The Week In Numbers: Rouble Trouble

Should the Russian currency be spelt with the letter “O” or without the letter “O”? The Oxford English Dictionary prefers the form “rouble” but some have suggested that “rubble” might now be more appropriate, given the currency’s free-fall in recent days.

It wasn’t that long ago when US$1 could have bought 33 roubles. But today you can buy 62 units of the unloved Russian currency.

The 50% collapse of the rouble prompted the Russian central bank to hike interest rates from 10% to 17%. Russia maintains that its currency is seriously undervalued. But with plunging oil prices and painful sanctions from the West, it looks as though the Russian rouble could be not so much seriously undervalued as in serious trouble.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous – Switzerland has cut its interest rate to minus 0.25%. Anyone depositing more than 10m Swiss francs in an instant access account will be penalised with negative interest rates. In other words, depositors will have to pay to lend the bank money. It would seem that investors who have been concerned by collapsing oil prices and the meltdown in Russia are seeking solace in safe haven Swiss banks accounts.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has won a landslide victory in the Japanese snap election. With 326 seats under his belt, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party together with his coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, has secured a solid mandate to push through with radical economic reforms.

The promise of better times ahead through Abe’s blend of economic, monetary and structural reforms has driven the Japanese stock market higher. Over the last two years, the Nikkei 225 has doubled from around 8,000 points to over 17,000 points.

Singapore companies with exposure to Japan have done well too. Saizen Real Estate Investment Trust (SGX: T8JU) has delivered a total return of 16% over the last two years, while Lyxor UCITS ETF Japan (Topix) (SGX: CW4), which tracks the Japan market, has returned 9% a year.

China claimed that its economy would grow 7.5% this year. And despite worrying hiccups along the way, it is looking increasingly likely that it will meet its target, one way or another. It seems that thanks to some deft revisions to the 2013 economic figures China’s growth this year could be mathematically bolstered by just enough to reach this year’s goal.

The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your FREE subscription to Take Stock -- Singapore, The Motley Fool's free investing newsletter. Written by David Kuo, Take Stock -- Singapore tells you exactly what's happening in today's markets, and shows how you can GROW your wealth in the years ahead.

Like us on Facebook to keep up to date with our latest news and articles. The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest, better.

The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore Director David Kuo doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.