Rouble firms slightly but gains capped with focus on U.S. tariffs

MOSCOW, Dec 3 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble firmed slightly against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday but there were few drivers for further gains as markets focused on new U.S. tariffs on imports from Brazil and Argentina which sparked fears of an escalation of global trade tensions.

The rouble was 0.1% stronger against the dollar at 64.09 by 0850 GMT and had gained 0.1% to trade at 71.08 versus the euro.

“The external background before the market opening in Russia is negative,” said Andrei Kochetkov of Otkritie Brokerage. “The markets were once again reminded that the United States’ trade war is not only against China.”

Trump announced tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina on Monday, rattling global markets as Washington remains locked in a trade war with Beijing.

Alexei Antonov, an analyst at Alor Brokerage, said he expected the rouble to remain at around 65 to the dollar during the last weeks of 2019.

“We view the Russian currency without much optimism until the end of the year,” he said.

Prices for Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, rose on Tuesday as OPEC and its allies discussed whether to deepen a supply cut pact ahead of meetings this week.

Russia’s finance ministry will conduct its weekly OFZ treasury bond auctions on Wednesday, for which demand is seen as a gauge of investor sentiment toward Russian assets.

It will also announce on Wednesday its purchases of foreign currency for state reserves for the next month, which are expected to increase.

Russian stock indexes were mixed with the dollar-denominated RTS index stable at 1,432.3 points, while the rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.2% lower at 2,926.6 points.

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Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Kirsten Donovan