Back in November, it looked like the worst might finally be over for Russia’s economy.
But the renewed drop in oil prices has analysts worried that Russia’s looking at another rough year.
“The recent run of weak data, coupled with the latest fall in oil prices, has prompted us to revise our forecasts for Russia,” wrote Capital Economics’ Liza Ermolenko in a recent note to clients.
“We now expect the economy to contract by 1.3% this year and grow by just 0.5% in 2017, both of which are below the consensus. Meanwhile, inflation is set to remain in double digits for the best part of 2016,” she added.
Barclays’ Daniel Hewitt forecast slightly more positive figures with a 1.0% decline in 2015, and a 1.5% recovery in real growth in 2017.
Notably, these revised forecasts have been attributed to the “lower for longer” oil environment. For those who may be unfamiliar, Russia’s economy heavily relies on the commodity.
After falling about 10% in the first two days of the week, crude spiked on Wednesday. Currently, Brent is trading at $34.27 per barrel, and WTI is trading at $31.84 per barrel. Oil has fallen more than 70% since June 2014.
“Things obviously got worse for the economy since the start of this year as oil prices fell to 13-year lows. Our commodities team expects oil prices to recover in the second have of the year, but in the short-term we wouldn’t rule out further falls. And overall, our oil price forecasts imply that Russia’s annual export revenues would fall by $40bn (equivalent to around 3% of GDP) compared to 2015,” wrote Ermolenko.
“The ruble should continue to track oil prices. If we are right that oil prices should stabilise and recover in the second half of the year, then so should the ruble, but it’s difficult to be bullish,” she added.
However, “if we are right that oil prices and the ruble should stabilise, this may allow the Central Bank of Russia to restart its easing cycle later this year,” she added.
On the positive side, “Russia has made considerable progress towards fiscal and monetary policy adjustments to lower oil prices,” noted Hewitt in a note.
“The depreciated ruble provides incentive for adjustments of the economy.”
Moreover, some think that the ruble’s a good bet — even with Russia’s economic slump.
“The ruble is the best levered bet on the oil recovery,” Vladimir Miklashevsky, a strategist at Danske in Helsinki, told Bloomberg by email on Thursday. “If a year ago there were concerns about sanctions and image, nowadays investors are chasing stable macro and high carry. And Russia’s not looking very poorly, even despite the contraction.”
And for what it’s worth, Russian president Vladimir Putin held a meeting on Monday to discuss privatization plans, which “aim[s] to prevent the state budget deficit from ballooning,” according to Reuters. Russian oligarchs are likely to buy the state owned enterprises.
But the bottom line is, if oil stays low for a long time, it could spell bad news for Russia.
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