Category Archives: Russian economic growth

5/12/18: BRIC PMIs for November: A Moderate Pick Up in Growth


BRIC PMIs are in, although I am still waiting for Global Composite PMI report to update quarterly series - so stay tuned for more later), and the first thing that is worth noting is that, based on monthly data:

  1. Brazil growth momentum has accelerated somewhat, in November (103.2) compared to October (101.0), although both readings are consistent with weak growth (zero growth in my series is set at 100). November reading is the highest in 9 months, although statistically, it is comparable to growth recorded in March, April and October this year).
  2. Russia growth momentum de-accelerated from 111.6 in October to 110 in November, although, again, statistically, the two numbers are not significantly different from each other. November was the second highest reading in nine months, and the third highest reading in 2018.
  3. China growth has improved from 101.0 in October to 103.8 in November. Despite this, last two months remain the lowest since April this year. From statistical significance point of view, October reading was distinctly below November reading, but November reading was consistent with August-September.
  4. India posted substantial rise in growth conditions, from already robust 106.0 in October to a 24-months high of 109.2. This reading is statistically above all other period readings, with exception of being tied with July 2018 level of 108.2.
Thus, overall, BRIC Composite growth indicator rose from 102.8 in October to 105.3 in November, the highest in 10 months. BRIC ex-Russia reading was at 105.4 in November, compared to 102.7 in October. November reading for ex-Russia BRIC growth indicator was also the highest since February 2013.

Couple of charts to illustrate monthly data trends:

While the chart above clearly shows that Russia supports BRIC block growth momentum to the upside, this effect is somewhat moderating due to both ex-Russia BRIC growth momentum rising and Russia growth momentum slowing slightly.

The chart below highlights BRIC estimated growth contribution to global growth momentum:


Overall, as the chart above shows, BRIC economies contribution to global growth momentum has accelerated in November, but remains bound-range within the longer-term trend of weaker BRIC growth for the last five and a half years.

As noted above, I will be posting more on BRIC growth dynamics signalled by the PMIs once we have Global Composite PMIs published by Markit. Stay tuned.

5/12/18: BRIC PMIs for November: A Moderate Pick Up in Growth


BRIC PMIs are in, although I am still waiting for Global Composite PMI report to update quarterly series - so stay tuned for more later), and the first thing that is worth noting is that, based on monthly data:

  1. Brazil growth momentum has accelerated somewhat, in November (103.2) compared to October (101.0), although both readings are consistent with weak growth (zero growth in my series is set at 100). November reading is the highest in 9 months, although statistically, it is comparable to growth recorded in March, April and October this year).
  2. Russia growth momentum de-accelerated from 111.6 in October to 110 in November, although, again, statistically, the two numbers are not significantly different from each other. November was the second highest reading in nine months, and the third highest reading in 2018.
  3. China growth has improved from 101.0 in October to 103.8 in November. Despite this, last two months remain the lowest since April this year. From statistical significance point of view, October reading was distinctly below November reading, but November reading was consistent with August-September.
  4. India posted substantial rise in growth conditions, from already robust 106.0 in October to a 24-months high of 109.2. This reading is statistically above all other period readings, with exception of being tied with July 2018 level of 108.2.
Thus, overall, BRIC Composite growth indicator rose from 102.8 in October to 105.3 in November, the highest in 10 months. BRIC ex-Russia reading was at 105.4 in November, compared to 102.7 in October. November reading for ex-Russia BRIC growth indicator was also the highest since February 2013.

Couple of charts to illustrate monthly data trends:

While the chart above clearly shows that Russia supports BRIC block growth momentum to the upside, this effect is somewhat moderating due to both ex-Russia BRIC growth momentum rising and Russia growth momentum slowing slightly.

The chart below highlights BRIC estimated growth contribution to global growth momentum:


Overall, as the chart above shows, BRIC economies contribution to global growth momentum has accelerated in November, but remains bound-range within the longer-term trend of weaker BRIC growth for the last five and a half years.

