MOSCOW (AP) ¿ Russia's economy will contract by as much as 6 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday, but would gain 0.5 percent in 2010. The IMF view is more pessimistic than that of the World Bank, which indicated in its latest report earlier this month that there would be no signs of recovery this year and the economy would contract by 4.5 percent. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report that the economy would shrink by as much as 5.6 percent this year ¿ more than any other emerging market. Several senior Russian officials earlier said that they expect the economy to begin growing again toward the end of the year, but the goverment still predicts a 2.2 percent drop in GDP this year. Russia's ruble has lost one third of its value since September while the stock markets shed 70 percent off their May highs. The credit crunch in Russia has also been made worse by lower prices for Russia's chief export commodities, oil and gas. The IMF predicts oil prices ¿ the backbone of the Russian economy ¿ to rebound in the second half of the year.
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