Russian National Wealth Fund to cut dollars, say sources

The shift is significant because US currency accounted for 45.5 percent of its assets at the end of September.

    Russia's finance ministry reportedly plans to reduce its dollar assets and add more foreign currencies to the Russian National Wealth Fund [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]
    Russia's finance ministry reportedly plans to reduce its dollar assets and add more foreign currencies to the Russian National Wealth Fund [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

    Russia is planning to lower the share of the United States dollar in the Russian National Wealth Fund, part of its sovereign reserves, as it looks to diversify its foreign currency holdings in 2020, a source at the country's finance ministry said on Thursday.

    The change in the fund's structure, designed to help Russia manage its pension system, may alter the composition of state foreign-currency purchases in the market, the source said.

    Russia has stepped up a so-called de-dollarisation process to reduce its dependence on the greenback since 2014, when Moscow's relations with the West deteriorated over Russia's annexation of Crimea and its role in the Ukrainian crisis.

    More:

    The source at the finance ministry, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said the idea was to bring the structure of the Russian National Wealth Fund closer to that of Russia's international FX reserves held by the central bank.

    "We're planning to do it quickly, most likely next year," the source told Reuters.

    "We will lower the dollar share to levels close to the structure of the central bank's reserves. We will add reserves currencies as the central bank [has in its reserves]."

    The euro accounted for 30.3 percent of the Russian central bank's reserves as of March 31. The US dollar's share was 23.6 percent, the Chinese yuan accounted for 14.2 percent, and the pound for 6.6 percent. The Japanese yen, the Canadian dollar, and the Australian dollar altogether accounted for 7.1percent.

    Six months later, at the end of September, the dollar accounted for 45.5 percent the Russian National Wealth Fund, according to finance ministry data. The euro's share was 39.17 percent, and the pound accounted for another 7.67 percent, according to the data. It was unclear what currencies made up the remaining 7.66 percent.

    Russia, which reports the reserve structure with a six-month lag, had $542.9bn in its reserves as of November 1, 2019.

    Shift in FX interventions

    A shift in the Russian National Wealth Fund composition may affect the rouble as the central bank carries out daily FX buying on behalf of the finance ministry under the so-called fiscal rule, praised by the International Monetary Fund and rating agencies.

    The central bank may cut the amount of dollars it buys while increasing euro purchases, the source at the finance ministry said.

    "But we have not yet discussed it with them," the source said.

    Financial authorities do not disclose what foreign exchange they buy on the market. The finance ministry said this week the central bank will purchase 11.4bn roubles ($178.77m) worth of foreign exchange a day for state coffers in November.

    The finance ministry and the central bank have not replied to Reuters' requests for comment.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency