Yuan, dollar, or ruble deposits: which currencies Russians prefer to keep money in

Experts talked about whether ruble deposits and the Chinese yuan can become an alternative to “toxic” currencies in the medium term

Yuan, dollar, or ruble deposits: which currencies Russians prefer to keep money in
Photo: realnoevremya.ru/Dinar Fatykhov

The Russian national currency holds its position for the second week in a row, preventing the dollar from overcoming the psychological mark of 90 rubles. According to the results of trading on the Moscow Stock Exchange on Friday, January 19, the exchange rate of the US dollar decreased by 85 cents to 88.2 rubles. The euro fell by 43 cents, amounting to 96.19 rubles. Financial analysts interviewed by Realnoe Vremya forecast that the trend towards strengthening the Russian currency will continue at least until mid-February. Meanwhile, they also record a slight cooling of Russians' interest in buying currencies of unfriendly countries as a tool to preserve and increase their savings. What kind of replacement Russian citizens have found and what kind of profit it promises — in the material of the publication.

The currency “pulled” the ruble out of its peak

“The ruble is now strengthening against the background of news about an increase in currency sales from the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance. The regulator will sell currencies worth 12.6 billion rubles daily until the end of January and 11.7 billion rubles in February-June. The Ministry of Finance, within the framework of the budget rule, will sell 4.1 billion rubles daily until February 7, and sales may continue next month amid lower prices for Russian oil. So, the total interventions will amount to 16.7 billion rubles by the end of January — this is an increase of more than 20 times from 0.8 billion rubles, which the Central Bank sold daily during the fourth quarter and the first working week of January," says Anatoly Trifonov, an analyst at BCS Forex.

Besides, Yuri Kravchenko, the head of the analysis department of banks and the money market at VELES Capital IC, adds that the decree on the mandatory sale of currency by exporters continues to operate.

“Even if currency sales in the market are not actually increasing, the number of bidders willing to play against the ruble for the period of administrative measures has significantly decreased," the expert notes. Also, according to him, the fundamental support for the ruble exchange rate is provided by a high key rate, which slows down lending, and with it the demand for consumer imports requiring foreign currency.

The bet on banks

It also contributed to the growing interest of Russians in opening bank ruble deposits. Last December, demand for deposits increased markedly, according to a study by Banki.ru. Their share in customer requests rose by 4 percentage points (pp) in the last quarter — from 9% to 13%. Three-year deposits are of the greatest interest.

At the same time, according to analysts, there is a decrease in the attractiveness of the dollar and the euro as currencies for Russians' savings — their share is decreasing in the loan portfolio and deposit base.

“In addition to the obvious risks associated with the loss of foreign currency assets as a result of sanctions, dollar and euro instruments offer low returns. Besides, the attractiveness of foreign currency deposits is also reduced by internal currency restrictions — a deposit in dollars or euros can now be received back only in rubles at the bank's exchange rate. Thus, foreign currency deposits offer low returns, and taking into account the bank spread at the exchange rate, they are negative at all. At the same time, against the background of an increase in the key rate, ruble savings now provide increased profitability," Trifonov explains.

However, Russians have not completely abandoned the habit of buying foreign currency to make money on the difference in exchange rates.

realnoevremya.ru/Tatyana Demina

“Despite the observed weakening of the dollar and the euro in the Russian market and attractive interest rates on deposits in rubles, we believe that the public's interest in the 'toxic' foreign currency has not faded. Moreover, periods of weakening of the dollar and the euro are used by many investors only to increase purchases of the currency at an attractive price. As practice shows, the opportunity to sell this currency much more expensive will appear sooner or later," Kravchenko assures.

Alexander Potavin from Finam FG clearly demonstrates this interest in numbers.

“The Russian population usually conducts countercyclical operations in the domestic foreign exchange market: during the period of growth of the USD/EUR/yuan exchange rate, they prefer to sell this currency, and during the period of strengthening of the ruble exchange rate, they buy currency. According to the Central Bank, since the autumn of last year, the Russian population has switched to net purchases of foreign currency. These purchases were made on the foreign exchange market. According to the Bank of Russia, in October, citizens also preferred to buy cheaper currency (net purchases in the amount of 162.9 billion rubles — mainly dollars and euros). The volume of currency purchases on the exchange by non-residents from friendly countries increased by 27.1% that month and amounted to 267.7 billion rubles (in October — 210.6 billion rubles).”

