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Fed Chair Says Conditions Have Met Expectations

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Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she’s confident in the outlook for economic growth and warned that waiting too long to end the era of near-zero interest rates could force the central bank to tighten too quickly, which would risk disrupting financial markets and the six-year expansion.

“Were the FOMC to delay the start of policy normalization for too long, we would likely end up having to tighten policy relatively abruptly to keep the economy from significantly overshooting both of our goals,” Yellen told the Economic Club of Washington on Wednesday. “Such an abrupt tightening would risk disrupting financial markets and perhaps even inadvertently push the economy into recession.”

Her comments are the latest sign that the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee is poised to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 at its Dec. 15-16 meeting in Washington. Fed officials have been trying to gauge whether the economy is headed toward their goals and can sustain growth as rates increase.

“On balance, economic and financial information received since our October meeting has been consistent with our expectations of continued improvement in the labor market,” Yellen said Wednesday. That “helps strengthen confidence that inflation will move back to our 2 percent objective over the medium term.”

Yellen emphasized that policy makers will receive a range of data on the labor market, inflation and economic activity between now and the December meeting that will influence their decision.

‘Mind Is Set’

Even so, “you come away thinking that her mind is set on a rate hike in December,” said Millan Mulraine, deputy head of U.S. research and strategy at TD Securities LLC in New York. “We got the sense from her that what she’s seen so far is that the economy can handle that initial rate hike.”

The Fed’s Beige Book economic survey, released later Wednesday, showed a “modest” pace of expansion across most of the U.S. in October and November amid rising consumer spending. Pay gains were described as “generally stable to increasing,” with most districts saying wage pressures were only building for skilled workers and employees in short supply.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes climbed from a one-month low and the dollar hovered near the highest in more than a decade as investors reacted to Yellen’s remarks, which also pointed to recent improvements in the labor market and wages as positive signs.
“We have seen a welcome pickup in the growth rate of average hourly earnings for all employees and of compensation per hour in the business sector,” she said. “While it is too soon to conclude whether these more rapid rates of increase will continue, a sustained pickup would likely signal a diminution of labor market slack.”

Stronger Jobs

U.S. employers added 271,000 jobs in October, the most this year, and unemployment has dipped to 5 percent, half of its 2009 peak. The Labor Department’s gauge of average hourly earnings has shown early signs of picking up, with 2.5 percent year-over-year growth in October, the highest since 2009. The final employment report before the December meeting is scheduled for release on Friday in Washington.

Inflation remains subdued, though, and the Fed’s preferred gauge hasn’t hit policy makers’ 2 percent goal since 2012. Yellen signaled confidence that price pressures may be moving up, referencing core inflation rather than the headline index the Fed prefers.

“It appears that the underlying rate of inflation in the United States has been running in the vicinity of 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 percent,” Yellen said, once the core data are adjusted for downward pressure from low oil prices and a stronger dollar. She noted that policy makers are paying close attention to indicators of inflation expectations, some of which have shown deterioration recently.

The initial rate liftoff is expected to be small, just 25 basis points, and Fed speakers including Yellen have emphasized that the pace of tightening going forward is more important than the timing.

Below Normal

“The Committee anticipates that even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run,” Yellen said Wednesday.

Yellen said the neutral interest rate — the one that neither stokes nor slows the economy — seems to have declined in the wake of the financial crisis, and its future path is uncertain. That could have implications for the pace of increases and ultimate level of the central bank’s main interest rate.

“If the Fed now thinks, as Yellen illustrated today and as the October FOMC minutes indicated, that the neutral real rate is close to zero, there is no way in the world the Fed will get even remotely close to 3.5 percent in this cycle,” Roberto Perli, a former Fed official who’s now a partner at Cornerstone Macro LLC in Washington, wrote in a note to clients. That number, 3.5 percent, is the median longer-run projection for the rate that Fed officials submitted in September.

Yellen sounded optimistic on the international outlook, saying China, which has seen growth slow this year, has taken actions to stimulate its economy and noting that other emerging-market economies are also easing monetary and fiscal policy. She said activity in those places has improved, and accommodative policy in advanced economies is also helping to support growth.

“A pickup in demand in many advanced economies and a stabilization in commodity prices should, in turn, boost the growth prospects of emerging market economies,” Yellen said.

