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Russian inflation to return to target faster than expected: central bank

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Inflation in Russia is expected to rise to the central bank’s 4% target faster than initially expected, the bank said in a report on Tuesday, as it prepares for a rate-setting meeting next week.

Annual inflation, which in March stood at 2.5%, is in focus ahead of the rate-setting meeting on April 24. Inflation picked up to 2.7-2.8% in annual terms in the week to April 6, the state statistic service has said.

Russia’s economy has taken a double hit from a drop in oil prices and market volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the rouble to four-year lows.

The central bank has already taken measures to buttress the currency, including by selling foreign currency from state reserves on a daily basis.

Central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina, who on Friday will give a briefing about measures to protect financial markets, said this month a key rate cut would be among the options it would consider at its board meeting later this month.

She also said Russia’s economy was set to contract this year.

The bank said on Tuesday a global economic slowdown and coronavirus lockdowns in the country would become significant disinflationary factors in the medium term.

The central bank held its key interest rate at 6% in March, when it decided to halt its rate-cutting cycle.

Moscow and several other regions have declared lockdowns in a bid to stem the novel coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 20,000 people in the country.

(Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Potter)

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