RUSSIAN ECONOMY WILL SHRINK
Alfa Bank, one of Russia's largest private lenders, cut its estimate for the nation's growth in 2016 as the selloff in oil has given the world's largest energy exporter a "worse than expected" start to the year.
The economy will shrink 1.5 percent this year, Alfa Bank's Natalia Orlova said in a report on Monday, cutting her previous forecast for an expansion of 0.3 percent. The call follows a string of recent growth downgrades by economists and comes as capital investment to retail sales slumped in December, while full-year data showed gross domestic product in 2015 shrank the most in six years.
Russia is facing a second year of contraction as oil, which together with gas make up half of the country's budget revenue, has slumped to a 12-year low, sending the ruble to the biggest decline among emerging-market peers. Brent crude at $35 a barrel would cause GDP to fall by as much as 3 percent in 2016, the central bank said in December. Brent traded below $31 per barrel on Monday.
"The oil price collapse in January is complicating Russia's 2016 growth case," said Orlova, a senior economist at Alfa Bank. "The first half of 2016 appears set to be worse than we had expected."
Renaissance Capital on Friday cut its forecast for Russia's economy to a 0.6 percent contraction after earlier seeing growth of 0.8 percent. Societe Generale SA lowered its outlook on Jan. 15 to expect a 1 percent declinein GDP, the same day as ING Groep NV widened its estimate for a slump to 0.7 percent. JPMorgan Chase & Co. in December also changed its 2016 forecast to a reduction in the economy.
Slumping oil prices rippled through consumption and industrial output last year, causing the nation's economy to shrink 3.7 percent after expanding 0.6 percent in 2014. Retail sales declined 15.3 percent in December from the same period 12 months earlier, while capital investment dropped 8.7 percent.
The Market Vectors Russia ETF, the largest exchange-traded fund tracking the nation's equities, retreated 4.2 percent to $12.84 on Monday as Brent lost more than 5 percent. Investors pulled $43 million from the fund last week in the biggest withdrawal since August. Futures contracts on the RTS Index expiring in March slid 1.7 percent to 67,040 in U.S. hours. The ruble slid 2.5 percent to 80.04 per dollar.
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