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Fitch Downgrades Nigeria’s Credit Rating

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Fitch Ratings

International rating agency, Fitch Ratings Inc., yesterday downgraded Nigeria’s credit ratings, citing the likelihood of the country to miss its debt obligations.

In a statement issued, yesterday, Fitch said: “The outlooks are stable. The issue ratings on Nigeria’s senior unsecured foreign-currency bonds have also been downgraded to ‘B+’ from ‘BB-’. The Country Ceiling has been revised down to ‘B+’ from ‘BB-’ and the Short-Term Foreign-Currency IDR affirmed at ‘B’.”

The new ratings imply that though Nigeria is currently meeting financial commitments, there is a limited margin of safety and capacity for continued timely payments is contingent upon a sustained, favourable business and economic environment.

Explaining the rationale for downgrading the country’s rating, Fitch said: “Nigeria’s fiscal and external vulnerability has worsened due to a sharp fall in oil revenue and fiscal and monetary adjustments that were slow to take shape and insufficient to mitigate the impact of low global oil prices. Renewed insurgency in the Niger Delta in the first half of 2016 has lowered oil production, magnifying pressures on export revenues and limiting the inflow of hard currency.

Forecast

Fitch forecasts Nigeria’s general government fiscal deficit to grow to 4.2 percent in 2016, after averaging 1.5 percent in 2011-15, before beginning to narrow in 2017.

“Despite expected increases in non-oil revenue, the agency expects overall general government revenue to drop to just 5.5 percent of GDP, from an average of 12 per cent in 2011-15.

“The fall in general government revenue represents a risk to the country’s debt profile. Fitch estimates general government debt/revenue will rise to 259 percent in 2016 from 181 percent in 2015, higher than the 223 percent median for ‘B’ rated peers.  Nevertheless, depreciation of the naira will increase the debt and debt service burden.

“On 20 June, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) commenced trading on the inter-bank foreign exchange market under a revised set of guidelines that will result in a more flexible exchange rate. However, the new regime will not be fully flexible as it will still involve a parallel market as importers of 41 items are excluded from the inter-bank market, which will continue to hinder growth, capital inflows and investment, in Fitch’s view.

Uncertainty

Furthermore, the delayed change in exchange rate policy casts some uncertainty over the authorities’ commitment to a more flexible system. The CBN’s previous exchange rate policy of managing demand for hard currency and restricting access to dollar auctions at the official FX rate resulted in a significant shortage in dollar liquidity.

“Fitch expects that some continued intervention in the FX market will reduce international reserves, which were below USD27bn before the new market began trading, compared with USD34bn at end-2014. Fitch expects reserves to fall to 3.4 months cover of current external payments by end-2016. Fitch forecasts GDP growth to fall to 1.5 percent in 2016, down from 2.7 percent in the previous year, after GDP contracted by 0.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2016, stemming partly from low hard currency liquidity.  The second quarter is likely to experience a further contraction, as the resurgence of violence in the Niger Delta has brought oil production levels down to around 1.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) in May, from approximately 2.1 mbpd in January.”

The naira yesterday strengthened for the second consecutive day in the interbank foreign exchange market for spot and future transactions, while interest rate fell by more than half to 34 percent.

Data released by Financial Market Dealers Quote (FMDQ) showed that the interbank exchange rate for spot transactions rose to N281.67 per dollar yesterday from N282.8 on Wednesday, indicating N1.1 or 0.3 percent appreciation for the naira. However, the interbank exchange rates for all future transactions    remained stable.

On the other hand interest rate in the interbank money market dropped sharply by more than half in response to decision of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to open its discount window for banks to use their treasury bills to fund foreign exchange purchases.

Interest rate on overnight lending fell from average of 68 per cent on Wednesday to 34 percent yesterday while interest rate on securitised lending fell to 30 per cent from 63 per cent.

Meanwhile FMDQ yesterday announced it has revised the methodology and publication standard for Nigeria Interbank Foreign Exchange (NIFEX) in line with the Principles for Financial Benchmarks of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). The revised standard, the company stated, would take effect from today June 24, 2016.

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

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Energy

Presidency Set to Roll Out 2,700 CNG-Powered Vehicles Ahead of Tinubu’s Anniversary

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BOC Gases Nigeria Plc - Investors King

In a significant move toward a greener and more sustainable future for Nigeria’s transportation sector, the Presidency has announced plans to launch approximately 2,700 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)-powered buses and tricycles before May 29, President Bola Tinubu’s first year in office.

The ambitious initiative, spearheaded by the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, aims to address pressing issues of rising fuel costs, environmental pollution, and the need for more efficient mass transit options across the country.

With the impending rollout, Nigeria is poised to take significant strides towards joining the league of nations that have embraced CNG as a viable alternative fuel source for public transportation.

The move comes as part of the Presidential CNG Initiative, launched by President Tinubu in October 2023, shortly after the removal of petrol subsidy.

The Presidential CNG Initiative, designed to deliver cheaper, safer, and more climate-friendly energy options, has been allocated a substantial budget of N100 billion from the palliative budget.

This funding will support the purchase of 5,500 CNG vehicles, including buses and tricycles, along with 100 electric buses and over 20,000 CNG conversion kits.

Also, the initiative encompasses the development of CNG refilling stations and electric charging stations nationwide, ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to support the transition to cleaner energy sources.

Mr. Onanuga emphasized that all necessary preparations have been made for the delivery of the first set of critical assets for deployment and launch of the CNG initiative ahead of the first anniversary of the Tinubu administration.

Approximately 2,500 tricycles are expected to be ready before May 29, 2024, with plans to deliver 200 units of buses within the same timeframe.

