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Prime Office Rents Drop 6% in Q2’16 as Oversupply, Low Demand Persist

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Transactions in the prime office market in the second quarter of this year reflected the challenges in the economy and market uncertainties, typified by capital and foreign exchange constraints, as well as the cautious stance taken by investors, fuelled the lull in these transactions which saw rents drop.

Demand was so low that landlords had no option but to drop their rents by 6 percents and more, in some locations. Average asking rents for A-grade offices in Ikoyi were on a downward trend, averaging US$850 per square metre per annum. Achievable rents were 8 percent to 15 percent below asking rents.

In Victoria Island (VI), rents eased by 6 percent to an average asking rent of US$780 per square metre per annum, while achievable rents were 10 percent to 20 percent below asking rents.

Besides the capital and foreign exchange constraints, analysts also attribute this development to the Q1:2016 GDP year-on-year growth figure which showed a decline of -0.36 percent, down from 2.11 percent in Q4:2015 and 3.96 percent in Q1: 2015.This, they say, is the lowest GDP growth in 25 years.

“This low growth figure can be largely attributed to the shrinking of the oil, power and manufacturing industries. The continued poor performance of the economy has lingering effects on the office market”, explains Kola Oseni, a research analyst at Broll Nigeria, in a recent report.

Bismarck Rewane, CEO, Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited, agrees, and also attributes the negative decline in GDP to low consumer confidence and spending power, growing unemployment, rising inflation, now estimated at 16.5 percent, etc.

Oseni notes that though activity picked up marginally through corporate relocations, supply in the market continued to significantly outweigh demand, pointing out that this market reality saw landlords extend concessions by way of rent reduction, favourable lease terms and other tenant incentives in a bid to attract corporate occupiers and increase take-up rates.

Obi Nwogugu, Head, Real Estate Investment Unit of Africa Capital Alliance (ACA), affirmed in an interview in Lagos, that the prime office market was experiencing an oversupply and that landlords were doing their best to beat competition and attract tenants.

“We have to deal with the realities (competition) like everyone else and we think that our building is well positioned with good amenities. The floor-plates are very efficient. We have put in place very compelling green features which will make occupancy cost very competitive”, he assured.

Oseni recalls that the slowdown in activity and high vacancy rates recorded in previous quarters pushed landlords to extend even more concessions to tenants. “In addition to rent reductions, landlords have been more willing to provide other incentives such as fit-out allowances which are attractive to tenants deterred by the large capital expenditure needed to furnish space.

“In some instances, landlords have also been willing to furnish the space on offer on tenant’s behalf. Typically, this cost is amortised over the lease term and has been welcomed by tenants who benefit from the considerable reduction in their upfront costs. Some occupiers sought to take advantage of these opportunities by concluding relocations to better quality space in prime buildings”, he disclosed.

The investment market during this period was not encouraging. The market saw low transaction levels and given the prevailing economic conditions, the period for which assets have been on the market continued to increase with little acquisition interest expressed from potential investors.

Oseni reasons that if the current market conditions persist, a sustained period of downward pressure on rents in prime regions such as Ikoyi and VI is envisaged, adding that from a leasing perspective, the devaluation of the naira has seen an increase in effective rents which are typically pegged to the prevailing interbank rate. “In this regard, the pressure on landlords to extend more concessions in order to attract tenants is likely to remain over the short to medium term”, he predicts.

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.

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Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Breaks $80 Price Level Amid Supply Concerns

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Brent crude oil - Investors King

Oil markets climbed for a sixth day on Tuesday, reversing earlier losses, on fears over tight supply while surging prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal also lent support.

Brent crude futures gained $1.05, or 1.3%, to $80.58 a barrel at 0645 GMT, after reaching its highest since October 2018 at $80.75 earlier in the session. It surged 1.8% on Monday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $1.06, or 1.4%, to $76.51 a barrel, the highest since July 6. It jumped 2% the previous day.

“Investors remained bullish as supply disruptions in the United States from hurricanes are continuing for longer than expected at a time when demand is picking up due to easing lockdown measures and the wider rollouts of COVID-19 vaccination,” said Chiyoki Chen, chief analyst at Sunward Trading.

Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas, which swept through the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in August and September, damaged platforms, pipelines and processing hubs, shutting most offshore production for weeks.

Also weighing on supply, top African oil exporters Nigeria and Angola will struggle to boost output to their quotas set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) until at least next year as underinvestment and nagging maintenance problems continue to hobble output, sources at their respective oil firms warn.

Their battle mirrors that of several other members of the OPEC+ group who curbed production in the past year to support prices when COVID-19 hit demand, but are now failing to ramp up output to meet soaring global fuel needs as economies recover.

The supply issues are occurring as countries ease their COVID-19 movement restrictions, potentially boosting demand.

Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest oil user, plans to lift a coronavirus state of emergency in all regions on Thursday as the number of new cases falls and the strain on the medical system eases, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.

Analysts also say rising prices of spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal may support higher oil prices.

“Oil demand could pick up by an additional 0.5 million barrels per day, or 0.5% of global oil supply, as high gas prices force a switch from gas to oil consumption,” Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.

He added that energy prices could rally from here if the Northern Hemisphere winter proved colder than expected.

China is in the grip of a power crunch as a shortage of coal supplies, tougher emissions standards and strong demand from manufacturers and industry have pushed coal prices to record highs and triggered widespread curbs on usage.

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Gold

Gold Prices Rise as Soft Dollar Supports Safe-haven Appeal

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gold bars - Investors King

Gold prices firmed on Monday, propped up by a subdued dollar and slight retreat in the U.S. Treasury yields, with investors gearing up for a week of speeches from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers for cues on the central bank’s rate hike path.

Spot gold was up 0.5% at $1,759.06 per ounce, as of 0400 GMT, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.4% at $1,759.00.

While the dollar index softened, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yields eased after hitting their highest since early-July. A weaker dollar offered support to gold prices, making bullion cheaper for holders of other currencies.

“Gold is still looking slightly precarious where it is right now, and it’s probably bouncing off key technical level around $1,750,” IG Market analyst Kyle Rodda said.

“Gold remains an yield story and that yield story is very much tied back to the tapering story.”

A slew of Fed officials are due to speak this week including Chairman Jerome Powell, who will testify this week before Congress on the central bank’s policy response to the pandemic.

“There’ll be a lot of questions being put to Fed speakers about what the dot plots implied last week and weather there is higher risk of heightened inflation going forward and that rate hikes could be coming in the first half of 2022,” Rodda added.

A pair of Federal Reserve policymakers said on Friday they felt the U.S. economy is already in good enough shape for the central bank to begin to withdraw support for the economy.

Gold is often considered a hedge against higher inflation, but a Fed rate hike would increase the opportunity cost of holding gold, which pays no interest.

Investors also kept a close watch on developments in debt-laden property giant China Evergrande saga as the firm missed a payment on offshore bonds last week, with further payment due this week.

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, increased 0.1% to 993.52 tonnes on Friday from 992.65 tonnes in the prior session.

Silver rose 0.9% to $22.61 per ounce.

Platinum climbed 1.3% to $994.91, while palladium gained 0.7% to $1,985.32.

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Crude Oil

Brent Crude Oil Near $80 Per Barrel Amid Supply Constraints

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Brent crude oil - Investors King

Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day on Monday with Brent heading for $80 amid supply concerns as parts of the world sees demand pick up with the easing of pandemic conditions.

Brent crude was up $1.14 or 1.5% at $79.23 a barrel by 0208 GMT, having risen a third consecutive week through Friday. U.S. Oil added $1.11 or 1.5% to $75.09, its highest since July, after rising for a fifth straight week last week.

“Supply tightness continues to draw on inventories across all regions,” ANZ Research said in a note.

Rising gas prices as also helping drive oil higher as the liquid becomes relatively cheaper for power generation, ANZ analysts said in the note.

Caught short by the demand rebound, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, have had difficulty raising output as under-investment or maintenance delays persist from the pandemic.

China’s first public sale of state oil reserves has barely acted to cap gains as PetroChina and Hengli Petrochemical bought four cargoes totalling about 4.43 million barrels.

India’s oil imports hit a three-month peak in August, rebounding from nearly one-year lows reached in July, as refiners in the second-biggest importer of crude stocked up in anticipation of higher demand.

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