- As MPC Meets Tomorrow, Analysts Predict Rates Retention to Further Check Inflation
As the monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) converge in Abuja tomorrow for its maiden meeting this year, economic analysts have predicted that its members would vote for retention of the policy rates.
Specifically, the analysts believe the best way the CBN could go with the current challenges in the economy is to hold the monetary policy rate (MPR) so as not exacerbate the rising inflation, currently at 18.55 per cent, especially with widespread speculation of fuel price increase. It is one of the analysts’ view that, if the MPC decides against policy shift, the apex bank could avoid the wrath of the real sector, which is already groaning under monetary policy-induced challenges.
The MPR, which is the benchmark interest rate was retained at 14 per cent by MPC at its 253rd meeting in November last year. It predicated its decision on the need to mitigate the fragile macroeconomic conditions and the strong headwinds confronting the economy, particularly the implications of the twin deficits of current account and budget deficits. Besides retaining the MPR, the MPC also held the banks’ cash reserve requirement (CRR) and liquidity ratio (LR) at 22.5 per cent and 30 per cent respectively while further maintaining the Asymmetric Window at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.
The Chief Economist and Managing Director, Global Research, Africa, Standard Chartered Bank, Razia Khan, who presented the bank’s position, noted that “The absence of any further policy measures on FX liberalisation suggests that the CBN will be quite comfortable keeping interest rates on hold at next week’s MPC meeting.”
“Although inflation has been pressured higher, further tightening would be more plausible if there was some expectation that it might trigger a positive response from offshore portfolio investors, and bring about greater FX inflows. These plans look to have been put on the backburner for the moment,” Khan added.
Asking, “Could the CBN cut interest rates?”, Khan said, “We think not, despite weak growth.”
According to her, “Inflation in y/y terms is likely to remain elevated for a while still. There is also some disquiet about the recent spike in money supply, and how much of an inflation threat it represents. The CBN may well have to wait for evidence of a pronounced base effect driving y/y inflation down, before it can think about easing policy.”
In his analysis, The Chief Executive Officer, The CFG Advisory, Adetilewa Adebajo, stated that the main challenge for the MPC this New Year is “taming the inflation monster.”
“At 18.6 per cent inflation is at a 10-year high. It is also likely that 2016 Q4 GDP growth will close around -2 per cent in negative territory. Since there is a strong historical correlation in Nigeria between positive GDP growth and lower rates of inflation, the MPC will have to adapt inflation reduction policies to expect positive GDP growth in 2017.”
Adebajo contended that, “The prospects of increasing interest rates to tame inflation might not go down well with the Real Sector, but the impending increase in fuel pump prices and the related impact on spiking inflation will present a dilemma for the MPC. While a pre-emptive rise in rates might be strongly considered, it is likely that the MPC will hold rates and maintain status quo.”
Besides, the economist noted that, “The markets will also look for comments from the MPC, in an effort to restore confidence and harmonize the FX markets.”
To the Executive Director, Corporate Finance, BGL Capital Ltd, Femi Ademola, “The outcome of the MPC meeting is the most difficult to predict in recent times.”
According to him, “Judging from the antecedents of this Committee, the exchange rate volatility and high inflation would naturally signify an increase in interest rate and other macro-prudential ratios in the bid to fight inflation and attract supply of foreign exchange into the economy by ensuring a positive real return on portfolio investments.”
Ademola, however, added that, “Since these actions have not been so successful over the year in curbing inflation and exchange rate volatility, it would be very reasonable to consider monetary accommodation. Especially when it appears that the high interest rate with its consequent high cost of funds and high cost of production may be the main cause of inflation.”
“A reduction in benchmark interest and a systematic release of liquidity into the economy would help domestic production capacity and boost economic activities.
Due to this seemingly conflicting situations, I think the MPC will hold rates constant,” he posited.
Brent Crude Rises to $69 on IEA Report
Oil prices rose after the release of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) closely-watched Oil Market Report, with WTI Crude trading at above $66 a barrel and Brent Crude surpassing the $69 per barrel mark.
Prices jumped even though the agency revised down its full-year 2021 oil demand growth forecast by 270,000 barrels per day (bpd) from last month’s assessment, expecting now demand to rise by 5.4 million bpd. The downward revision was due to weaker consumption in Europe and North America in the first quarter and expectations of 630,000 bpd lower demand in the second quarter due to India’s COVID crisis.
The excess oil inventories of the past year have been all but depleted, and a strong demand rebound in the second half this year could lead to even steeper stock draws, the IEA said yesterday, keeping an upbeat forecast of global oil demand despite the weaker-than-expected first half of 2021.
However, the upbeat outlook for the second half of the year remains unchanged, as vaccination campaigns expand and the pandemic largely comes under control, the IEA said.
Moreover, the global oil glut that was hanging over the market for more than a year is now gone, the agency said.
“After nearly a year of robust supply restraint from OPEC+, bloated world oil inventories that built up during last year’s COVID-19 demand shock have returned to more normal levels,” the IEA said in its report.
