YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Armenian dram strengthened against the U.S. dollar by 16 percent on Thursday after weeks of depreciation that accelerated dramatically earlier this week amid turmoil in Russia’s currency market.
Armenia’s national currency traded at an average of 476 drams per dollar in the evening, up from 553 drams per dollar registered the previous night. The dram thus essentially regained its value lost since last weekend. Still, it was 13.5 percent weaker against the greenback than in the beginning of November.
The dram rallied strongly despite the apparent absence of increased monetary intervention from the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA). The CBA said in the afternoon that its latest daily hard currency offer of $4 million attracted no purchase bids from local commercial banks.
The Central Bank governor, Artur Javadian, insisted on Wednesday that the dram is grossly undervalued and will start appreciating soon. Javadian blamed its sizable depreciation on speculators and “panic” which he said has spread from Russia. But he also acknowledged that Armenia’s dependence on multimillion cash inflows from Russia is a serious factor.
The ruble appreciated by 9 percent on Wednesday after dramatically falling on Monday and Tuesday. Its exchange rate was essentially flat on Thursday.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian noted the dram rebound as he opened a weekly session of his cabinet in the morning. “A stabilization trend has been observed in the financial market in the second half of yesterday and today,” he said. “I am sure that it will continue.”
“Yesterday I met with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, other relevant agencies and economic entities,” Abrahamian told ministers. “Our international partners fully support our efforts to stabilize the financial market in the face of sharp exchange rate fluctuations conditioned by external factors.”
The CBA’s Javadian spent four hours answering lawmakers’ questions about the currency crisis during an emergency session of the Armenian parliament held behind the closed doors late on Wednesday. Finance Minister Gagik Khachatrian and other senior government officials were also present at the six-hour session. Parliament speaker Galust Sahakian told reporters afterwards that he believes the dram’s exchange rate will stabilize by the end of this month.
Opposition deputies were far from satisfied. Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress claimed that the CBA chief failed to clearly explain the causes of the exchange rate volatility which has adversely affected economic activity in the country. Zurabian said the dram depreciation was made possible by a lack of foreign investment and outflow of capital from Armenia.
Another opposition lawmaker, former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian, said the weaker dram has already lowered living standards in the country. “The dram may appreciate a little but the national economy cannot meet our needs,” he said. “So we are left to be worse off.”