Yellen will have another chance to elaborate on her outlook in testimony Thursday before Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.

Bloomberg

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Economy

EFCC Grills Suspended Accountant-General of The Federation, Discovers 17 Properties 

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Ahmed Idris - Investors King

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it has traced not less than properties to the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris. 

On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, announced the suspension of Idris who is currently being grilled by the EFCC for fraud amounting to N80bn.

The letter titled: ‘Letter of Suspension’, read in part: “Following your recent arrest by EFCC on allegations of diversion of funds and money laundering, I write to convey your suspension from work without pay effective May 18, 2022.”

Investors King can confirm that an anonymous EFCC official revealed that the 17 properties linked to the former AG of the Federation are located in the UK, Dubai, Abuja, Lagos, and Kano. 

However, he said preliminary investigations showed that the nation’s chief accountant allegedly used proxies to buy some of these properties. The commission would therefore need to invite some of the proxies of the accountant-general.

The official added that from all indications, these properties were purchased while Idris was in office and did not declare them before the Code of Conduct Bureau as stipulated by law.

 “About 17 houses in London, Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Dubai have been traced to him. In Abuja, some of the houses are located in serviced estates,” he added.

Investors King reported earlier in the week that EFCC had arrested the suspended Accountant-General, saying “the AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates.”

“The funds were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

“Mr. Idris was arrested after failing to honour invitations by the EFCC to respond to issues connected to the fraudulent acts.

“It further alleged that the funds were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja,” EFCC added. 

REcall that Ahmed Idris had been under surveillance since last year following allegations that he offered huge sums of money to a family in order to secure the marriage of their 16-year-old daughter.

 

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Nigeria’s Trade Deficit Rises to $765m in Q1 2022  – CBN

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Trade - Investors King

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said the value of Nigeria’s international trade deficit rose by 175.13 percent from $152.94m recorded in January 2022 to $420.79m in March 2022. 

The International Trade Summary on the CBN’s website reports that the total value of international trade as of the first quarter (Q1) of 2022 was $28.77bn. Imports stood at $14.77bn while exports accounted for $14.01bn, reflecting a total trade deficit of N764.69m.

In January 2022, export was $4.74bn and import was $4.89, with a trade deficit of $152.94m.

The value of the trade deficit increases further in February 2022 to hit $190.96m, with exports at $4.70bn and imports at $4.89bn.

There was a massive increase recorded in March 2022 as the trade deficit jumped to $420.79m, with exports at $4.57bn and imports at $4.99bn.

In June 2021, Godwin Emfiele, the CBN Governor has said Nigeria would reduce its imports bill by the first quarter of 2022, especially with the Dangote refinery projected to resume operations. This, he said would help reduce the importation of finished petroleum products.

“Of course for petroleum products, by the time the refinery goes into production by the first quarter of next year and the petrochemical plants we would have reduced our importation by about at least close to 35 per cent,” he said. 

However, Nigeria has failed to cut down on its import bill and the Dangote refinery is yet to be completed and operational. In fact, a recent Fitch report estimated that the refinery won’t be operational until 2024, and that is if Aliko Dangote raises the needed $1.1 billion (N900 billion) necessary for its completion.

In its recent report titled ‘Reforms Towards Resolving Foreign Exchange Challenges in Nigeria’, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) explained how a rising trade deficit caning impact the nation’s economy.

According to the NESG, Nigeria will continue to rely on foreign loans via Eurobonds and multilateral financial institutions to bolster its foreign reserves as long as the nation’s trade balance continues to decline.

In part, the report stated: “Owing to the deteriorating trade balance position, the country is increasingly exposed to external borrowing through Eurobonds and multilateral loans to shore up its external reserves. In 2021, the trade deficit widened to N1.9tn from N178.3bn in 2020.

“The country had persistently recorded a trade deficit since the fourth quarter of 2019 when the land borders were shut. However, maintaining a trade surplus consistently coupled with adequate inflows of foreign investments will contribute significantly to improving the net flows of forex through the economy – which crashed from $100.8bn in the first three quarters of 2014 to $44.5bn in the corresponding period of 2021.”

