Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s ruble headed for a fourth month of gains, in the best start to a year on record, as oil moved closer to the $50 per barrel milestone and investors weighed prospects for interest-rate cuts in the second half of 2016.

The world’s best-performing currency this year strengthened 0.6 percent to 64.3490 at 11.24 a.m. in Moscow before a Bank of Russia’s policy decision that economists project will include no change to borrowing costs. Government bonds rallied as Brent crude climbed for a fourth day to the highest price since Nov. 9. The equity benchmark was set for the biggest monthly advance since February 2015.

While a majority of economists forecast central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina to leave benchmark borrowing costs at 11 percent today, they see reductions of 150 basis points in the second half of the year.

"Markets are pricing in a higher likelihood of rate cuts,” Yann Quelenn, a market strategist at Swissquote Bank SA in Gland, Switzerland, said by e-mail. “Inflation is rapidly declining and the oil price is moving up. There’s a dearth of high-yielding assets in the world today. So investors snap up Russia."

The yield on 10-year sovereign bonds declined seven basis points to 9.03 percent. The Micex Index slipped 0.4 percent, paring its April rally to 4.9 percent. Brent crude advanced to $48.27, heading for a 22 percent monthly increase, the best since May 2009.

Bond investors may be disappointed if policy makers’ statement today contains hawkish language, VTB Capital analysts Maxim Korovin and Tatiana Chernyavskaya said in an e-mailed note.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vladimir Kuznetsov in Moscow at vkuznetsov2@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Nicholson at anicholson6@bloomberg.net, Srinivasan Sivabalan, Cecile Gutscher

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