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Biggest African Economies Stall on Politics, Commodity Slump

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Nigeria inflation hits six-year high

Africa’s two largest economies are stalling amid slumping commodity prices and political infighting that’s hampering decision making.

A government report on Wednesday will probably show Nigeria contracted for a second consecutive quarter in the three months through June as the price and output of oil, its main source of revenue, were squeezed. While South Africa may have avoided falling into a recession, according to the median estimate of five economists surveyed by Bloomberg, the continent’s most-industrialized economy will not grow this year, the nation’s central bank said last month.

The global slump in commodity prices and weak demand from the continent’s main export partners have hit Nigeria, Africa’s second-largest oil producer, and South Africa, where mining produce accounts for about half of export earnings, weighing on both economies. A shortage of foreign currency in Nigeria after the central bank held a currency peg for more than a year, curbed imports, further limiting output, while political uncertainty in South Africa increased in the last week.

“Both countries’ economies are on a declining path,” Manji Cheto, senior vice president at Teneo Intelligence in London, said by phone. “That’s being led by politics in South Africa, and government policies that are reactive in Nigeria and might not work in the short term.”

Nigeria’s economy probably shrank 1.6 percent in the three months through June, according to the median of 15 economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg, following a 0.4 percent year-on-year contraction in the first quarter. Gross domestic product may decline by 1.8 percent for the year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Nigeria delayed the approval of its record spending plans of 6.1 trillion naira ($19.4 billion) as President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration haggled with lawmakers over budgetary allocations. Militants have destroyed energy installations in the Niger River delta, cutting the nation’s oil output to an almost three-decade low, and further reducing earnings from an industry hit by a more than 50 percent drop in price since the middle of 2014.Nigeria relies on oil for two-thirds of government revenue and 90 percent of foreign-currency earnings.

Commodity Prices

“Both countries are adjusting to the decline in commodity prices,” said Sizwe Nxedlana, chief economist at Johannesburg-based First National Bank. “The nice thing about South Africa is that we are significantly more diversified as an economy than Nigeria.”

Nigerian central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele increased borrowing costs by 200 basis points last month to fight inflation that reached 16.5 percent in June and lure investors to help prop up the naira. The currency has lost more than a third of its value against the dollar since the central bank removed a currency peg on June 20.

Diversified Economy

While South Africa’s rand strengthened more than 10 percent against the dollar between the start of the year and early August, helping the economy to temporarily replace Nigeria as the continent’s largest in dollar terms, the currency slumped more than 5 percent since reports a week ago that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan may be arrested. Gordhan, 67, said on Aug. 24 his attorneys received a letter from the Hawks, a special police unit, asking him to come to their office. He did not comply with the request.

“It’s a foregone conclusion that Nigeria is in recession,” Cheto said. “Revenue growth has been positive in South Africa, but if the political situation deteriorates, it will show negatively in the economy.”

The naira was unchanged at 314.75 per dollar by 9:01a.m. on Lagos on Tuesday. The rand strengthened 0.3 percent to 14.3682 per dollar.

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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Another Turbulent Day

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

It’s been another turbulent session after stock markets turned sharply lower on Wednesday as investors fret over the outlook for the economy this year.

Results from Walmart and Target this week have brought into sharp focus the plight facing companies and consumers as inflation begins to bite. And that’s in a country that is still performing relatively strongly with a consumer that still has plenty of savings built up over the last couple of years. Others are not in such a fortunate position.

But inflation is catching up and profit margins are taking a hit. Soon enough though, those higher costs will continue to be passed on and consumers will stop dipping into savings and start being more careful with their spending. There’s a feeling of inevitability about the economy, the question is whether we’re going to see a slowdown or a recession.

The language we’re seeing from Fed officials isn’t filling me with confidence either. We’ve gone from them being confident of a soft landing, to a softish landing and even a safe landing, as per Patrick Harker’s comments on Wednesday. I’m not sure who exactly will be comforted by this, especially given the Fed’s recent record on inflation and past record on soft landings.

And it seems investors aren’t buying it either. A combination of these factors and no doubt more has sent equity markets into another tailspin, with Wall Street registering another big day of losses on Wednesday and poised for another day in the red today. Europe, meanwhile, is also seeing substantial losses between 1% and 2%.

Oil slips as economic concerns weigh

Those economic concerns are filtering through to the oil market which is seeing the third day of losses, down a little more than 1% today. We were bound to see some form of demand destruction if households continued to be squeezed from every angle and it seems we may be seeing that expectation weigh a little as we move into the end of the week.

Meanwhile, China is reportedly looking to take advantage of discounted Russian crude to top up its reserves in a move that somewhat undermines Western sanctions. Although frankly, it would have been more surprising if they and others not involved in them didn’t explore such a move at a time of soaring oil prices.

Still, I expect Brent and WTI will remain very high for the foreseeable future, boosted by the inability of OPEC+ to deliver on its targets and the Chinese reopening.

Gold buoyed by recession fears?

Gold appears to be finally seeing some safe-haven flows as markets react strongly to the threat of recession rather than just higher interest rate expectations. The latter has driven yields higher and made the dollar more attractive while the economic woes they contribute to seem more suited to gold inflows, it seems.

It will be interesting to see how markets react in the coming weeks if the investor mindset has turned from fear of higher rates to the expectation of a significant slowdown or recession. And what that would mean for interest rate expectations going forward. Perhaps we could see gold demand return.

Can bitcoin continue to swim against the tide?