“Huge dependence on imports has limited the CBN’s ability to effectively manage the demand for foreign exchange,” it stated. 

NESG further said, “Meanwhile, the massive dependence on imports has constrained the CBN’s ability to manage forex demand by prohibiting certain commodities that could otherwise be produced locally from accessing forex at the official market since 2015.

“The result of this policy action has heightened demand pressures in the parallel market, leading to a wide gap between the official exchange rate (now the I&E Window exchange rate) and the parallel market exchange rate. The parallel market premium averaged N104.7/US$ in 2021, 64.9 per cent higher than the average premium of N63.5/US$ in 2020.”

 

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Twitter Agog As Nigerians React To AGF’s Arrest, Fraud Allegations

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Ahmed Idris

The social media has been buzzing all day as Nigerians were in dismay, following the arrest of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly looting a sum of N80bn. 

While many Nigerians lauded the efforts of the EFCC, some said the looted money is far more than what the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is requesting.

In his reaction via the micro-blogging platform, Twitter, the spokesperson of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Reno Omokri said: “Dear ASUU, If the Accountant General of the Federation can steal N80bn, you have no reason to end your strike. Ask Buhari to use the stolen N80bn to pay you and keep the change. After all, the money ASUU is asking for is not even up to N80bn!”

Some Other Twitter Reactions:

The Mouthpiece @Real_AmakaIke said: “Fight Against Corruption In Nigeria Always End With Cruise. Just Loot And Bail Yourself If At All You Are Arrested,And They Will Reward You With Another Political Position. Ahmed Idris’s 80 Billion Naira Fraud Case Has Ended With Immunity. Nigeria Is A Very Big Scam.”

Adenike Danjuma @DeNiike_Ahmed said: “Idris should be persecuted using Sharia law.”

Kwaghngu John @DoshimaJohn“According to the EFCC, the funds (stolen by the AGF Ahmed Idris) were laundered via real estate investments in Kano and Abuja” Real estate investments!!! Folks standing on this table ehn! It will take some balls to vigorously shake this table. A table of crooks & rogues.”

Ayemojubar.js @ayemojubarAlhaji Ahmed Idris, the Accountant General of the Federation stole $137,931,034. Please, how much is ASUU asking for?

Adebola @ThisIsAdemuyiwaOur problem is not religion and ethnicity. Religion and ethnicity are distractions. Alh. Ahmed Idris (Accountant General) who stole N80bn couldn’t have done it alone. He’d have been aided by Southerners from other faiths . Let nobody deceive you.

OKEKE OLIVER (Don Olive) @OKEKEOLIVER2 Ahmed Idris was appointed Accountant General of the Federation on 25th June, 2015, to succeed Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla. His predecessor was sacked by Buhari for alleged misappropriation of N2.5bn naira.

If you make ₦28.3m a year, it would take you 40 years to make ₦1 billion. The Accountant General stole N80bn in 4 years, at ₦28.3M/year it would take you 3,200 years to accumulate that much money. Ahmed Idris you are very very heartless,” another user, Jerry ayuba (@Donjerry_) said.  

Investors King recalls that Operatives of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Monday, arrested the current Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris in connection with alleged diversion of funds and money laundering activities. 

EFCC, in a statement, wrote: “The Commission’s verified intelligence showed that the AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates.

“The funds were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

“Mr. Idris was arrested after failing to honour invitations by the EFCC to respond to issues connected to the fraudulent acts”.

EFCC further noted that: “Its verified intelligence showed that the AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities, using proxies, family members and close associates.

“It further alleged that the funds were laundered through real estate investments in Kano and Abuja”.

The anti-graft agency stated that Idris was arrested after failing to honour invitations to respond to issues connected to the fraudulent acts. 

Ahmed Idris was appointed as Accountant General on June 25, 2015, to succeed Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla who was sacked by Muhammadu Buhari on allegedly misappropriating security agencies’ funds.

EFCC had, on December 7, arraigned the former Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Jonah Otunla, and eight others before the Federal High Court in Abuja on money laundering charges involving diversion of N2bn from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser.

The defendants were to be arraigned before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba on Tuesday but the arraignment was rescheduled to December 7 due to the absence of the judge, who was said to be attending a training organised for some judges in the country.

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