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Putin Not Upbeat On Economy

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is "no fundamental grounds" to feel confident about his country's economy.

Putin was speaking to a gathering of Russian businessmen in Moscow on March 19.

His comments come amid more bad news for the Russian economy, already slumping under low global oil prices and sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis.

Retail sales fell by 7.7 percent year-on-year in February, while real wages dropped 9.9 percent, further hurting consumer purchasing power, already stung by a sinking ruble.

The ruble is down 40 percent against the U.S. dollar compared with mid-2014.

Last week, the country's central bank cut its main lending rate, its second easing this year.

Putin told the businessmen the bank's main interest rate -- 14 percent -- was high but warranted by the situation.

Speaking at the same meeting, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov suggested the worst was over.

Based on reporting by Reuters