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Pound Rises as May Eases Brexit Angst

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  • Pound Rises as May Eases Brexit Angst

The pound rallied after Prime Minister Theresa May accepted that Parliament should be allowed to vote on her Brexit plan. European stocks fluctuated as investors assessed earnings for signs of growth against the backdrop of speculation on a tightening of U.S. monetary policy.

Sterling climbed the most since August as May’s move reassured investors that the government would take a more measured approached to negotiations with the European Union. Stocks in the region were little changed while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index retreated to a three-week low. Thailand’s stock market and currency extended this week’s losses after the royal palace said Sunday that King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s condition was unstable. Oil climbed as OPEC received further commitments from Russia that the world’s largest energy exporter is willing to participate in a coordinated effort to curb production.

May’s decision to give lawmakers a say over Brexit halted a four-day rout in the pound that was sparked by concern she was taking a hard-line approach to the negotiations. It’s not just sterling that’s been upended in foreign-exchange markets this week — the baht’s slump sent it to the weakest level since January, while the rand plunged the most in more than three months on Tuesday after South Africa’s finance minister was summoned to appear in court to face charges. That’s helping support the dollar, which has also been buoyed by speculation that the Federal Reserve is moving closer to raising interest rates.

“The vote is a major concession that does reduce the room to maneuver for Theresa May’s government in the negotiation,” said Hans Redeker, Morgan Stanley’s chief global currency strategist in London. “That is currently read as positive for sterling.”

Currencies

The pound climbed 1.1 percent to $1.2250 at 10:56 a.m. in London, rebounding from near a three-decade low.

Parliament will debate on Wednesday a motion from the opposition Labour Party calling for a “full and transparent debate on the government’s plan for leaving the EU” and for lawmakers to be able to “properly scrutinize that plan” before May begins formal talks. In response, May tabled an amendment that effectively accepted the motion, adding that there shouldn’t be an attempt to block Brexit or “undermine the negotiating position of the government.”

The Dollar Spot Index, a gauge of the greenback against 10 major peers, was little changed after rising for the past two days and closing at the strongest level since July 25 on Tuesday. Investors will scrutinize minutes from the Fed’s latest decision due Wednesday, with odds of a U.S. rate increase by year-end climbing to 68 percent amid speculation the recent surge in oil prices will fuel inflation, based on futures data compiled by Bloomberg.

China’s central bank weakened the yuan’s reference rate for a sixth day, the longest run of cuts in nine months, amid speculation policy makers will allow further declines as the dollar rises. The currency was little changed at a six-year low.

South Africa’s rand swung between gains and losses after tumbling 3.9 percent on Tuesday, the most in more than three months, after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was summoned to appear in court.

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.

Forex

CBN Resumes Forex Sales as Naira Hits N1,570/$ at Parallel Market

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has resumed the sale of foreign exchange to eligible Bureau De Change (BDC) operators.

The decision was after Naira dipped to N1,570 per dollar in the parallel market,

CBN announced that it would sell dollars to BDCs at a rate of N1,450 per dollar. This decision aims to address distortions in the retail end of the forex market and support the demand for invisible transactions.

Following the CBN’s intervention, the dollar, which recently traded as low as 1,640 per dollar, has shown signs of stabilization.

The apex bank’s action is expected to inject liquidity and restore confidence among market participants.

BDC operators have welcomed the move. Mohammed Magaji, an operator in Abuja, noted that the dollar was selling at 1,630 per dollar.

He emphasized the market’s volatile nature but expressed optimism about the CBN’s intervention.

Aminu Gwadebe, President of the Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria, attributed the naira’s decline to acute shortages, speculative activities, and increased demand due to recent duty waivers.

He praised the CBN’s action as a necessary step to alleviate market pressures.

The CBN’s efforts include selling $20,000 to each eligible BDC, with a directive to limit profit margins to 1.5% above the purchase rate.

This strategy aims to ensure that end-users receive fair rates and to curb inflationary pressures.

The CBN’s ongoing reforms seek to achieve a market-determined exchange rate for the naira. As the naira continues to navigate turbulent waters, stakeholders remain hopeful that these measures will lead to a more stable and liquid forex market.

Market analysts suggest that sustained interventions and increased access to foreign exchange could help reverse the naira’s downward trend.

The CBN’s actions demonstrate a commitment to tackling the challenges facing the foreign exchange market and supporting Nigeria’s economic stability.

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Finance

Nigeria’s FX Inflows Leap 57% as CBN Steers Economic Confidence

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Nigeria’s foreign exchange (FX) inflows have surged by 57% over the past year, signaling newfound stability for the Naira.

Analysts attribute this growth to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) consistent policies, which have bolstered investor confidence and enhanced market stability in Africa’s most populous nation.

