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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Currency Reserves Jump to $225Bln

Russia's foreign currency and gold reserves rose to a record $225.7 billion on surging oil and natural gas prices, giving the country cash to pay off its foreign debts early.

The reserves jumped by $8.6 billion by April 28, the 23rd consecutive weekly gain and the biggest increase since January 2005, the Central Bank said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. The country's reserves are now the fourth-largest in the world, behind China, Japan and Taiwan.

Russia is awash with cash from oil and gas after the price of Urals, its main export blend of crude, more than doubled in the last two years.

The stockpile prompted President Vladimir Putin to say on April 27 that he wants to pay off the country's debt to the Paris Club of creditor nations ahead of schedule.

"We are going to see massive reserve growth over the next few months as Russian oil sold today at these record prices will arrive with a lag of one to three months,'' said Peter Westin, chief economist at MDM Bank in Moscow. Westin expects reserves to rise by as much as $6 billion per week over the next few months.

The country's reserves have climbed almost 20-fold since 1998, when crude sank to less than $10 per barrel and the government was forced to default on $40 billion of domestic debt and devalue the ruble, sending the economy into recession.

"This year, Russia plans to fully repay its debt to the Paris Club," Putin said April 27 in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russia paid $18 billion to the Paris Club ahead of schedule last year and has another $30 billion or so to go.

The world's governments held $4.34 trillion in reserves as of April 28, led by China and Japan, according to Bloomberg data.

Asia's two biggest economies accounted for 40 percent of the total, with $875.1 billion and $832.7 billion, respectively. Taiwan was third, with $257.1 billion, followed by Russia and South Korea, which had $217.3 billion on April 28. The Eurosystem, which includes the European Central Bank and the 12 central banks that share the single currency, held $172.2 billion.

The Russian government expects to add at least $70 billion to its stockpile of foreign currency and gold this year after adding $58 billion last year. It also has a windfall fund where it keeps above-target oil revenue. That fund advanced to 1.8 trillion rubles ($66.2 billion) in April, from 1.68 trillion in March.

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said last week that the country's oil fund, known as the stabilization fund, would probably reach 3 trillion rubles this year.

The government has revised its original forecast for oil prices in 2006 at least twice and is now expecting Urals to average $54 per barrel.

Urals has risen 45 percent in the last year, even after falling 3.2 percent Wednesday to close at $66.54.

The Central Bank canceled a requirement that exporters sell at least 10 percent of their foreign currency revenue on domestic market, in an attempt to restrict the ruble's strengthening against foreign currencies. The mandatory selling of foreign currency revenue ends on May 7.