Bitcoin is holding up surprisingly well against the backdrop of such pessimism in the markets. Perhaps because it’s fueled by economic concern rather than simply interest rates. Either way, it’s still trading below $30,000 but crucially it’s not currently in freefall as we’re seeing with the Nasdaq. Whether it can continue to swim against the sentiment tide, time will tell.

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Inflation Hits 40-Year High

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inflation

By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

European equity markets are a little flat on Wednesday, with inflation data this morning once again offering a reminder of the struggles that lie ahead.

Not that we need reminding given all of the data we’ve seen recently. And then there are the gloomy forecasts from central banks, with even the Fed now targeting a softish landing which feels very much like the stage before a mild recession. It may be time to buckle up and prepare for a very bumpy year.

Will BoE move to super-sized rate hikes?

UK inflation is running at a 40-year high and it’s not peaked yet as the cost-of-living crisis looks set to squeeze the economy into recession. While annual inflation came in slightly below expectations at 9%, pressures are broad-based and as the year progresses, it is expected to hit double figures.

There is still plenty more pain to come for households, most notably when the energy price cap increases again in October. But price increases are broad-based, as evident in the jump in core inflation to 6.2%. This comes as the Bank of England has warned of more pain and a probable recession, as it continues to aggressively raise interest rates in the hope of being able to catch up without inflicting too much harm in the process.

Like many other central banks, it has been heavily criticised for its misjudged faith in pandemic-induced inflation being transient for too long. And in the UK’s case, the problem looks far greater and more widespread, with Brexit effects compounding the problems and driving up prices. Can the BoE afford to continue raising rates so gradually, as markets expect with 25 basis points every meeting or will they be forced to join their US counterparts with super-sized hikes? Pressure is mounting.

Oil higher as China starts reopening

Oil prices are on the rise again as Shanghai takes a big step towards reopening following three days of no new cases in the broader community. Restrictions have been tight in many cities across China which have helped keep a lid on oil prices in this very tight market. But with activity now likely to pick up, crude prices could be on the rise once more.

Efforts toward a Russian oil embargo have failed, with Hungary continuing to stand in the way. That could be slowing the rally in oil still, as could US talks with Venezuela which may eventually lead to additional supply. Although ultimately, this comes at a time when major producers simply aren’t producing as much as they should. Russia saw its output fall by another 9% last month as a result of sanctions, which contributed to OPEC+ producing 2.6 million barrels below target, lifting compliance with cuts from 157% to 220%.

Gold looking shaky once more

Gold is a little lower on Wednesday, as the dollar strengthens once more following a few days of declines. We’ve seen a slight corrective move in the greenback which has eased some of the pressure on the yellow metal but we may be seeing that return already. Gold is currently trading a little over $1,800 and a break of it could trigger another wave lower as investors continue to factor in more interest rate hikes and therefore higher yields.

The path of least resistance

With risk aversion starting to creep back in, bitcoin finds itself back below $30,000 which may make some a little nervous. It was always going to be difficult for risk assets to significantly build on the rally in the current environment. What may be encouraging to some is that we haven’t seen a sharp reaction to the move back below such a key level. Of course, that could quickly change with below appearing to offer the path of least resistance.

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Further Pressure on Central Banks

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By Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA

It’s been a relatively calm start to trading this week, with Europe a mixed bag at the close and the US a little lower.

The weaker Chinese figures overnight will be of some concern at a time of slowing economic activity around the world. Still, as has been the case so often in recent years, the lockdowns will have heavily distorted the data. With lockdowns priced in to an extent, the key will be how quickly restrictions are lifted and then how well the economy bounces back.

Stock markets have come under heavy pressure globally as central banks have been forced to become part of the problem rather than the solution, as has so often been their job in the past. We’ve become very used to easy monetary conditions but now we have a devastating combination of a cost-of-living crisis, looming recession, very high inflation and much higher interest rates.

And as we’re hearing so often now, policymakers understand the pain that households are feeling and will experience going forward but getting inflation back under control is the primary focus. Which means further pain ahead.

The BoE monetary policy report hearing reflected everything we’ve heard in recent weeks as the UK heads for recession and double-digit inflation. Bailey and his colleagues accept how bad the situation in the UK is and the scale of the task at hand but whether they’re doing enough to address it is hard to say. They were among the first to start hiking late last year but have still been criticised for starting too late.

Oil near recent highs after falling on Chinese data

Oil prices have recovered earlier losses that came in the wake of the Chinese figures. While lockdowns have been priced in over the weeks, the numbers were much worse than expected which weighed heavily on crude. While an EU ban on Russian oil suffered another setback as Hungary stood firm against it, the bloc is continuing to work on an agreement while Germany is reportedly planning to phase it out regardless, which could be helping to support prices today.

Oil is trading around $110, towards the upper end of where it’s traded over the last couple of months. China looking to ease restrictions could keep prices more elevated having contributed to them trading at more reasonable levels. A move above $115 in Brent would be interesting, with that having been something of a ceiling for rallies over the last couple of months.

Gold flat but remains under pressure

Gold is flat on the day after slipping this morning below $1,800 for the second time in as many sessions. The yellow metal has been very vulnerable to rising yields and a stronger dollar recently as central banks are forced into much more aggressive action. With the dollar remaining a hot favourite and pressure intensifying on central banks to tackle inflation, gold could remain out of favour for a while yet.

Bitcoin struggles at $30,000

An impressive rebound in bitcoin after breaking $30,000 may already have run its course, with the cryptocurrency giving up earlier gains to trade a little lower on the day. It’s spent a little time over the last couple of days above $30,000 but it is struggling to hang on to them. That doesn’t bode well at a time of risk aversion in the markets and such negative coverage of stablecoins following the Terra collapse. There may be more pain ahead.

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