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Russian economy could shrink 4% next year: minister

[MOSCOW] Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Friday Russia's economy could suffer a 4-per cent contraction next year and see a budget deficit of 3 per cent.

Mr Siluanov told Russian reporters that the economy would contract 4 per cent with oil prices around US$60 a barrel, adding that he expected the ruble's exchange rate to be around 51 rubles per dollar.

"That's the exchange rate which according to our estimates corresponds to the balance of payments," he said.

He added that the government would have to further cut expenses or tap into reserves, noting that the planned 10 per cent spending cut was not enough.

The central bank recently said the Russian contraction could be up to 4.8 per cent at current oil prices, with a recovery not expected until 2017, but that was before it hiked interest rates by more than a third to 17 per cent and which will also act as a drag on the economy.

The government had previously said it expected that the economy would slump by 0.8 per cent next year.

Under the pressure of falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine, Russia is sliding into a full-blown economic crisis complete with the collapse of the ruble and growing inflation.

The ruble went through wild fluctuations last week, with the central bank raising interest rates to 17 from 10.5 per cent to prop up the currency and Russians snapping up imported goods ahead of expected price hikes.