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Mario Draghi Hints at Further ECB Stimulus Moves

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Mario Draghi

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi has said the bank will “review and possibly reconsider” monetary policy at its next meeting in March.

He said eurozone rates would “stay at present or lower levels for an extended period” and there would be “no limits” to action to reflate the eurozone.

His comments followed the ECB’s regular meeting, where it kept the bank’s benchmark rate unchanged at 0.05%.

The overnight deposit rate was also left unchanged at -0.3%.

At the ECB meeting in December, this rate had been cut from -0.2% in an attempt to push banks to lend instead of parking money at the ECB.

In December, the ECB had also extended its €60bn-a-month stimulus programme by six months to March 2017.

Eurozone inflation is currently running at 0.2%, way below the ECB’s target of near 2%.

“We have the power, willingness and determination to act. There are no limits how far we are willing to deploy our policy instruments,” Mr Draghi said.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said “the stimulus trigger looks cocked and ready to pull as soon as the March ECB meeting”.

‘Risks’

Mr Draghi told a news conference: “As we start the new year, downside risks have increased again amid heightened uncertainty about emerging market economies’ growth prospects, volatility in financial and commodity markets and geopolitical risks.”

He said that could make it necessary to review – and possibly reconsider – monetary policy at the next meeting in early March.

Mario Draghi most definitely doesn’t do panic. In fact, his demeanour in the news conference after the ECB’s governing council meeting didn’t even suggest mild anxiety. Still, his words made it plain that he and his policy-making colleagues have been watching the new year’s financial market gyrations very warily.

It’s not the ECB’s job to stabilise stock markets. The Bank’s job is to keep inflation in check, but it is currently too low: 0.2% compared with the ECB’s target of below, but close to, 2%.

The financial market turbulence, especially the fall in oil prices is one reason why, as Mr Draghi said, “inflation dynamics continue to be weaker than expected”. He told us the ECB will review policy at its next meeting in March. There is a strong chance of more action, probably extra quantitative easing, to stimulate inflation a bit more (yes really).

That meeting will have a new set of ECB macroeconomic projections to work with.

He said that the recent falls in the oil price meant that inflation was likely to be “significantly lower” compared with the outlook in early December.

Eurozone inflation was below zero – that is, prices were falling – as recently as September, mainly due to falls in international energy prices, particularly crude oil.

In December, Mr Draghi said that eurozone inflation was expected to reach 1% in 2016. However, the ECB’s forecasts were based on the assumption of oil prices averaging more than $50 a barrel this year, and oil is currently below $30.

Market reaction

Mr Draghi’s latest comments were seen as helping to calm stock markets, with shares in Europe rising as his news conference was under way.

His comments also weakened the euro, which briefly fell below $1.08 against the dollar before regaining ground.

“ECB president Draghi once again saw the equity markets confirm his ‘super’ status as they jumped almost as soon as he started his speech,” said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG.

“The emphasis shifted from ‘whatever it takes’ to ‘no limits’ where action is concerned, with the small caveat that nothing will happen until they have had their March meeting.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

Removal of Petrol Subsidy: Conclusion Will be Drawn in June– NEC

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Following insinuations that the subsidy on petrol will be removed after the first half of the year 2022, the National Economic Council (NEC) has stated that a decision is yet to be made on fuel subsidy removal.

It noted that deliberations are still ongoing on the matter and a conclusion will be drawn in June when the provision for its payment in the 2022 budget will be over.

After the NEC meeting presided over by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja,  the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki spoke with journalists.

Governor Obaseki explained that NEC has been discussing the fuel subsidy matter for over a year.

He hinted that a committee has been set up to look into the matter, adding that last year almost N2 trillion was spent on fuel subsidy.

“There was an ad hoc committee set up by NEC and headed by Gov. Nasir El-Rufai that included members of the executive arm of government and worked on recommendations as to what we should do about the cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) locally.

“Because as you realise, as it has been told to us, the cost of PMS in Nigeria today is about N162 for a litre whereas every other country surrounding Nigeria is selling the product at more than 100 per cent of the cost in Nigeria.

“The country, as at last year, spent almost N2 trillion subsidising petroleum products. That is money that could have gone into building roads; money that could have gone into healthcare and education.

“When NEC looked at some of the analyses last year, it realised that less than one-third of the states of the country consumed two-third of the subsidy.

“So, for NEC, the argument has been put out; should we continue this regime of spending money that we do not have to subsidise the living standard of mostly those who have vehicles. NEC hasn’t come up with any decision yet. I think recommendations have also been made to the President. That is what I am aware of has transpired so far,” he said.

Also speaking, Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule noted that the governors did not make any presentation on the issue since a conclusion has not been reached. 

In his words, “We didn’t make any presentations on this because there has not been a decision. But in reality, all of us Nigerians know that there is now the Petroleum Industry Act.

“NNPC is now a limited liability company, so it will run differently. If the Minister of Finance provides for six months, you probably can understand part of the reason for provision of six months before NNPC fully takes off and at that moment, that’s when decisions will be made.

“But I want to make the correction that it is not governors who are making recommendations. It is actually a NEC committee, which comprises all the other people that are looking at this and no decision has been made and probably by the time a decision will be made, the Petroleum Industry Act has fully taken charge, and it will not require any recommendation from anybody.”

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COVID-19 to Erode More than $12.5 Trillion from Global Economy – IMF

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IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday has predicted that COVID-19 will erode more than $12.5 trillion previously estimated from the global economy through 2024. 

Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director, IMF, disclosed this while speaking at an event hosted by the Financial Times. She explained that among things hindering economic recovery or “throwing cold water on the recovery everywhere”, were supply chain disruptions, inflation and tighter monetary policy.

Looking at the surge in oil prices over the high demands outweighing the low supply from the OPEC+ nations; flight disruptions due to the peaking number of reported Omicron variant cases and inflations of global commodities, the initial estimate of global revenue loss valued at $12.5 trillion is said to rise.

Georgieva also noted that the huge gaps in COVID-19 vaccination rates, the overall widening divergence between rich and poor caused by the pandemic, along with learning losses and increased gender impacts, would cause more protests, tensions and insecurity.

The IMF boss’s statement had been confirmed by the international lender’s Chief Economist, Gita Gopinath in December 2021. According to Gopinath, IMF had projected that a more severe COVID variant, such as Omicron, could cost the world’s economy $5.3 trillion. This was in addition to the then projected loss of $12.5 trillion.

Speaking at an event organised by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December. Gopinath described the Omicron variant as “an obvious hit to recoveries everywhere in the world.”

“Our projections are that that would add another loss of around $5.3 trillion to the global economy. So that is in addition to the current projected $12.5 trillion lost.

“We are now in the phase where countries around the world just don’t have the space to keep monetary policy very loose, to kind of keep interest rates extremely low. We are seeing inflationary pressures building up around the world,” she said.

“And so think of a situation where you could have this pandemic last longer, you have longer supply disruptions that are putting inflationary pressures, and then we have the real risk of something we have avoided so far, which is stagflationary concerns,” Gopinath added.

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Removal of Petrol Subsidy: NGF to Dialogue With Labour Unions Over Strike Threat

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Petrol - Investors King

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) under the chairmanship of Dr Kayode Fayemi has said it will meet with the  Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress(TUC) to discuss the removal of petrol subsidy.

The announcement of the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed in November, 2021 that fuel subsidy will be removed in 2022 has birthed reactions from citizens and organised labour unions are threatening to embark on strike.

The federal government, however, promised that N5000 will be given monthly to poor Nigerians as a transportation grant while the subsidy is removed but the decision did not go down well with the unions, hence the strike threat.

Addressing newsmen after the forum meeting, the NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi stated that the 36 states governors discussed major national issues, of which the removal of petrol subsidy was one.

Fayemi noted that on the fuel subsidy, the forum has decided to dialogue with the leadership of the labour unions with the aim of drawing a conclusion that will not affect the people and the Nigerian economy.

In his words, “we discussed the issue around petroleum subsidy and concluded to engage the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress.

“We will engage them on how best to address this issue without causing any disaffection but with a view to salvaging the Nigerian economy for the Nigerian people at the end of the day.

“So, we shall be engaging the NLC as sub-national leaders and with a view to ensuring that the outcome of our engagement will also be fed into the national discourse.”

Fayemi further said that the recommendation of the National Economic Council (NEC) that the price of petrol should be N302 per litre, was not the decision of the governors forum but the responsibility of the federal government.

He hinted that the governors got a presentation from the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) on business growth and ease.

“The presentation elaborated on the need to step up the reforms towards improving the investments and business climate at the sub-national level,” Fayemi said.

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