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When the rouble plunged 37 percent in the first half of December, Kazakh businessman Marat Mukhamedov spotted an opportunity: Russian toilets.At a time when President Vladimir Putin's standoff with the West is slowing the economy and crimping sales at home, Kazakhs – the third biggest net buyers of Russian goods – are boosting orders to benefit from the 40 percent depreciation that's made the rouble the worst-performing emerging-market currency of the past year. Purchases of roubles quadrupled in Kazakhstan in January from a year earlier to total 60 billion roubles ($1 billion) for the four months from October, according to data from Kazakhstan's central bank in Almaty. Bargain-hunting Kazakhs and Belarusians bought about 90,000 of the 500,000 cars sold in Russia in November and December, according to data compiled by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.Demand for roubles is still rising in Kazakhstan, Moscow-based VTB Bank's branch in Almaty said in a March 4 statement. Kazakhs bought almost 22 billion roubles in December and about 17 billion roubles in January, compared with 3.8 billion roubles in January 2014, according to the National Bank of Kazakhstan. Heightened Kazakh demand for roubles and Russian goods may also prove short-lived.
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