Naira at record closing low as dollar shortages linger
Nigeria’s naira was stuck at a record closing low of 292.90 to the dollar on Wednesday after just one transaction was carried out, with the supply of dollars drying up and no intervention from the central bank, said traders.
The naira was unchanged from Tuesday’s close after one transaction worth $380,000 was made on Wednesday. That trade was done at 11:50 GMT, more than three hours after the market opened.
The interbank market had seen just $300,000 traded on Tuesday, again, in one transaction.
Traders had expected the central bank to intervene to ease dollar shortages, but that did not happen. Commercial banks had been quoting to trade the dollar as low as 295.50 naira on Wednesday.
“Recent FX reforms have been enough to re-open the investment case for Nigeria, but there is still some uncertainty about the functioning of the market,” Alan Cameron, an economist at Exotix said.
“The absence of volatility at N283/US$ was interpreted as a sign that administrative controls were still in place. It remains to be seen if those will be fully removed.”
Banks had been quoting the dollar at 281 to 285 naira after the central bank lifted its 16-month old peg of 197 naira to the dollar last month.
But lack of liquidity has curbed activity, leaving the central bank as the main supplier of dollars, traders said.
On Monday, currency traders introduced a maximum resale premium on dollar trade to boost liquidity after a transaction made without spread sent the naira tumbling to a record intra-day low.
Investors have welcomed the removal of currency controls but many were still steering clear until Africa’s biggest economy showed signs of a concrete recovery.
“Most investors would like to see a more liquid FX market before resuming purchases of local assets,” said Samir Gadio, the head of Africa strategy at Standard Chartered Bank.
“Given the significant discount of naira-settled futures, a number of offshore financial institutions and hedge funds could be tempted to get involved in the foreseeable future.”
A total of $579.3m has been sold in futures contracts ranging between one month and one year. A one-month contract for $26.7m due on July 27 was sold at 279 naira.
In non-deliverable forward markets, the onemonth naira-dollar forward was quoted at 314.50. The one-year contract fell as low as 345.13 per dollar. ( Reuters)