Russians queues at money exchange as new U.S. sanctions forced Russia to halt transaction in dollars and euros

New U.S. sanctions that forced Russia’s leading exchange to halt dollar and euro trading led to a range of varying prices and spreads as trading moved over-the-counter (OTC) on Thursday, obscuring access to reliable pricing for the Russian currency.
The rouble fell to a one-month low of 91.7455 against the dollar in very low liquidity on the interbank market.

But dollar-rouble futures, which continued trading on Moscow Exchange (MOEX.MM), opens new tab as a derivative instrument, had gained around 2.4% at 0809 GMT and hit a high of around 86.00 in volatile trading.

The central bank will publish the official daily rate, based on OTC trading, closer to 1400 GMT. According to the bank, dollar and euro turnover on the OTC market, where deals are conducted directly between two parties, had long exceeded the volumes on MOEX, Russia’s leading financial marketplace.
The rouble’s previous close, on the eve of Wednesday’s national holiday, was 89.10 to the dollar.

The U.S. sanctions on Wednesday led to an immediate suspension of trading in dollars and euros on MOEX, within an hour of Washington announcements aimed at cutting the flow of money and goods used to sustain Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Russian central bank also suspended trading in the Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, but was keen to downplay the possible impact of sanctions.

“Over the past two years, the role of the US dollar and the euro in the Russian market has been consistently declining,” the central bank said on Thursday.

The yuan has surpassed the dollar to become the most traded currency with the rouble in Moscow, accounting for a 54% share of the FX market in May.

The rouble firmed 1.8% to 12.01 against the yuan, and touched a near one-year high of 11.8430 earlier in the session.

Russia’s rouble-based MOEX Russian index (.IMOEX), opens new tab plunged to a near six-month low in early trading, before paring some losses to trade 1.6% lower at 3,120.7 points. Shares in MOEX slumped around 15%, before settling around 6.8% lower in the session.

“The sanctions against the key institutions of the Russian financial sector are the most serious in the last 1-1/2 years after the introduction of the oil embargo and oil price cap,” said BCS World of Investments analysts.
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About 60% of FX trading from January to April had been on the OTC market, BCS said, so it offers a sufficient basis for forming the official exchange rate.

“At the same time, the lack of a single trading floor will lead to an increase in spreads on FX operations from banks.”

Banks, companies and investors are no longer able to trade either the U.S. dollar or the euro via the central exchange, which allows benefits such as liquidity, clearing and oversight.

“The new sanctions should not affect the rouble rate in the medium term,” said Yuri Popov, SberCIB Investment Research strategist. “In the short term, there may be high volatility and wide spreads at exchange counters.”

Some major brokers blocked accounts in dollars, euros and Hong Kong dollars, with deposits and withdrawals unavailable.
Sberbank (SBER.MM), opens new tab, Russia’s dominant lender, said it was not seeing increased demand for foreign currency at its branches and its FX rates had not changed since yesterday.

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