By Alexander Marrow
(Reuters) -The Russian rouble weakened past 97 to the dollar late on Thursday, struggling to benefit from increased foreign currency sales by the central bank as the market awaited Friday's interest rate decision.
The central bank hiked by 350 basis points to 12% last month, responding to the rouble's tumble past 100 to the dollar, and most analysts polled by Reuters expect another increase on Friday, although the CEOs of Russia's two largest banks were leaning in favour of a hold.
By 1559 GMT, the rouble was 1.1% weaker against the dollar at 97.34 and had lost 0.6% to trade at 103.29 versus the euro. It shed 0.9% against the yuan to 13.36.
The rouble was supported by the central bank increasing foreign currency sales ninefold for a week from Sept. 14 to the equivalent of 21.4 billion roubles ($222.7 million) a day.
It has linked the move to the planned redemption of $3 billion worth of Russian Eurobonds on Sept. 16, saying holders would be paid in roubles and that some of them were expected to seek to convert into foreign currency.
The additional FX sales should compensate for additional FX demand due to redeeming those Eurobonds, SberCIB analysts said.
President Vladimir Putin told an economic forum in Russia's Far East on Tuesday that exporters' "restrained" return of foreign currency was putting the rouble under pressure, but promised no sudden moves, such as a return to capital controls, to limit rouble volatility for now.
Sberbank CEO German Gref said this week that the rouble was "unjustifiably undervalued" and that authorities were not doing enough to stabilise the currency.
Brent crude oil , a global benchmark for Russia's main export, was up 1.8% at $93.50 a barrel, its strongest since November 2022.
Russian stock indexes were lower.
The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 1.2% to 1,018.3 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.3% lower at 3,139.5 points.
Shares in retailer Magnit were up 1.9% after the company finalised a deal to buy back blocked shares from Western investors at a 50% discount, the first such arrangement since Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
($1 = 96.1025 roubles)
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