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Tay Schmidt
Tay Schmidt

USD to RUB: Convert US Dollars to Russian Rubles Online

Falling oil prices and fears about capital flight helped push the Russian ruble to its weakest level against the U.S. dollar in a year on Monday, the latest milestone in what has been a dramatic reversal of fortune for the currency.

dollar to ruble

Since Jan. 1, the greenback has appreciated by more than 12% against the ruble, according to FactSet data. This makes the ruble the second-worst-performing major emerging-market currency after the Argentine peso, according to Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.

While the Russian government has historically kept a tight grip on its currency, international sanctions and falling oil and gas prices have made stabilizing the ruble more difficult, said Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute for International Finance, in commentary emailed to MarketWatch.

Russia said last week that it wants the European countries that buy its natural gas to make their payments in rubles, rather than dollars or euros. A month ago, that might have seemed like a pretty good deal: The ruble was down 40%, at 139 rubles to the dollar, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Since that low point on March 7, however, the Russian ruble has staged a dramatic recovery. At the time of this writing, it was trading at 84 to the dollar, which is right back where it was at the time of the invasion. And this is no dead cat bounce. It's a sharp and sustained recovery that made the ruble the world's top-performing currency in March.

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Add to that the increase in oil and natural gas prices, as well as the resilience of Russia's trading relations with other big economies such as China and India, and the net result is that there is still a steady flow of foreign currency into Russia. This has eased concerns that Russia would become insolvent, and it has helped put a floor under the ruble.

Another hole in the sanctions is worth mentioning here: the sovereign debt carve-out. One of the biggest and most impactful sanctions on Russia was the freezing of its foreign accounts. Russia holds about $640 billion worth of euros, dollars, yen and other foreign currencies in banks around the world. About half that amount is located in the U.S. and Europe. The sanctions blocked Russia's access to that money, except when it comes to making the interest payments on its sovereign debt. The U.S. Treasury left a window open to allow financial intermediaries to process payments for Russia. That window is scheduled to close this month, but it has been a big help to Russia. Without it, Russia might have needed to raise dollars by selling rubles, which would have put downward pressure on the currency. And had it not been able to raise those dollars, it would have defaulted.

Those are the tangible external factors driving the ruble's recovery. The internal factors are somewhat less corporeal. On Feb. 28, the Central Bank of Russia increased interest rates to 20%. Any Russian who might have been tempted to sell their rubles and buy dollars or euros now has a big incentive to save that money instead. The fewer rubles that go up for sale, the less downward pressure there is on the currency.

Next comes a government requirement on Russian businesses that 80% of any money that those businesses make overseas has to be swapped into rubles. This means that a Russian steelmaker that makes 100 million euros selling steel to a company in France has to turn around and change 80 million of those euros into rubles, regardless of the exchange rate. A lot of Russian companies are doing a lot of business with foreign companies, making a lot of euros, dollars and yen. The order to convert 80% of those revenues into rubles creates significant demand for the Russian currency, thus helping to prop it up.

The Kremlin also issued an edict banning Russian brokers from selling securities owned by foreigners. Many foreign investors own Russian corporate shares and government bonds, and they might understandably want to sell those securities. By banning those sales, the government is shoring up both the stock and bond markets and keeping money inside the country, all of which helps keep the ruble from falling.

Russian citizens themselves have been targeted by the government, which has restricted them from transferring money abroad. The initial ban said all foreign exchange loans and transfers were to be suspended. This served to keep foreign currency in the country and discourage Russians from selling rubles for dollars or euros, which would put pressure on the currency. Those restrictions have been eased somewhat recently to give breathing room to Russians who regularly send money abroad, but conversions of hard currency are limited to just $10,000 for individuals through the end of this year.

You could say that these moves by the Russian government are just business as usual. After all, the Federal Reserve tweaks interest rates all the time. The U.S. Treasury has restrictions on remittances to certain countries. And why shouldn't a country be able to stipulate what currency it gets paid in? And don't governments have a responsibility to defend their currencies anyway? All fair points. What the Russian government is up to here, though, is more than defense of a currency: It is manipulating the market for rubles and manufacturing demand that would not otherwise exist.

