HONG KONG/LONDON, June 17 (Fitch) Nigeria’s planned shift to a more flexible foreign-exchange regime could aid the sovereign’s adjustment to lower oil prices and support growth, although implementation may present challenges, Fitch Ratings says.
Establishing the new framework’s credibility will be key to its effectiveness in attracting portfolio flows and FDI to make up for lower oil export receipts. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday issued revised guidelines for a single, “market-driven” inter-bank FX market, open to authorised dealers and other entities.
The central bank first indicated that it planned to move to a more flexible exchange rate at its most recent Monetary Policy Committee meeting in May. The CBN’s previous policy of restricting access to the official FX market and supporting the naira, rather than risk the inflationary impact of devaluation, has been negative for Nigeria’s sovereign credit profile.
Defending the naira has lowered reserves and increased external vulnerabilities, while a shortage of hard currency has weighed on the non-oil economy. The change of policy is consistent with our view that the CBN would struggle to defend the naira indefinitely. But a backlog of unmet dollar demand (estimates range from USD4bn to USD9bn) has built up and any inability to clear a significant portion of that backlog early in the transition would hinder the effectiveness of the new framework.
The CBN will introduce a new non-deliverable forward to try to limit exchange-rate volatility under the new system, by moving some of the dollar demand to the futures market and away from the spot market. Even so, the CBN will probably have to deploy a large portion of its international reserves during the first week(s) of implementation. It also reserves the right to intervene by buying and selling FX to smooth market movements, although it has made no specific announcements about trading bands or break points that might lead to intervention.
Nigeria’s unorthodox FX policy has made raising external financing more difficult. Allowing the market to determine the value of the naira could ease this, although we think much potential FDI may remain on the sidelines until a clearer picture emerges of how the new system is functioning. Foreign investment in the domestic bond market is very low and not likely to increase in the near term.
High demand for FXafter a devaluation may also limit the benefit to the current account from recovering oil prices. An increase in FX liquidity would support a potential recovery in growth in 2H16. Nigeria’s GDP contracted 0.36% yoy in the first three months of this year, and we think this contraction has probably continued in 2Q16 due to hard currency shortages, and unrest in the Niger Delta lowering oil production.
Naira devaluation could lead to a further spike in CPI inflation, which rose to a six-year high of 15.6% in May. But we think the inflation pass-through from the official rate is limited and a fall in the parallel rate would be deflationary, which along with the increasing availability of hard currency could lower inflation.
We will assess the implications of Nigeria’s new exchange rate policy on its economy and external finances as part of our next review of the country’s ‘BB-‘/Negative sovereign rating.
Our base case for Nigerian banks is that regulatory total capital ratios will not decline significantly under the new regime. Any impact will be offset by still strong profitability and high levels of internal capital generation. The new FX regime crucially also provides access to US dollars for the banks to meet their internal and external obligations.
Oil Posts 2% Gain for the Week Despite India Virus Surge
Oil prices steadied on Friday and were set for a weekly gain against the backdrop of optimism over a global economic recovery, though the COVID-19 crisis in India capped prices.
Brent crude futures settled 0.28% higher at $68.28 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude advanced 0.29% to $64.90 per barrel.
Both Brent and WTI are on track for second consecutive weekly gains as easing restrictions on movement in the United States and Europe, recovering factory operations and coronavirus vaccinations pave the way for a revival in fuel demand.
In China, data showed export growth accelerated unexpectedly in April while a private survey pointed to strong expansion in service sector activity.
However, crude imports by the world’s biggest buyer fell 0.2% in April from a year earlier to 40.36 million tonnes, or 9.82 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since December.
In the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, jobless claims have dropped, signalling the labour market recovery has entered a new phase as the economy recovers.
The recovery in oil demand, however, has been uneven as surging COVID-19 cases in India reduce fuel consumption in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer.
“Brent came within a whisker of breaking past $70 a barrel this week but failed at the final hurdle as demand uncertainty dragged on prices,” said Stephen Brennock at oil brokerage PVM.
The resurgence of COVID-19 in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand is hindering gasoline demand recovery, energy consultancy FGE said in a client note, though some of the lost demand has been offset by countries such as China, where recent Labour Day holiday travel surpassed 2019 levels.
“Gasoline demand in the U.S. and parts of Europe is faring relatively well,” FGE said.
“Further out, we could see demand pick up as lockdowns are eased and pent-up demand is released during the summer driving season.”
Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange to Commence Gold Trading
With the admission of Dukia Gold’s diversified financial instruments backed by gold as the underlying asset, Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange is set to commence gold trading.
According to Dukia Gold, the instruments will be in form of exchange-traded notes, commercial papers and other gold-backed securities, adding that it will enable the company to deepen the commodities market in Nigeria, increase capacity, generate foreign exchange for the Nigerian government to better diversify foreign reserves and create jobs across the metal production value chain.
Tunde Fagbemi, the Chairman, Dukia Gold, disclosed this while addressing journalists at Pre-Listing Media Interactive Session in Lagos on Thursday.
He said, “We are proud to be the first gold company whose products would be listed on the Lagos Futures and Commodities Exchange. The listing shall enable us facilitate our infrastructure development, expand capacity and create fungible products.
“This has potential to shore up Nigeria’s foreign reserve and create an alternative window for preservation of pension funds. A gold-backed security is a hedge against inflation and convenient preservation of capital.”
“As a global player, we comply with the practices and procedures of London Bullion Market Association and many other international bodies. Our refinery will also have multiplier effects on the development of rural areas anywhere it is located,” he added.
Mr Olusegun Akanji, the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, Heritage Bank, said the lender had created a buying centre for verification of quality and quantity of gold and reference price to ensure price discovery in line with the global standard.
Oil Nears $70 as Easing Western Lockdowns Boost Summer Demand Outlook
Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday as easing of lockdowns in the United States and parts of Europe heralded a boost in fuel demand in summer season and offset concerns about the rise of COVID-19 infections in India and Japan.
Brent crude rose 93 cents, or 1.4%, to $69.81 a barrel at 1008 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.54 a barrel.
Both contracts hit the highest level since mid-March in intra-day trade.
“A return to $70 oil is edging closer to becoming reality,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
“The jump in oil prices came amid expectations of strong demand as western economies reopen. Indeed, anticipation of a pick-up in fuel and energy usage in the United States and Europe over the summer months is running high,” he said.
Crude prices were also supported by a large fall in U.S. inventories.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group reported crude stockpiles fell by 7.7 million barrels in the week ended April 30, according to two market sources. That was more than triple the drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Gasoline stockpiles fell by 5.3 million barrels.
Traders are awaiting data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday to see if official data shows such a large fall.
“If confirmed by the EIA, that would mark the largest weekly fall in the official data since late January,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.
The rise in oil prices to nearly two-month highs has been supported by COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the United States and Europe.
Euro zone business activity accelerated last month as the bloc’s dominant services industry shrugged off renewed lockdowns and returned to growth.
“The partial lifting of mobility restrictions, the expectation that tourism will return in the near future, and the lure of the psychologically important $70 mark are all likely to have contributed to the price rise,” Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.
This has offset a drop in fuel demand in India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“However, if we were to eventually see a national lockdown imposed, this would likely hit sentiment,” ING Economics analysts said of the situation in India.
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