The population was especially active in buying dollars and euros in November 2023, the analyst says.

Yuan vs dollar

Nevertheless, Russians are starting to look towards other currencies. Experts consider the Chinese yuan to be the most promising of them, which is not surprising. By the end of 2023, the total trade turnover between Russia and China had increased by almost a third compared to 2021, reaching $240.11 billion in absolute monetary terms.

a screenshot by realnoevremya.ru from moex.com

“Among the alternative currencies, the Chinese yuan is of particular interest, the share of which is constantly increasing in the structure of exchange trading in the Russian Federation. For example, back in July 2023, the share of trading on the yuan/ruble pair reached 40% and for the first time exceeded the share of the dollar/ruble pair. By November, the yuan/ruble accounted for 41% of exchange transactions, while the dollar/ruble accounted for only a third. For comparison, in the first half of 2022, transactions on the yuan/ruble pair did not exceed 10% in the structure of exchange trading," Kravchenko says.

The analyst of BCS Forex, in turn, adds that the yuan stands out for its relatively low volatility against the dollar. Besides, the number of instruments for investment in yuan in the domestic market is increasing, so this currency has prospects.

Tatyana Simonova, the head of the Investment Advisory Department at General Invest, provides more figures.

“According to the Bank of Russia, by the end of November 2023, the share of the yuan had increased in the total volume of foreign exchange trading on the Moscow Stock Exchange to 46.2% compared with 43.9% a month earlier. The share of so-called “toxic” currencies decreased from 54.6% to 52.3%. In the over-the-counter market, the yuan accounted for 31.5%, while “toxic” currencies accounted for 63.0%. The share of the yuan in foreign trade operations also increased significantly compared to last year, although in October it decreased compared to September. The trade turnover between Russia and China increased by almost 27% year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2023, and, in addition, in September Russia ranked fifth in the world in terms of the use of the yuan in global settlements with a share of 1.95%.”

Thus, the popularity of the yuan is growing, and this trend is likely to continue in 2024. By the way, about a quarter of the National Welfare Fund (NWF), which amounted to 13.4 trillion rubles on December 1, also accounts for the yuan, the expert says.

Dimitri Rezepov, the deputy director for investments at General Invest, adds that “over the past four years, the yuan and the US dollar have shown approximately equal strengthening against the ruble — 37.6% and 42.4%, respectively.”

“Nevertheless, given the expected transition to monetary policy easing by the Fed and the rather conservative actions of the People's Bank of China, it can be expected that the yuan will be stronger than the US dollar in 2024," Rezepov predicts.

However, Kravchenko warns that, despite the potential attractiveness of the Chinese currency, ordinary citizens should remember that at this stage it is “mainly an online investment tool, and transactions with cash, transfers and payments in yuan will have a number of restrictions or are not available at all.”

Potavin agrees with his colleague: “Russian banks, opening deposits in yuan to depositors, give them quite small interest rates, which often do not even cover current inflation.”

realnoevremya.ru/Arseny Gubaev

Game is not worth the can

As for buying other currencies from friendly countries, analysts agreed that the game is not worth the can. Firstly, these currencies are usually quite volatile against the dollar themselves. Secondly, a small number of banks offer instruments for saving in friendly currencies, and in the absence of competition, the profitability of these instruments is much lower than the risks of its depreciation.

“If you look at the charts, you can see that the last 10 years... the currencies of developed and developing countries show sad figures. The euro sank (against the dollar) by -20%; Canadian dollar: -23%; Indian rupee: -25%; British pound: -26%; Mexican peso: -27%; Indonesian rupiah: -27%; Brazilian real: -57%; Russian ruble: -67%. That is, for most world currencies against the dollar, the average person simply loses money from their devaluation. During this time, only the UAE dirhams, the Saudi riyal, and the Hong Kong dollar, whose exchange rates are tightly linked to the US dollar, have not lost value," Potavin noted.

However, Simonova does not rule out some growth in interest in the currencies such as the Armenian dram, Kazakhstani tenge, and Turkish lira.

Galiya Shakirova

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