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31.07.2020: Weak USD unlikely to support RUB (Brent, USD/RUB)

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Oil prices are gaining ground today, although their growth is unstable. Brent is slightly up, while the ruble has made an attempt to regain some of its losses this morning. However, this is not enough to break the upward trend of the dollar/ruble pair. Besides, August is expected to be a traditionally unfavorable month for the Russian currency.
Investors are worried that the growing number of new COVID-19 cases will lead to a decline in fuel demand and an increase in supply in the market. The largest oil producers have agreed to ease oil production cuts from August 1.
Concerns over demand intensified after the latest statistics had been released. The data showed the extent of economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The US economy collapsed at a 32.9% annualized rate in the second quarter.
Nevertheless, investors have found the strength to push oil prices up today. Benchmark crude quotes are recovering from their drop to 3-week lows. Tempered optimism in the markets is mainly due to traders’ hopes for new stimulus measures in the United States.
Brent crude oil futures contract for September started the day with gains. In midday session, North Sea crude rose by 0.72% to 43 dollars 56 cents per barrel. The nearest WTI crude oil futures contract added 0.70%, reaching the level of 40 dollars 20 cents. Brent is likely to close with gains for the fourth consecutive week. US crude oil is expected to increase for the third consecutive week amid a recovery in the energy market after falling in April.
The ruble lost ground amid lower oil prices and investors' risk aversion. On Friday, the Russian currency continued its downward trend, approaching the level of 74.00 against the US dollar. Nevertheless, the dollar/ruble pair will hardly advance higher today, since the energy market situation remains stable. Notably, if the pair tries to test the level of 73.80, the ruble will be at risk of suffering a further decline to 74.50–75.00 per dollar in the medium term.
The US economy shrank at a 32.9% annual rate in the second quarter, marking the sharpest decline since the Great Depression. Moreover, the market was affected by Donald Trump who had sent a tweet raising the possibility of delaying November's presidential election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lack of progress on a new economic stimulus package in the US also has an impact on the market sentiment. All this exerts some downward pressure on the US dollar. However, this situation does not support the ruble. Contrary to the forex trend, the currency is losing ground. It is probably being affected by some local factors. Market players believe that the reason for such a decline in the ruble is dividend flows from major exporters. This negative effect for the Russian currency is expected to wane soon as dividend payments have reached their peak this year.
In August, such factors as the dynamics of energy prices and new US sanctions will most likely act as the key risks for the ruble. According to the pre-election race, Democrats have a better chance to win, and Joe Biden has repeatedly spoken about his intention to run a tough foreign policy against Russia. Therefore, in the last summer month, the greenback is expected to trade near the upper border of the 71–75 range.

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