MOSCOW, June 18 (Reuters) - The rouble extended losses on Tuesday, weighed down by comments from Russia's Finance Minister calling on a weaker currency to restore competitiveness and promote economic growth.
Stronger oil prices and increased conversions of hard currency ahead of tax payments helped limit the rouble's losses.
At 1436 the rouble fell 0.9 percent against the dollar to 32.03, and 1.4 percent versus the euro to 42.88 .
That left the Russian currency 1.2 percent weaker at 36.91 against the dollar-euro basket.
Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Reuters on Tuesday he would welcome a weakening of the rouble's exchange rate as long as it is market driven, saying it would boost exports and budget revenues.
'When officials talk about the devaluation of the rouble as an acceptable situation, the market prices such statements in more than enough,' said Igor Akinshin, a dealer at Alfa-bank.
The minister also said a new mechanism to handle oil export revenues - a key part of its revenue base - will be launched in August.
In the past the proceeds would be converted in off-market operations, but from August these hard currency revenues will be transferred directly to the central bank.
Analysts downplayed the impact on the forex market.
'There is an idea in the air to make the rouble weaker, but formally the central bank is responsible for the exchange rate, not the finance ministry,' Mikhail Palei, dealer at VTB Capital, said.
'We should not forget that if oil prices are lower, and the global backdrop is negative, the Finance Ministry will sell hard currency.'
The dollar-traded RTS stock index was flat at 1,313 points, and the rouble-denominated MICEX rose 0.8 percent to 1,335.6 points.
Shares in Mechel gained 7.4 percent after the mining company announced a share buy back programme of up to $100 million.
($1 = 31.7652 Russian roubles)
(Reporting by Maya Dyakina and Vladimir Abramov) Keywords: RUSSIA MARKETS/
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