S&P just upgraded Russia’s outlook

S&P just revised its outlook on Russia to stable from negative.

“The outlook revision reflects our view that external risks have abated to a significant extent,” the rating agency noted.

“We expect the Russian economy and policy making will continue to adjust to the lower oil price environment and that the country will maintain its strong net external asset position and moderate net general government debt burden in 2016-2019.”

After a couple of years of pain induced by the double-whammy of lower oil prices and Western sanctions, the Russian economy appears to be slowly stabilizing.

Most recently, the Federal Statistics Service reported that Russia’s economy shrank by 0.6% in the second quarter compared to a year earlier, which was the “least bad” contraction seen since 2014. Inflation dipped to 6.9% year-over-year in August — the lowest rate since March 2014 — down from the previous month’s 7.2%.

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Also, back in 2014, the Central Bank of Russia floated the ruble, which led to a roughly 24% devaluation in the ruble against the dollar. And as S&P notes, this actually ended up helping, given that the state-owned energy sector’s costs are mostly in rubles, but its revenues are in dollars.

Nevertheless, it’s notable that consumer spending is still dropping: Retail sales fell 5.0% year-over-year in July, following a 5.9% drop in June.

As an end note, S&P added that the agency could lower ratings “if geopolitical events were to result in foreign governments significantly tightening their sanctions on Russia, or if GDP growth or fiscal or external balances were materially weaker than our current projections.”

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