Data from the CBN reveals that FX inflows rose to $8.86 billion in February 2024, compared to $5.66 billion in February 2023.

This increase is a testament to the effectiveness of the CBN’s strategic measures. Similarly, foreign exchange turnover skyrocketed 180% year-on-year to $240.64 million in February 2024.

“The upsurge in FX inflows reflects the positive impacts of increased interest rates and the relative stability of the exchange rate,” said Ayokunle Olubunmi, head of financial institutions ratings at Agusto Consulting.

He noted that high interest rates in Nigeria are attracting investors seeking better returns compared to developed countries.

The CBN has actively engaged with foreign investors, addressing concerns and providing insights into monetary policy actions.

Olayemi Cardoso, the CBN governor, emphasized that investor confidence has been restored, partly due to the bank’s clearance of a $7 billion foreign exchange backlog.

New investments into Nigeria also increased significantly, reaching $1.24 billion in February 2024, compared to $0.33 billion in January 2024. This uptick is indicative of a more stable and attractive investment climate.

Analysts point out that improved oil production and higher global oil prices have significantly boosted FX earnings.

Also, government policies aimed at attracting foreign investment, along with strategic management of the exchange rate, have played pivotal roles in this economic revival.

The CBN’s efforts to diversify the economy and boost non-oil exports are starting to yield results.

Increased diaspora remittances, facilitated by better official channels and incentives, have further contributed to the rise in FX inflows.

While challenges remain, the positive trend in FX inflows suggests a more robust and stable economy, encouraging further investment.

Consistent and transparent economic policies are expected to enhance investor trust, stabilizing the Naira and fostering a more favorable exchange rate environment.

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Naira

Naira Hits Five-Month Low Amid Dollar Demand Surge

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Nigeria’s naira extended its losing streak to a fifth consecutive day as it slipped to its weakest level since March despite the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) interventions.

The naira closed at 1,577.29 per dollar on Monday, down from Friday’s N1,563.8 per dollar on FMDQ.

This decline comes despite the CBN’s efforts to stabilize the currency by injecting $122.7 million through dollar sales into the market.

However, analysts argue that these amounts were insufficient to balance the robust domestic demand for the greenback.

“The CBN has been in the market selling $50 million from time to time, which is not enough,” commented Carlo Morelli, senior portfolio manager at Azimut Investment SA.

Morelli attributes the persistent pressure on the naira to capital outflows and a lack of investor confidence in the currency, despite the central bank’s commendable efforts in tightening monetary policy and reducing naira liquidity.

Central Bank Governor Olayemi Cardoso has aggressively raised interest rates in an attempt to curb inflation and stabilize the naira.

The benchmark borrowing rate now stands at 26.25%, following an increase of 14.75 percentage points since May 2022.

However, the currency has weakened by approximately 70% against the dollar since exchange-rate controls were eased last year.

“Restoring foreign exchange broad confidence is the last step, and the huge volatility in May delayed the return to normalcy,” Morelli added.

“Many foreign investors are still waiting for more evidence of stability before considering Nigeria investable.”

The naira’s decline makes it the second-worst performing currency tracked by Bloomberg in 2024, trailing only the Lebanese pound.

The recent depreciation has been fueled by both seasonal dollar demand and ongoing investor skepticism.

The central bank’s next policy decision, set for July 23, is expected to address these issues. Monday’s data showing annual inflation quickened to 34.2% in June suggests that another rate hike might be on the horizon.

In a bid to bolster the naira, the central bank has increased Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves to $35 billion as of July 8, the highest level since May 30, 2023.

This boost is attributed to recent loans from the World Bank and the African Export-Import Bank.

Omobola Adu, an analyst at BancTrust & Co. Investment Bank, noted that recent pressure on the naira has also stemmed from corporates and individuals preparing for foreign vacations.

“Boosting the supply of FX into the country remains crucial for the government to alleviate pressure on the naira,” Adu stated.

He suggested that a eurobond or local dollar bond sale later this year, along with increased support from multilateral institutions, could help shore up reserves.

Despite these challenges, Central Bank Governor Cardoso remains optimistic, asserting that the worst of the currency’s volatility is over.

He reiterated this sentiment on Thursday in Lagos, addressing business leaders and highlighting improvements in crude output and capital inflows as positive signs.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude producer, relies heavily on oil sales, which account for at least 80% of its export earnings.

The country’s combined crude oil and condensate output rose to 1.5 million barrels per day in June, the highest since February, according to the upstream petroleum regulatory commission.

“While the naira may be undervalued, for the naira to stabilize and perhaps regain ground, large portfolio and capital inflows are needed,” said Samir Gadio, head of Africa strategy at Standard Chartered Plc in London.

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