OPEC blowback continues to ripple around the world. With Russia's Ruble pushing back towards record lows against the USD, and Kazakhstan's Tenge having tumbled to record lows, the writing was on the wall for Azerbaijan. As Bloomberg reports, the third-biggest oil producer in the former Soviet Union moved to a free float on Monday and the manat crashed almost 50% instantly to its weakest on record with the second devaluation this year.
First the Russian Ruble...
Then Kazakhstan's Tenge...
While Azerbaijan’s former Soviet allies Russia and Kazakhstan have moved to floating currency regimes in the past year, the Azeri central bank has questioned whether the country was prepared for a similar shift. Governor Elman Rustamov said there was no need for another devaluation of the manat, according to a televised interview broadcast on Sept. 25.
And now Azerbaijan's Manat crashes 50%...
As Bloomberg reports, “It looks like Azerbaijan’s authorities are following Kazakhstan’s devaluation path,” said Oleg Kouzmin, a former Russian central bank adviser who works as an economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. “After devaluing the currency once, some time ago, they concluded that the first move was not enough to tackle all the challenges of a weaker oil price environment.”
Azerbaijan relies on hydrocarbons for more than 90 percent of its exports and the manat has lost almost half its value against the dollar this year, the worst performance of currencies globally.
The Azeri central bank’s reserves were at $6.2 billion at the end of November, down from more than $15 billion a year earlier.
The Russian ruble’s collapse and a 70 percent plunge in the crude price since June last year have ushered in a new era of volatility for Azerbaijan, which is also beset by challenges ranging from declining oil output to a festering conflict with neighboring Armenia.
“The only real surprise is that they waited so long, blew scarce FX reserves in the process, and thereby undermined the sovereign balance sheet and credibility and confidence in the process,” Timothy Ash, head of emerging-market strategy at Nomura International Plc. in London, said by e-mail.