Picture: Reuters

Moscow - The rouble opened down against the dollar on Thursday as concerns about the Ukraine crisis continued to weigh.

Moscow stock indexes saw fragile gains, tracking a reprieve in Asian markets after diplomatic efforts seemed to slightly moderate the crisis over Russia's military intervention in Ukraine.

At 08:35 SA time, the rouble was down 0.3 percent against the dollar at 36.15 and down 0.2 percent versus the broadly weaker euro at 49.63, indicating that investors nonetheless remained worried about the possibility of Russia launching an overt invasion of Ukraine.

Data showed on Thursday that the central bank spent just over $300 million of its gold and foreign exchange reserves on Tuesday, despite the rouble's firming that day, after spending $11.3 billion on Monday to keep the currency from falling too fast.

The central bank releases its intervention data with a two-day delay.

Analysts at VTB Capital reckon that the rouble is about 8.0-8.5 percent behind the emerging markets average index so far this year, and that Ukraine's political crisis has accounted for 2.0-3.0 percentage points of that.

“Now that is fading away, but we are not quite sure that the premium for political risks will disappear completely in the near term,” the analysts wrote in a morning note.

“Also, we think the central bank may cut the volume of accumulated interventions in the near future as the market calms down.”

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.2 percent to 1,184.2 points and the rouble-traded MICEX gained 0.6 percent to 1,359.2 points.

“Russian financial markets remain vulnerable, as investors in Russian and regional assets are tuned primarily to news flow from the Crimea and Ukraine, with no breakthroughs so far,” Uralsib analysts wrote in a morning note. - Reuters