Putin Calls for Ruble Vigilance

President Vladimir Putin urged his government and the Central Bank on Monday to keep a close eye on ruble appreciation as the dollar continues to plummet against world currencies.

"I'm asking you, in cooperation with the Central Bank and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, to watch closely the strengthening of the ruble," Putin told a Cabinet meeting, addressing Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin in particular.

"We all see what is going on in the euro zone, how the euro's appreciation is affecting the European economy. This deserves very serious attention," Putin said in remarks broadcast on state television.

The value of the ruble against the dollar in day-ahead trading was up 14 kopeks, to 23.51 rubles per dollar on Monday, while the value of the ruble against the euro fell to 37.12 rubles per euro from 36.91 rubles at the previous session.

The dollar on Monday hit a new record low against the euro on investor fears that more financial institutions could suffer from the unfolding credit crisis, which claimed another victim in U.S. investment bank Bear Stearns at the weekend.

The Central Bank has expanded the list of securities in which it invests its massive gold and foreign exchange reserves, adding yen-denominated papers, a senior central banker said Monday.

"We have expanded operations with the yen and have started investing not only in banking deposits but also in securities denominated in yen," said Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank.

The Central Bank currently holds less than 1 percent of its gold and forex reserves of roughly $500 billion, the world's third largest, in the Japanese currency.

Ulyukayev said the bank did not increase its yen holding.

He said the bank supported more transparency in reserves management and added he did not rule out that the National Welfare Fund, one of two sub-funds created from the stabilization fund, could be invested in Russian securities.