January 1 is Russia’s answer to Christmas – a day for exchanging gifts after a night of feasting. But as shoppers crowd into Moscow’s malls, they may glimpse some truths about their economy that could spoil the festive mood.
At the huge Mega Belaya Dacha mall, entire sections of a consumer-electronics store, have been stripped bare by customers who hauled imported televisions, washing machines, and microwaves off to the checkout counters. They were buying as a hedge against rising prices after the rouble plunged almost 20 percent on December 16. Many stores, still selling inventory from before the rouble crashed, haven’t raised prices yet. But no one doubts they will.
A devalued currency ought to be good for an economy like Russia’s, which is forecast to contract as much as 5 percent in 2015. With a cheaper rouble, domestic manufacturers could gain an edge in export markets, and growth could get a boost as consumers switch to local goods.