As noted above, I will be posting more on BRIC growth dynamics signalled by the PMIs once we have Global Composite PMIs published by Markit. Stay tuned.

28/4/17: Russian Economy Update, Part 4: Aggregate Investment

The following is a transcript of my recent briefing on the Russian economy. 

This part (Part 4) covers outlook  for aggregate investment over 2017-2019. Part 1 covered general growth outlook (link here), part 2 covered two sectors of interest (link here) and part 3 concerned with monetary policy and the ruble (link here).

From the point of Russian economic growth, investment has been the weakest part of the overall ex-oil price dynamics in recent years.

Rosstat most recent data suggests that the recovery in seasonally adjusted total fixed investment continued in 1Q 2017, with positive growth in the aggregate now likely for the 2Q 2017:

  • 4Q16 investment was down about 1% from 2015
  • Total investment rose from 22.12% of GDP in 2015 to 25.63% in 2016, and is expected to moderate to 22.23% in 2017, before stabilsing around 22.9% in 2018-2019
    • The investment dynamics are, therefore, still weak going forward for a major recovery to take hold
    • However, 2017-2019 investment projections imply greater rate of investment in the economy compared to 2010-2014 average
  • However, last year fixed investment was down by 11% from 2014
    • This is primarily down to Rosstat revision of figures that deepened the drop in investment in 2015
  • About a quarter of total aggregate investment in Russia comes from small firms and the grey economy
    • Rosstat data suggests that such investment was roughly unchanged in 2016 compared to 2015
  • Other fixed investments, which are mostly investments of large and mid-sized companies, shrank by about 1% in 2016
    • This compounds the steep drops recorded in the previous three years (down 10% in 2015 alone), so the level of investment last year remained below that of the 2009 recession
    • Investments of large and mid-sized companies within oil & gas production sector rose robustly in 2016
      • This marked the third consecutive year of growth in the sector
      • Much of the increases was driven by LNG sub-sector investments which is associated (at current energy prices) with lower profit margins 
      • On the positive side, investments in LNG facilities helps diversify customer base for Russian gas exporters - a much-needed move, given the tightening of the energy markets in Europe
    • In contrast to LNG sub-sector, investment in oil refining continued to shrink, sharply, in 2016 for the second year in a row, 
    • Other manufacturing investment also recorded continued sharp declines
    • The same happened in the electricity sector
    • In contrast, following two years of contraction, investment in machinery and equipment stabilised for the mid- and large-sized corporates
    • Construction sector activity was down 4% y/y in 2016, marking third consecutive year of declines
      • Exacerbating declines in 2015, commercial and industrial buildings completions fell again in 2016
      • Apartments completions also fell y/y marking the first drop in housing completions since 2010

As the chart above illustrates:

  • The forecast if for 2017-2019 improvements in investment contribution to growth, with trend forecast to be above 2010-2014 average
  • However, historically over 2000-2016 period, investment has relatively weak/zero correlation (0.054) with overall real GDP growth, while investment relative contribution to growth (instrumented via investment/growth ratio) has negative correlation with growth even when we consider only periods of positive growth
  • This implies the need for structural rebalancing of investment toward supporting longer-term growth objectives in the economy, away from extraction sectors and building & construction

Going forward:

  • Russia's industrial / manufacturing production capacity is nearing full utilisation 
  • The economy is running close to full employment
  • Leading confidence indicators of business confidence are firming up
  • Corporate deleveraging has been pronounced and continues
  • Corporate profitability has improved 
  • Nonetheless, demand for corporate credit remains weak, primarily due to high cost of credit 
    • Most recent CBR signal is for loosening of monetary policy in 2017, with current rates expected to drop to 8.25-8.5 range by the end of 2017, down from 10% at the start of the year
  • Irrespective of the levels of interest rates, however, investment demand will continue to be subdued on foot of remaining weaknesses in structural growth and lack of reforms to improve business environment and institutions

Taken together, these factors imply that the recovery in fixed investment over 2017-2019 period is likely to be very slow, with investment recovery to pre-2015 levels only toward the end of forecast period.