In March, industry stocks in the developed economies fell by 25 million barrels to 2.951 billion barrels, reducing the overhang versus the five-year average to only 1.7 million barrels, and stocks continued to fall in April.
“Draws had been almost inevitable as easing mobility restrictions in the United States and Europe, robust industrial activity and coronavirus vaccinations set the stage for a steady rebound in fuel demand while OPEC+ pumped far below the call on its crude,” the IEA said.
The market looks oversupplied in May, but stock draws are set to resume as early as June and accelerate later this year. Under the current OPEC+ policy, oil supply will not catch up fast enough, with a jump in demand expected in the second half, according to the IEA. As vaccination rates rise and mobility restrictions ease, global oil demand is set to soar from 93.1 million bpd in the first quarter of 2021 to 99.6 million bpd by the end of the year.
OPEC Expects Increase In Global Oil Demand Raises Members’ Forecast on Crude Supply
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) yesterday lifted its forecast on its members’ crude this year by over 200,000 bpd and now expects demand for its own crude to average 27.65mn bpd in 2021.
This is almost 5.2mn bpd higher than last year and around 2.7mn b/d higher than an earlier estimate of the group’s April production.
According to the highlights of the organisation’s latest Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR), OPEC crude is projected to rise from 26.48 million bpd in the second quarter to 28.7 million bpd in the third and 29.54 million bpd in the fourth quarter of the year.
The report also indicated a fall in Nigeria’s crude production from 1.477 bpd in February to 1.473, a difference of just about 4,000 bpd before rising again in April to 1.548 million bpd, to add 75,000 bpd last month.
OPEC stated that its upward revision of members’ crude was underpinned by a downgrade in the group’s forecast for non-OPEC supply, which it now expects to grow by 700,000 bpd to 63.6mn b/d against last month’s report’s projection of a 930,000 bpd rise to 63.83mn bpd.
The oil cartel projected that US crude output would drop by 280,000 bpd this year, compared with its previous forecast for a 70,000 bpd decline.
On the demand side, OPEC kept its overall forecast unchanged from last month’s MOMR, stressing that it expects global oil demand to grow by 5.95 million bpd to 96.46 million bpd this year, partly reversing last year’s 9.48mn bpd drop.
Spot crude prices fell in April for the first time in six months, with North Sea Dated and WTI easing month-on-month by 1.7 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
On the global economic projections, the cartel said stimulus measures in the US and accelerating recovery in Asian economies might continue supporting the global economic growth forecast for 2021, now revised up by 0.1 percent to reach 5.5 percent year-on-year.
This comes after a 3.5 percent year-on-year contraction estimated for the global economy in 2020.
However, global economic growth for 2021 remains clouded by uncertainties including, but not limited to the spread of COVID-19 variants and the speed of the global vaccine rollout, OPEC stated.
“World oil demand is assumed to have dropped by 9.5 mb/d in 2020, unchanged from last month’s assessment, now estimated to have reached 90.5 mb/d for the year. For 2021, world oil demand is expected to increase by 6.0 mb/d, unchanged from last month’s estimate, to average 96.5 mb/d,” it said.
The report listed the main drivers for supply growth in 2021 to be Canada, Brazil, China, and Norway, while US liquid supply is expected to decline by 0.1 mb/d year-on-year.
Oil Rises Over Concerns of Fuel Shortages
Oil prices rose on Tuesday, as lingering fears of gasoline shortages due to the outage at the largest U.S. fuel pipeline system after a cyber attack brought futures back from an early drop of more than 1%.
Benchmark gasoline futures prices rose 1 cent to $2.14 a gallon.
On Monday, Colonial Pipeline, which transports more than 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, said it was working to restore much of its operations by the end of the week.
“Right now there’s a generalized anxiety premium being built into prices because of Colonial and it’s keeping a floor under the market,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Fuel supply disruption has driven gasoline prices at the pump to multi-year highs and demand has spiked in some areas served by the pipeline as motorists fill their tanks.
Traders booked at least four tankers to store refined oil products off the U.S. Gulf Coast refining hub after a cyber attack that knocked out the pipeline, shipping data showed on Tuesday.
North Carolina, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation issued waivers allowing fuel distributors and truck drivers to take steps to try to prevent gasoline shortages.
OPEC on Tuesday raised its forecast for demand for its crude by 200,000 bpd and stuck to its prediction of a strong recovery in global oil demand this year as growth in China and the United States counters the coronavirus crisis in India.
Meanwhile, the rapid spread of infections in India has increased calls to lock down the world’s second-most populous country and the third-largest oil importer and consumer.
India’s top state oil refiners have already started reducing runs and crude imports as the new coronavirus cuts fuel consumption, company officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
On the bullish side for crude, analysts are expecting data to show U.S. inventories fell by about 2.3 million barrels in the week to May 7 after a drop of 8 million barrels the previous week, a Reuters poll showed.
Gasoline stocks are expected to have fallen by about 400,000 barrels, analysts estimated ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday and the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.
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