Some observers are saying that Russia has essentially created a Potemkin currency. This is a reference to Grigory Potemkin, who was appointed governor of Crimea after Catherine the Great annexed it in 1784. Eager to show Catherine how successful he had been in resettling Crimea with Russian villagers, Potemkin supposedly built and populated a mobile village that he assembled, disassembled and then reassembled along her route as she inspected the region. The head of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina, is essentially playing Potemkin to Putin's Catherine, using a range of tools to make the ruble look like a currency that has value when in fact very few people outside Russia want to buy a single ruble unless they absolutely have to and when many people inside Russia don't really want rubles either.

Perhaps the greatest risks are those associated with Putin's natural gas ploy. As mentioned earlier, the natural gas contracts that buyers have signed with Russia all say that payment will be made in euros, dollars or other foreign currencies. Putin can't just cross out "dollars" or "euros" and write in "rubles" where those contracts stipulate how to pay. He has to renegotiate the terms of those contracts. And if he does so, it's likely that those countries will drastically reduce the amount of natural gas they buy from Russia.

Moscow has been looking for alternatives to the euro and dollar since its first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Its gold holdings, for example, have nearly tripled since 2014. Moscow is currently sitting on 150,000 gold bars valued at about $140 billion, mostly stacked in Russian vaults out of reach of Western asset freezes.

Recent history is replete with precedents for gold smuggling by sanctioned economies. In 2019, Russia reportedly flew Venezuelan gold around the world and exchanged it for cash dollars which were then flown back to Caracas. In 2012, Iran sold natural gas to Turkey in exchange for gold, which was then sold for cash in Dubai.

The Russian rouble has suffered its biggest intraday fall of the year as it tumbled to the lowest levels against the dollar and euro since April last year in the face of a foreign currency crunch in Moscow and the sale of Western businesses in Russia.

The rouble nosedived to 113 to the dollar after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, though the Russian central bank and finance ministry stabilised the currency and it strengthened to 50 per dollar in July.

Traders said the Russian currency was under pressure from a cocktail of problems including the sale of Western assets to domestic investors, which stoked demand for dollars, while lower oil prices in March cut export revenue.

The reported transfer of $1.21bn to Shell for its stake in the Far East Sakhalin-2 gas project was cited by traders as a major factor as the daily trade in the rouble-dollar pair is only about $1bn per day, down from more than $3bn a day before the war.

In 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Soviet ruble continued to be used in the post-Soviet states, forming a "ruble zone", until it was replaced with the Russian ruble in September 1993.

The Soviet currency had its own name in all the languages of the Soviet Union, often different from its Russian designation. All banknotes had the currency name and their nominal printed in the languages of every Soviet Republic. This naming is preserved in modern Russia; for example: Tatar for 'ruble' and 'kopeck' are сум (sum) and тиен (tiyen). The current names of several currencies of Central Asia are simply the local names of the ruble. Finnish last appeared on 1947 banknotes since the Karelo-Finnish SSR was dissolved in 1956.

The first ruble issued for the Soviet government was a preliminary issue still based on the previous issue of the ruble prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. They are all in banknote form and started their issue in 1919. At this time other issues were made by the white Russian government and other governing bodies. During that time, the Russian economy suffered from hyperinflation.

Denominations were as follows: 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, 50, 60, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 25,000, 50,000, and 100,000 rubles. Short-term treasury certificates were also issued to supplement banknote issue in 1,000,000, 5,000,000, and 10,000,000 rubles. These issue was printed in various fashions, as inflation crept up the security features were few and some were printed on one side, as was the case for the German inflationary notes.

Coins began to be issued again in 1924, while paper money was issued in rubles for values below 10 rubles and in chervonets for higher denominations. No chervonets were issued in gold, just decrees on the parity of circulating rubles with the gold ruble, which already failed to take hold as early as 1925.


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