Russia’s $13.4bn current account surplus in March second highest since 2007

Russia’s $13.4bn current account surplus in March second highest since 2007
Russia posted the second highest current account surplus of $13.4bn of any March in the last 17 years. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 17, 2024

Russia posted a $13.4bn current account surplus in March, more than double February’s $5.5bn and the second highest level for a March since 2007.

“Russia's March 2024 Russia’s current account surplus is the second highest ever after March 2022,” Robin Brooks, the former chief economist with Institute of International Finance (IIF) said in a tweet. “Putin has cash pouring in, even as Ukraine is on the defensive. The EU allowed this to happen. It looked the other way as Greek shipping oligarchs sold oil tankers to Russia's shadow fleet. A scandal.”

Following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the subsequent energy crisis the start of the war caused sent Russia’s combined oil and gas export earnings surging as energy prices spiked, increasing 20-fold. In that year Russia earned a whopping current account surplus of $238bn – twice the previous all-time high of $125bn set in 2021 – with the monthly surplus coming in at around $15bn with a spike to as much as $37bn in April 2022, before falling off into single digits in the last months of the year in anticipation of the EU’s twin sanctions.

The current account surplus fell off in 2023 to $51bn following the twin sanctions on crude and oil product exports introduced on December 5 2022 and February 5 2023, respectively.

As bne IntelliNews reported, by tinkering with the tax system and changing the way oil exports are taxed, Russia’s Ministry of Finance (MinFin) has remade Russia’s budget dynamics and successfully created enough cash to pay for the war in Ukraine.

One year on from a disastrous tax season, the Russian budget deficit is falling and was RUB600bn ($6.4bn) in March, or 0.4% of GDP, thanks to surging oil prices in recent months that are currently over $90 per barrel.  The Russian budget deficit is now on course to meet MinFin’s full year target of RUB1.6 trillion, or 0.8% of GDP, half the level of the RUB3.4 trillion, or 1.9% of GDP, recorded at the end of 2023.

Analysts say the international oil markets are becoming increasingly tight thanks to OPEC’s voluntary oil production cuts that is likely to keep oil prices high. Brent was trading at $89.5 as of April 17 and some speculate that prices could pass the $100 per barrel mark in the coming months.

If the current account surplus remains at March levels it would be on course to surpass the 2021 high and end this year on the order of $140bn.