KEY RATING DRIVERS
The downgrade reflects the following factors and their relative weights:
The economic outlook has deteriorated significantly since mid-2014 following sharp falls in the oil price and the rouble, coupled with a steep rise in interest rates. Western sanctions first imposed in March 2014 continue to weigh on the economy by blocking Russian banks' and corporates' access to external capital markets. Having grown by just 0.6% in 2014, Fitch now expects the economy to contract by 4% in 2015, compared with our previous forecast of minus 1.5%, as steep falls in consumption and investment are only partially offset by an improvement in net exports, driven by a sharp drop in imports. Growth may not return until 2017.
Plunging oil prices have exposed the close link between growth and oil prices, notwithstanding the impact of a more flexible exchange rate. For 2015, Fitch is assuming oil prices average USD70/bbl, markedly lower than the USD100/bbl we assumed in July 2014. If the oil price stays well below this, it could precipitate a deeper recession and put further strain on public finances, severely limiting the authorities' room for manoeuvre.
Rouble depreciation, intense market volatility and sharp hikes in policy rates to 17% from 10% constitute a major shock to the banking sector. The authorities have stepped in to preserve financial stability, doubling the cap on insured deposits, offering subordinated loans from the National Wealth Fund to systemically important banks with at least RUB100bn of equity and offering other banks up to RUB1trn of non-cash subordinated loans. Given the pressure on capital ratios and asset quality, the sovereign may have to pay for further bank support. Regulatory forbearance will mitigate the impact on banks' reported balance sheets of the sharp fall in the rouble and decline in the value of securities portfolios.