New statistics from the Central Bank of Russia indicate that almost $51 billion in capital exited the country in the first quarter of 2014. The exodus, says financial website Quartz.com, is largely the result of investor jitters over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea.
As Quartz notes, this was the highest quarterly outflow of capital from the Russian Federation since the fourth quarter of 2008. While Russia can mitigate some of the damage because of its extensive foreign-currency reserves—estimated at more than $400 billion—the new Central Bank statistics signal that worse is still to come.
Russia’s economic development ministry has downgraded the country’s forecast to less than 1% growth this year; an earlier estimate had been 2.5%. The World Bank projects that the Russian economy could shrink nearly 2% in 2014. That would cost Russia in the neighborhood of $30 billion in lost economic output.
Meanwhile, the Russian government’s bid to pressure Ukraine could end up backfiring. The state-controlled natural-gas giant, Gazprom, OGZPY +5.53% recently jacked up the price of gas to Ukraine by 80% and levied an $11.4 billion bill on Kiev for previously discounted energy sales. But observers say that the price hike could lead to a reduction in purchases as Kiev diversifies away from Russia toward friendlier European suppliers. This may already be happening. On April 9 the Ukrainian government retaliated by temporarily ceasing purchases of Russian gas, pending resolution of the pricing dispute.