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MOSCOW – The Russian ruble plunged more than 6% against the dollar on Friday to its weakest level in 10 days, while shares of Gazprom extended their losses after the gas giant canceled dividend payments, putting pressure on Russian stock indices, according to Reuters.
At 10:19 GMT, the ruble was 5.9% weaker against the dollar at 54.50, earlier hitting its weakest point since June 21 at 54.9250. The currency hit its highest level in more than seven years on Wednesday.
The unit fell 5.9% to trade at 56.85 against the euro.
The likelihood of the ruble strengthening beyond 50 to the dollar has eased, said Dmitry Polevoy, chief investment officer at Locko Invest, although high commodity prices are supporting the Russian currency.
The ruble has become the world’s best-performing currency this year, boosted by moves to shield Russia’s financial system from Western sanctions imposed after Moscow sent troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The measures have included restrictions on Russian households withdrawing their savings in foreign currency.
The ruble’s strength has raised concerns among officials and export-focused businesses as it reduces Russia’s revenue from selling raw materials and other goods abroad for dollars and euros .
Expectations that Russian authorities might resort to foreign currency intervention were putting pressure on the rouble, Polevoy said.
Shares of Russian energy giants Rosneft and Gazprom followed diverging prices as investors reacted to the two companies’ opposing dividend decisions.
Gazprom shares fell 5.5%, extending heavy losses from the previous session after the gas giant decided not to pay dividends on last year’s results for the first time in more than two decades.
Meanwhile, shares of oil major Rosneft, which approved the payment of 2021 dividends after Thursday’s closing bell, were gaining ground, up 4.5%.
“There is little reason to be optimistic about the Russian market,” Otkritie Research said in a note.
Commodity sectors of the market will be under pressure and the ruble could lose ground ahead of the weekend, Otkritie said.
Russian stock indices were mixed, with the dollar-denominated RTS index losing 4.3% to 1,286.8 points, hitting its lowest level since mid-June.
Russia’s ruble-based MOEX index rose 1% to 2,225.8 points.