After Russia exchange traded funds or ETFs with large exposure to the country comprised four of the five worst-performing non-leveraged ETFs on Monday, Tuesday promises to be another interesting day for these embattled funds after Russia’s central bank announced a stunning interest rate increase after the close of U.S. markets Monday.
In an effort stem ruble declines, Russia’s Central bank boosted its benchmark interest rate to 17% from 10.5%. The rate hike was the second since Thursday and in the span of less than a week Russian borrowing costs have more than doubled from 8%.
“From 16 December 2014 the Bank of Russia Board of Directors decided to raise the Bank of Russia key rate to 17.00 percent per annum. This decision is aimed at limiting substantially increased ruble depreciation risks and inflation risks. From 16 December 2014 in order to strengthen the efficiency of monetary policy loans secured by non-marketable assets or guarantees for 2 to 549 days will be provided at a floating interest rate, set at the Bank of Russia key rate level, increased by 1.75 percentage points (up to the present these loans for 2 to 90 days were provided at fixed rate),” according to a statement issued by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.
The ruble has been in free fall against the U.S. dollar. On Nov. 23, $1 bought just over 44 rubles, but as of late Monday, $1 bought 65.6 rubles. Since Nov. 23, the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX) has plunged 35.1%.
Although Russia has $38 billion of dollar-denominated government of which just $6 billion of interest and principal payments is due next year, there concerns linger that Russia is flirting with another financial crisis. In just a week, odds of a Russian default have surged more than 40%. [Russia ETFs Slide as Default Concerns Rise]
Russia appears intent on supporting the ruble by any means necessary.