Ruble Drops on Oil as Russia Credit Risk Climbs After Fitch Cut

he ruble weakened for a second day and the cost of insuring Russian debt against default increased after Fitch Ratings lowered the country’s credit score to one step above junk and crude oil slid below $50 a barrel.

The currency of the world’s biggest energy exporter dropped 1.9 percent to 62.7350 versus the dollar by 1:25 p.m. in Moscow. The yield on Russia’s five-year ruble bonds rose 84 basis points to 16.26 percent, the highest since Dec. 17. Five-year credit default swaps increased 6.5 basis points to 585, making it the world’s fifth-riskiest credit, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Russia’s investment-grade status is under threat after plummeting oil prices and the conflict over Ukraine triggered the worst currency crisis since the country’s 1998 default. Brent crude slid 2.6 percent to $48.81 a barrel after plunging 11 percent last week.

“Oil remains the key factor pressuring the Russian financial markets,” Slava Smolyaninov, the chief strategist at UralSib Financial Corp. in Moscow, said by e-mail. “The Fitch downgrade brings Russia closer to the verge of the non-investment grade status, clearly. The bond market has already priced in Russia far below the current ratings.”

Tumbling oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine have made the ruble the worst-performing currency worldwide since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March. The nation’s economic outlook has “deteriorated significantly” and forced a “steep rise” in interest rates, Fitch said in its decision on Jan. 9.

Russia’s inflation rate will average 13.7 percent this year after accelerating to 11.4 percent in December, Morgan Stanley analysts led by Diana Pasquale said in an e-mailed note. That will prevent the central bank from lowering the key rate from 17 percent, the emergency level it introduced last month to stem the ruble collapse, according to the note.

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