MOSCOW - The Russian rouble strengthened on Thursday in jittery Moscow trade, pulling away from more than five-week lows hit against the dollar and euro after two sessions of sharp losses, with the market waiting for clarity on possible interventions.
The rouble hit more than seven-year highs just over a week ago, but has since shed around 20% against the greenback as several officials voiced concerns about its strength, which dents Russia's income from exporting commodities and other goods priced in dollars and euros.
By 1417 GMT, the rouble was 1.9% stronger against the dollar at 62.15, recovering from its lowest point since May 30 of 64.9525, hit on Wednesday. It had gained 1.8% to trade at 63.60 versus the euro.
Bogdan Zvarich, chief analyst at banki.ru, said he expected the rouble to start recovering during this session. The currency's recent slide is not supported by fundamental factors, he said.
"Supply from exporters continues to stay elevated, while demand from importers and the population is low, which creates a supply overhang of foreign currency on the market and should contribute to the (rouble) strengthening," Zvarich said.
Even after the falls, the rouble is the world's best-performing currency so far this year, boosted by measures - including restrictions on Russian households withdrawing foreign currency savings - taken to shield Russia's financial system from Western sanctions imposed after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Russians have rushed to buy Chinese yuan to diversify their holdings away from U.S. dollars and euros, state bank Otkritie said, as the finance ministry aims to re-start foreign exchange interventions using 'friendly' nations' currencies.
"We believe the market has, on the whole, already priced in future interventions and can shift to waiting for news from the government," said Promsvyazbank analysts. "Their absence could allow the rouble to partially recover losses today."
Russian stock indexes were higher.
The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 2.6% to 1,130.7 points, after slipping to its weakest mark since May 6 in early trade. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.2% higher at 2,225.5 points.
(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Barbara Lewis)