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    CURRENCY INFLOW RAISES GOLD AND HARD CURRENCY RESERVES

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    MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti's Elena Orekhova) - The inflow of currency to the exchange raises the gold and hard currency reserves. On Thursday, the Russian Central Bank voiced the volume of its gold and hard currency reserves as of September 10 - $90 billion. In comparison with September 3, they grew by $0.9 billion. The last record was registered a month ago, on August 13, when it reached $89.6 billion.

    Experts say the main reason of gold and hard currency reserves' growth is considerable sales of currency to the Russian Central Bank at currency bids last week. A great inflow of currency is conditioned by high prices for oil, as a result of which the volumes of currency proceeds of exporters sold at MICEX currency bids considerably increased.

    The Central Bank, in line with the task to keep the dollar/ruble rate within 29.5-30 rubles per dollar, to be fulfilled in 2004, buys up the excess of currency from bids participants, which results in the growth of volumes of gold and hard currency reserves at the disposal of the Bank of Russia.

    Experts are convinced that the gold and hard currency reserves will grow in the future. As the main condition for such dynamics, they mention high oil prices. Besides, a number of steps on the part of the Russian government in regard to key economic assets, voiced in September, can also become an additional reason for the inflow of foreign capital into Russia.

    A record of $90 billion set on September 10 is explained by Prospekt analyst Igor Lavushchenko by the fact that Central Bank banks sold a lot of currency last week. "Prior to that week, market operators held back currency positions and then they started to sell," he said.

    Russian market participants started to buy currency in late August, staking on the Central Bank raising its quotation on the purchase of dollars in early September - 29.215 rubles for $1. But these calculations were not to come true.

    As a result, without waiting for the new bid by the Central Bank and under the pressure of demand for rubles for tax payments, banks started selling currency again, mainly to the Central Bank, and buying rubles.

    Region analyst Valery Vainsberg does not see anything surprising in the regular record of the gold and hard currency reserves. "This growth was expected, the more so as the official forecast for the year's end is $100 billion," he said.

    In Mr. Vainsberg's words, besides high revenues from exports, another source of currency receipts will probably become the sale of the Lukoil state-held stock package, in which foreign investors are expected to participate. The news about Gazprom's absorption of Rosneft and liberalization of the stock market of the gas monopoly expected in connection with this deal is also to raise the interest of foreign investors. "I believe the gold and hard currency reserves will continue to grow against this background," Mr. Vainsberg believes.

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