The deployment of CNG buses and tricycles marks a significant milestone in Nigeria’s energy transition journey.

It not only reduces the country’s dependence on traditional fossil fuels but also contributes to mitigating environmental pollution and improving air quality in urban centers.

In addition to the rollout of CNG vehicles, the initiative includes partnerships with the private sector to establish conversion workshops and refueling sites across 18 states before the end of 2024.

These efforts underscore the collaborative approach taken by the government and industry stakeholders to facilitate the adoption of CNG technology and drive sustainable growth in the transportation sector.

As Nigeria prepares to celebrate President Tinubu’s first year in office, the rollout of 2,700 CNG-powered vehicles stands as a testament to the government’s commitment to fostering innovation, promoting environmental stewardship, and improving the lives of its citizens through transformative initiatives in the energy sector.

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Commodities

IPMAN Anticipates Further Drop in Diesel Price to N700/Litre

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The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) is looking forward to another significant drop in the price of diesel, with expectations set on a target of N700 per litre.

This anticipation follows recent reductions initiated by the Dangote refinery, which has already seen the price of diesel decrease from over N1,200 to N1,000 per litre.

Hammed Fashola, the National Vice President of IPMAN, expressed this optimism on Wednesday, highlighting the association’s appreciation for the efforts made by the Dangote refinery to make diesel more affordable for consumers.

In an interview, Fashola reiterated IPMAN’s belief that the price of diesel could continue to decrease, especially with the recent rebound of the naira against the dollar.

Fashola stated the removal of various challenges associated with imported diesel, such as shipment costs, customs duties, and taxes, as significant factors contributing to the potential reduction in price.

With diesel now being produced locally, these obstacles have been eliminated, paving the way for lower costs for consumers.

“We still expect that diesel will still come down more. Because if you look at the dollar rate to the naira now, the currency is doing well against the dollar. The exchange rate now is almost N1,000 on the black market. We still expect that the dollar will come down more,” Fashola stated.

The IPMAN boss highlighted the collective support for Dangote and emphasized the importance of making diesel affordable for all citizens. He expressed gratitude for the recent price cuts initiated by the refinery and reiterated the association’s hopes for further reductions to benefit consumers across Nigeria.

Dangote Refinery, which began selling diesel about two weeks ago, has been instrumental in driving down prices. Initially, diesel was priced at N1,600 per litre, but it has since been reduced to N1,000 per litre.

This reduction has been welcomed by both consumers and industry experts, who see it as a positive step towards economic relief and increased economic activities.

Analysts have also weighed in on the potential benefits of lower diesel prices. Economist Femi Oladele highlighted the potential for reduced production costs, which could lead to lower prices for goods and services.

Also, savings in foreign exchange could bolster the nation’s reserves, contributing to economic stability.

Jonathan Thomas, an analyst at Sankore Investment Limited, emphasized the broader impact of fuel prices on the economy.

Lower diesel prices not only benefit consumers but also impact the total cost of production, thereby influencing the general price level of goods and services.

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Crude Oil

Oil Markets Hold Breath as Iran-Israel Tensions Mount

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Crude Oil - Investors King

Amidst escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, the global oil markets find itself in a precarious position, with traders and investors anxiously watching for potential ramifications on prices and supply dynamics.

The latest developments have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the already volatile energy sector, prompting a flurry of activity and speculation among industry players.

Last week marked a downturn for oil as Brent crude experienced its first back-to-back weekly decline of the year, slipping below $87 a barrel. This decline, coupled with the largest drop since early February, reflects the unease permeating through the market as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East reach a fever pitch.

The catalyst for this downturn stems from a series of events that unfolded in the region.

Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile strike on Israel sent shockwaves through the international community, triggering a swift response from Israeli authorities.

However, conflicting reports emerged regarding the severity of Israel’s retaliation, leaving traders grappling with uncertainty over the potential escalation of hostilities.

In response to the heightened tensions, the US House of Representatives passed new sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector, signaling a firm stance against the Islamic Republic’s aggressive actions.

With the measure now poised for Senate approval, the specter of further economic pressure on Iran looms large, raising concerns about potential disruptions to global oil supplies.

Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy for ING Groep NV, who commented on the surprising resilience of oil prices in the face of heightened risk and tension in the Middle East, noted that while the market remains vigilant, it appears unfazed by the current geopolitical climate, choosing instead to adopt a wait-and-see approach regarding the impact of US sanctions on Iranian oil flows.

Despite the prevailing sense of uncertainty, there are signs of bullish sentiment among money managers, who are increasingly positioning themselves to capitalize on any potential spikes in oil prices.

Oil call options, which profit from price increases, are trading at a premium over puts, indicating a belief among investors that the market could tilt in favor of higher prices amidst geopolitical turmoil.

Looking ahead, the focus shifts to a flurry of upcoming events that could further shape the trajectory of oil markets.

Investors eagerly await a slew of economic data from the United States, including key indicators such as the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, which will provide valuable insights into the future path of monetary policy.

Additionally, earnings reports from major oil companies, including TotalEnergies SE, Chevron Corp., and Exxon Mobil Corp., are set to be released this week.

These reports will offer a glimpse into the financial health of the industry giants and shed light on their production growth strategies amid a backdrop of geopolitical instability.

As tensions continue to simmer in the Middle East, the oil markets remain on edge, with every development closely scrutinized for its potential impact on prices and global energy security.

In this climate of uncertainty, traders and investors alike brace themselves for the next twist in this geopolitical saga, mindful of the far-reaching implications for the world’s most vital commodity.

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