Ruble jumps on Russia rate hike, oil pressured

By Reuters

Dec 16, 2014 04:24 AM EST

Sliding oil prices and a downbeat China factory survey weighed on Asian shares on Tuesday, while the ruble jumped against the dollar after Russia sharply increased its benchmark interest rate in a bid to halt a collapse in its currency.

Activity in China's factory sector shrank in December for the first time in seven months as new orders declined, adding to a spate of data showing more fatigue in the world's second-largest economy and heightening expectations that more stimulus will be needed to avert a sharper economic slowdown.

"Concerns about the Russian economy and a slowdown in the Chinese economy are hurting the mood, and the oil price collapse poses a threat to U.S. shale gas production," said Kyoya Okazawa, head of global equities at BNP Paribas.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS extended losses and was down 0.5 percent, after major indexes all logged solid losses on Wall Street on Monday. Japan's Nikkei stock average .N225 skidded 1.9 percent.

Emerging markets remained under pressure from Asia to Latin America as investors dumped riskier assets, with the Indonesian rupiah IDR=ID skidding to a fresh 16-year low.

The Russian central bank early on Tuesday raised its key interest rate to 17 percent from 10.5 percent, in a move it said was aimed at curbing increased devaluation and inflationary risks.

Sales of oil and gas are Russia's chief source of export revenue. Tougher U.S. sanctions on Moscow, which were set out in a bill passed by U.S. Congress on Friday, have also added to Russia's economic woes.

The ruble weakened beyond 60 to the dollar, after rising above 67.00 at one point on Monday when oil prices fell sharply. It last traded at 60.25 to the dollar RUB=EBS.

"The bottom line is that oil prices have to stabilize for the rouble to find a bottom but this move is what the central bank should be doing," said Jorge Mariscal, chief investment officer for emerging markets at UBS Wealth Management in New York.

Crude prices remained under pressure on Tuesday after OPEC once again said it will not cut oil output despite fears of massive oversupply, and a UAE official nixed holding an emergency meeting of the producer group to support prices.

UAE Oil Minister Suhail Bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said there was no need for OPEC to meet, reinforcing the idea that major Gulf producers are ready to wait out lower prices.

U.S. crude CLc1 was down 0.4 percent in Asian trade at $55.69 a barrel, after touching a fresh May 2009 low of $55.02 on Monday. Brent LCOc1 shed about 0.4 percent to $60.82, after dropping as low as $60.20 on Monday, its lowest since July 2009.

Risk aversion helped pushed the dollar lower against the safe-haven yen. The dollar was slightly down on the day at 117.77 yen JPY=, approaching a low of 117.44 yen touched last Thursday, and moving further away from its seven-year high of 121.86 yen set on Dec. 8.

The euro EUR= was slightly up against the dollar at $1.2442.

Spot gold XAU= added 0.3 percent to $1,195.90 an ounce after falling more than 2 percent on Monday, its deepest slide in over a year following the slump in oil prices.

Investors are now awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve's final meeting of 2014 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a statement and forecasts expected on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. EST, followed by Fed chief Janet Yellen's press conference half an hour later.

Federal Reserve officials are expected to decide whether to make a critical change to their policy statement that would widen the door for interest rate hikes next year and effectively bet the United States will continue to shine in a gloomy global economy.

U.S. data on Tuesday underscored the economy's underlying strength, as manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in nine months in November as production expanded across the board. However, the New York Federal Reserve's gauge of manufacturing turned negative in December for the first time in almost two years.

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