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Kudrin says Russia may diversify assets in oil fund by July

Russia will consider increasing the number of currencies held in its oil fund by July, Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin said yesterday.

Russia, the world's second-biggest oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia, diverts some of the revenue from oil that is priced above $27 a barrel into the fund created in January 2004, to help curb inflation and cushion the economy should crude prices fall. „In July, we will draw some conclusion on the Stabilization Fund,” Kudrin told reporters today following talks with counterparts from Group of Seven nations in Essen, Germany. „We will see if we can add currencies to that.” The Russian government last year began switching the fund from rubles to foreign currencies as a first step toward boosting the return on its investment. The deposits are held 45% in euros, 45% in dollars and 10% in British pounds. The government completed the move in October.

The fund increased to 2.7 trillion rubles ($99.9 billion) by the end of January as Russia benefited from high oil prices. The rise in crude prices has helped boost Russia's gold and foreign-currency reserves to $303.8 billion as of January 26. They also helped Russia record its eighth consecutive year of economic growth. Oil prices reached a record 78.40 a barrel on July 14. The Russian government must devise a strategy to adjust to consistently higher oil prices, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report published November 27. Kudrin yesterday also said he „is in favor of allowing the list of securities that could be invested” in pension funds, „including into shares.” The minister also said he „supports” the G-7's call for developing economies such as Russia's to expand local currency bond markets to „foster growth and financial stability.” (Bloomberg)