop in the currency without adopting controls on the flow of capital or other more extensive measures to keep money in the country.
“If today’s measures fail to stem the ruble rout, there is a high probability that policy will veer in a more unorthodox direction,” said Alexander Kliment, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, in a research note. “Some top advisers to Putin are openly hostile to rate hikes.”
“如果今天的措施还不能阻止卢布崩盘,政策非常可能会转到一个非常规的方向,”欧亚集团(Eurasia Group)分析师亚历山大·克里门特在一份研究简报中说。“一些普京的高级顾问已经公开反对利率飙升。”