The ever-positive Vladimir Putin is forecasting 8% inflation for the coming year, which would be a ‘post-Soviet low‘. The government will sell tons of its gold stockpile this year to cover its budget deficit and help it fund other supporting measures such as Moscow’s $570 million federal loan. Private lender Alfa Bank is working on debt restructuring terms for giants BasEl and RusAl, and threatening to take the latter to court over unpaid debts. St Petersburg Bank plans to raise up to $150 million selling additional preference shares to cope with its losses. Reuters has compiled a timeline on Russia’s bad loans. ‘For all of the vaunted stability of the current regime, Russians still don’t believe in the permanence of their system enough to invest into their society,‘ comments this reporter in a piece about the ‘stratospheric‘ prices of Moscow real estate. The city’s mayor, Yury Luzhkov, is defending himself against last week’s accusations from Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin regarding official salaries. It all depends on how you look at it: Itar-Tass reports that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin forecasts steady timber demand, whereas the New York Times reports that Putin will further delay the introduction of a higher export duty on raw timber ‘that has deeply worried neighboring Finland‘ because of a slump in demand. Alexander Lebedev’s National Reserve Bank has seized a bizarre collateral offered against an unpaid loan: 40,000 pigs.