Russia’s balance of payments statistics for the first quarter of 2017 exceeded analysts’ expectations with the surplus jumping to $22.8bn, according to a central bank data release on April 11, well ahead of an Alfa Bank forecast of $17bn.
“In a positive sign, there was significant export growth in both the oil and non-oil segments – non-oil exports increased by 17.8% y/y (or $5bn) versus a 9.4% y/y decrease in 2016,” Alfa Bank’s Natalia Orlova said in a note. “However, on a negative note, import growth accelerated from 5.6% y/y in the third quarter of 2016 and 8.5% y/y in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 24.9% y/y in the first quarter of 2017, which poses a threat to further current account strength.”
The capital account was also negative: the net capital outflows accelerated to $15.4bn in the first quarter of 2017 compared with $16.1bn in 2016.
“This is surprising given the foreign capital inflows to the local market. Therefore, despite the better-than-expected current account figures, we believe the ruble rate could return to its fundamental RUB60-65/$range later this year, as the current strength is not a sustainable trend,” said Orlova.