Is the a commodity backed Ruble coming?

December 22, 2014 by Matt McCracken

The crashing Russian Ruble has been the big story line from the past couple of weeks.  From here, there are only two options for the currency.  Continue to crash on its way to zero or breakout out of the parabolic downtrend and rebound.  While the fundamentals of the Russian economy may not be all that tantalizing, I don't see their currency going to zero.  After all, who's economy is doing all that well?  And while Russia's economy has had its bumps and bruises, it has quite a bit going for it.  The government is running surpluses (what a novel idea) and they still produce quite a bit of real assets that consumers all over the globe need, albeit at a much lower price. 

So assuming the Ruble is not going to zero, then the other option is for it to make a comeback.  And what would provide more strengh to the Ruble than for Russia to peg its value to oil or any other natural resource?  The Russian Central Bank could say X Rubles will buy Y barrels of Russian oil.  Or Y bcf's of Russian natural gas.  Or Z pounds of Russian uranium cakes.  Everything they have tried thus far to support their currency has failed.  In the uberly overleveraged world we live in, moves in any trade involving counterparties are greatly exaggerated which has made many turn overly dire on the Russian currency. 

Its well known the US Dollar (USD) has derived much of its strenght over the past 40 years from a unique relationshipo with many oil producing countries.  In the 1970's Saudi Arabia agreed and was able to convince many of the other OPEC producing countries to demand payment for oil in USDs.  This is referred to as the PetroDollar or USD hegemony.   So if it has worked to keep the USD strong for so many years, why wouldn't it work to strengthen the Russian Ruble?

Russia has its back against the wall and has little left to lose.  Russian citizens who are experiencing signficant inflation with their economy already in tatters are bound to get restless, or worse.  Russia's options are running out as raising interest rates to the high teen's hasn't worked nor has liquidating reserves to buy Rubles.  Their next attempt to stabilize their currency needs to be a game changer.  Pegging it to oil or uranium that Russia is a net exporter of would provide their currency with immediately legitamacy.