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    STRONGER RUBLE IN RELATION TO DOLLAR BY ABOUT 10 PER CENT IN 2004 IS FORECAST IN RUSSIA

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    MOSCOW, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade forecasts an average annual strengthening of the ruble in relation to the dollar by about 10 per cent in 2004, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Arkady Dvorkovich told journalists on Wednesday.

    According to him, the ruble will grow stronger vis-a-vis the basket of currencies by 4-5 per cent.

    As for the year 2003, as the Deputy Minister said, the ruble's strengthening in relation to the dollar was of the order of 14-15 per cent, and to the basket of currencies - just under 5 per cent.

    Speaking of the correlation of the US currency and the ruble, Dvorkovich said that it is a preliminary estimate "without taking US inflation into account."

    By the Ministry's forecast, the dollar's average annual exchange rate in Russia will stand at 29.2-29.5 rubles in 2004. Dvorkovich recalled that the figure of 31.3 rubles per dollar is laid in the budget for this year.

    He is sure that the difference will not influence the current execution of the budget. "There will be no problems," he said. "The foreign-exchange revenues and expenditures are balanced well enough. This will influence only the size of the stabilization fund."

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