The Russian rouble gave up early gains on Thursday to slide lower in volatile trade, pressured by the end of a favourable tax period and by expectations that the government may try to curb the currency’s recent strengthening. Thursday marks the deadline for income tax payments that help support the rouble. This could see exporters cut back on selling their foreign currency earnings, although Russia’s strong current account surplus may shield the rouble from any significant weakening. The rouble is also under pressure amid market expectations that the government may take steps to counteract the currency’s recent strength, an issue that has concerned officials as it dents Russia’s income from commodity exports. By 1115 GMT, the rouble was 1.3pc weaker against the dollar at 60.68 and had lost 1pc to trade at 61.34 versus the euro. The rouble may trade in the 58-60 range against the greenback on Thursday, Promsvyazbank analysts said, after the US Federal Reserve raised the benchmark rate by an expected 75 basis points on Wednesday. But any strengthening of the rouble could be tempered by expectations that the government will soon tweak and reinstate Russia’s budget rule that diverts excess oil revenues into its rainy-day fund with a new cut-off price, Promsvyazbank added. Russia’s federal statistics service published data late on Wednesday that painted a gloomy picture of industrial output, real disposable incomes and retail sales, all down in year-on-year terms, although the unemployment rate stayed at a record low. The rouble has become the world’s strongest-performing currency so far this year, boosted by measures to shield Russia’s financial system from Western sanctions imposed after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. These include restrictions on Russian households withdrawing foreign currency savings. Stronger oil prices, which hit their highest since early July, could help the rouble win back more of the hefty losses sustained on Tuesday, said Banki.ru analyst Bogdan Zvarich. Brent crude, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was up 1.5pc at $108.2 a barrel. “There are no fundamental reasons for the significant weakening of the rouble – demand for foreign currency from importers and the population is still unable to outweigh the supply of foreign currency from exporters,” Zvarich said. Russian stock indexes were down. The dollar-denominated RTS index was down 1.7pc to 1,134.6 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.5pc lower at 2,185.9 points.