Here are four reasons why the Russian ruble is at its strongest level against the US dollar since July 2015

Oliver Gill
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Russia's currency was one of 2016's best performers against the US dollar (Source: Getty)

One of the best performing currencies of 2016 was the Russian ruble. In fact, having edged up a further 0.5 per cent against the US dollar overnight, the currency is at its strongest level against the greenback since July 2015.

But what is driving the change? The answer is a mixture of actual changes and market hopes of future changes. Here are the four main drivers.

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Russian ruble performance versus the US dollar (Source: Hargreaves Lansdown)

1 – The black stuff

You can answer most questions with "it's all relative". And when it comes to the ruble's current strength, this is relative to the comparative weakness of the currency a year ago in face of hugely depressed oil prices.

With approximately half of the country's national revenues coming from oil and gas, Russian has the largest natural gas reserves in the world (1,688 trillion cubic feet) and 80bn barrels of proven oil reserves.

Brent crude oil price over the last year

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The fortunes of the country and its currency are linked to the price of oil and gas. Hence why it is often referred to as a petrocurrency.

2 – Trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin was hardly bosom buddies with former US president Barrack Obama. Yet, quite the opposite appears to be the case in respect of the new US commander-in-chief Donald Trump.

"The election for Trump hasn't hurt Russia at all," said Mark Dampier of Hargreaves Lansdown. "It would appear to be better than Obama because they can't stand each other."

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The Trump campaign consistently championed closer ties to Putin and Russia going forward, opening up a greater potential for more trade between the nations and providing a further shot in the arm to the Motherland.

3 – Sanctions

Russia's annexation of certain parts of Ukraine in early 2014 led to a raft of economic sanctions being put on both businesses and individuals by a host of countries including the US and those from the EU.

The clampdown had significant implications according to the Ukraine – although, it would appear not so significant to make Russia reverse its military intervention.

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However, the double whammy of increased international clout in commodities markets and a more Russian-friendly resident in the White House, has led to increased investor hope the sanctions will be lifted.

Dampier concluded:

Nothing's necessarily changed... [but] it's the old adage in stockmarkets. It's better to travel than arrive.

4 – Economy

The double-digit inflation experienced by Russia in the depths of its financial crisis in 2014 is now a thing of the past. With prices rising at little more than five per cent, the Russian central bank is considering decreasing the interest rates.

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The central bank's head of monetary policy Igor Dmitriev told Russian news agency Tass in January:

The point is that the economy is now recovering. We see inflation data, which is 5.4 per cent. All this opens up room for lowering rates.

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