Thematically, there is a significant investment gap remaining across a range of sectors with strong returns potential, including:

  • Food production, processing and associated SCM;
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Industrial machinery and equipment, especially in the areas of new technologies, including robotics
  • Chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals and health technologies


28/4/17: Russia Cuts Headline Rate by 50bps


Bigger than forecast move by the Russian Central Bank to cut rates (down 50bps against consensus - and my own - forecast of 25bps cut) signals the CBR's comfort with inflationary expectations forward.


As noted in my regular advisory call on the Russian economy earlier this week (transcript here), inflation fell substantial in 1Q 2017, with current FY 2017 forecast sitting at around 4.3 percent. In line with this, CBR started cutting rates at the end of March, moving from 10% to 9.75% for its benchmark one-week auction rate. Today, the CBR lowered the rate to 9.25%.

According to CBR: "“Inflation is moving towards the target, inflation expectations are still declining and economic activity is recovering. Given the moderately tight monetary policy, the 4 percent inflation target will be achieved before the end of 2017 and will be maintained close to this level in 2018-2019.”

Median Bloomberg estimate is for the rate to fall to 8.5% by the end of the year. As I noted in the call: "I expect ...year-end (2017) rate target of around 8.25-8.5% if inflation remains on the path toward 4.3% annual rate, or 8.75-9% range if inflation stays around 4.6% annual rate".

The latest move helps the cause of the Federal budget (championed by the Economic Ministry) that needs to see ruble lose some of its attractiveness as a carry trade currency. In recent months, ruble has been the third best performing currency in the world, resulting in investors willing to borrow in foreign currencies to invest in rubles denominated assets. The net effect of this on the Russian economy is improving demand for imports and deteriorating budget dynamics (as Russian budget operates ruble-based expenditure, funded to a large extent by dollar and other forex revenues from exports of primary materials).

Nabiulina's move today, however, should not be interpreted as the CBR surrender to the Economic Ministry agenda of lowering ruble value. Instead, the rate cut is clearly in line with inflation targeting and also in line with previously stated CBR concerns about investment environment in Russia. Russian aggregate investment has been extremely weak in recent years, and economic recovery needs to involve a dramatic reversal of investment volumes to the upside, especially in areas of technology, R&D, and product and processes innovation. High interest rates tend to significantly reduce investment by making capital expenditure more expensive to fund.

27/4/17: Russian Economy Update, Part 3: Ruble and CBR Rates


The following is a transcript of my recent briefing on the Russian economy. 

This part (Part 3) covers outlook  for ruble and monetary policy for Russia over 2017-2019. Part 1 covered general growth outlook (link here) and part 2 covered two sectors of interest (link here).

Outlook for the ruble and CB rates

The ruble has appreciated this year about 6.6% against the US dollar, from 61.15 at the start of 2017 to just above 57.10 so far, and 3% against the euro from 64.0 to 62.06, compared to the start of 2016, ruble is up on the dollar ca 21.3% and on the euro some 22.4%

  • The ruble has been supported by the strengthening in the trade surplus in late 2016 into early 2017, and by improved foreign investment inflows
  • The ruble has been on an upward trend after hitting the bottom at the start of 2016
  • However, rate of appreciation has fallen in recent months, while volatility has risen
  • March real effective (trade-weighted) exchange rate (RER) was up nearly 30% y/y, as reported by BOFIT (see chart below)
  • As noted by some researchers (e.g. BOFIT), “in Russia, exchange rate shifts tend to pass through relatively quickly and strongly to consumer prices, so ruble strengthening tends to curb inflation” which, in turn, increases private and fiscal purchasing power
  • Another effect of the ruble appreciation is that it lowers government ruble-denominated tax revenue through direct link between energy exporting taxes (oil and gas) and oil prices, which are denominated in dollars 


