People walk past a sign advertising currency exchange rates at an exchange office in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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In a telltale sign that the ruble crisis is causing panic among Russians, the talk in a downtown Moscow nail salon this week was about stockpiling buckwheat.The ruble has sunk 19 percent this month to 61 per dollar even after posting a 10 percent rebound Wednesday triggered by the government's sale of dollars and central bank measures to help companies refinance looming foreign-currency debt. The currency's down 46 percent this year through Wednesday, the result of tumbling prices for oil, Russia's top export, and international sanctions tied to the Ukraine conflict. For three straight trading days – Friday, Monday and Tuesday – the ruble posted declines of more than 4 percent, causing nervous shoppers to snap up imported goods before stores boosted prices.Annual inflation was already running at a three-year high of 9 percent in November before the latest ruble declines.The only problem with that strategy, the woman working on Volkova's nails tells her, is that buckwheat prices are already soaring too.
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