(Adds finance ministry’s and analyst comments, updates prices)
MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble slid to 74 versus the dollar and government bonds fell after U.S. President Joe Biden said his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will “pay a price” for efforts to meddle in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The Russian market has been haunted by risk of new sanctions against Moscow for months and the recent comments cemented concerns of new penalties.
The rouble fell 1.4% to 73.90 against the dollar after touching the 74 mark as it headed away from the 72.53 reached on Tuesday, its strongest in more than seven months.
Against the euro the rouble weakened by 1.4% to 87.97 , heading away from the 86.5150 hit in the previous session, its strongest since mid-August.
The sell-off in the rouble intensified after Biden was quoted by ABC News as saying that Putin will face consequences for directing efforts to swing last year’s U.S. election in Donald Trump’s favour.
The geopolitical premium for the rouble remains significant. The rouble traded at about 61 to the dollar in early 2020, when oil prices were last near current levels of $68 a barrel.
“There will be more sanctions coming, that is clear. The question is how severe?” said North Asset Management’s Peter Kisler.
Kisler said that Washington could impose sanctions against the purchase of rouble-denominated OFZ treasury bonds by U.S. banks directly from the Russian finance ministry.
“It would be enough for a nice drop in the rouble,” Kisler said, predicting that the Russian central bank would step in to steady the currency if needed.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said it would be a pity if foreigners stopped buying Russia’s debt, but Moscow would find ways to fund its costs.
Yields on Russia’s 10-year OFZ bonds, which move inversely to their prices, jumped to 6.9%, their highest since April 2020, also pricing in expectations that the central bank will soon start raising interest rates.
A Reuters poll this week showed the central bank was expected to keep the key rate at 4.25% on Friday. But some analysts, including at Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank , now expect a rate increase this week.
Russian stock indexes also extended losses after Biden’s comments.
The dollar-denominated RTS index fell 3.8% to 1,493.4 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index shed 2.5% to 3,500.6 points, heading away from this week’s record high of 3,587.24. (Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Additional reporting by Marc Jones and Darya Korsunskaya; Editing by David Goodman and Alex Richardson)