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Fitch upgrades Russia to BBB on government's consistent policy support

Fitch Ratings upgraded its long-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings on Russia to BBB from BBB-. The outlook is stable.

The upgrade reflects the rating agency's expectation that Russia's prudent fiscal strategy, flexible exchange rate and commitment to control inflationary pressures will shield it from external shocks, heightened sanctions and oil price volatility, and will help stabilize its economy.

Fitch projects Russian inflation to remain close to its target of 4% in 2020-2021 due to continued efforts by the Russian central bank. It further estimates the economy's GDP growth at 1.2% in 2019 and an average of 1.9% in 2020-2021, albeit below its forecast 3.1% BBB median.

The rating agency expects Russia's fiscal policy to remain conservative and guided by the fiscal rule, giving a budget surplus of around 1.8% of GDP in 2019, while maintaining a surplus through 2021.

Fitch estimates general government debt to reach 14.9% of GDP in 2019. It also expects the government to become a net creditor in 2019, with net debt averaging negative 1.5% of GDP in 2020-2021.

Fitch believes that the risk of heightened sanctions on Russia, which weighs on its external financing flexibility and growth prospects, should be allayed by the economy's budget and current account surpluses, low government debt, fiscal assets and large foreign exchange reserves.