For domestic businesses, a stronger ruble:

  • Reduces their price competitiveness with respect to imports, but also 
  • Lowers the cost of imported capital, technology and intermediates
    • Majority of Russian manufacturers are relatively highly dependent on such imports and have very limited non-ruble exports


  • Stronger ruble has very limited effect on the volume of Russian exports, primarily due to heavy bias in exports in favour of dollar-denominated energy and other primary materials
  • Ruble appreciation reduces the costs of foreign debt service for firms (a positive for larger firms and banks) and can lead, over time, to lower borrowing costs within Russian credit markets (a positive for all firms)


In line with the export-import effects discussed above:

  • Volume of Russian exports grew by over 2 % last year (primarily driven by oil and gas prices recovery and continued elevated volumes of Russian production of primary materials), plus by another (second consecutive) year of grain harvests 
    • In 2017, export growth should slow as both harvest and energy prices effects dissipate
    • Volume of exports of goods and services fell 1.87% in 2014, 0.41% in 2015 and 0.68% in 2016. Current forecasts suggest that the volume of exports will rise 4.5-4.6% in 2017
  • Volume of imports was much harder hit by the crisis
    • Volume of imports of goods and services fell 7.6% in 2014, followed by 25.0 drop in 2015 and 4.0% decline in 2016
    • Current forecasts suggest strong, but only partial recovery in demand for imports, with volumes expected to rise 7.0-7.2% in 2017
    • Key driver for imports growth will be the recovery in aggregate demand, plus appreciation of the ruble
    • Key downward pressure on imports will continue to come (as in 2016) from trade sanctions and from ongoing reforms of public and SOEs procurement rules and systems (more on this later)
  • Russia’s current account surplus contracted last year to less than 2% of GDP, printing at USD 22.2 billion, down from USD69 billion in 2015
    • 2017 projections of the current account surplus range widely, although no analyst / forecaster projects a negative print, despite expected increase in imports
    • IMF’s most current (April 2017) projection is for 2017 CA surplus of USD51.5 billion
    • This level of CA surpluses would stand above the 2014-2016 average (USD 49.6 billion), but below 2010-2013 average (USD67.4 billion) and lower than 2000-2007 average (USD 55.7 billion)
    • If IMF projection comes through, CA surplus will be supportive of significantly tighter fiscal deficit than currently projected by Moscow
    • As a percentage of GDP, CA surplus is expected to come in at 3.30% in 2017, slightly above 2014-2016 average of 3.19% and slightly below the 2010-2013 average of 3.42% of GDP


Inflation


  • With Russian inflation falling and current account surplus strengthening, 2017 will witness further pressures on the ruble to appreciate vis-à-vis the dollar and the euro
  • Russia’s annual inflation fell below 5% in 1Q 2017
  • The CB of Russia has kept a relatively tight monetary stance, holding the key rate at nearly 10% through most of 1Q, as consistent with the CBR strict targeting of the inflation rate (4% inflation target set by the end of 2017)
    • CBR dropped rate to 9.75% at the end of March, noting a faster-than-expected drop in inflation and a slight decline in inflation expectations 
  • Inflation fell from 4.6% in February to 4.5% in March and 4.1% as of mid-April
    • 12-month forecast now at 4.3%
    • CBR governor Nabiullina said the central bank does not share the finance ministry's view of a overvalued ruble, which is consistent with her projecting continued cautious stance on inflation
    • Finance Minister, Anton Siluanov, recently stated that the ruble is overvalued by 10–12%
    • Consistent with this, I expect a 25 bps cut at April 28th meeting of CBR Council and year-end (2017) rate target of around 8.25-8.5% if inflation remains on the path toward 4.3% annual rate, or 8.75-9% range if inflation stays around 4.6% annual rate