Nigeria’s external reserve declined from $36.3 billion as of January 29, 2021, to $34.998 billion as of March 1, 2021, losing about $1.4 billion in just a month.
The rapid drop in the country’s external reserve is occurring despite the increase of Brent crude to over $66 per barrel as of February 24, 2021, from about $51 per barrel that it closed with on January 4, 2021.
Some analysts had attributed a couple of likely reasons for this drop. This includes the CBN intervention in the forex market to stabilize the exchange rate, low foreign inflows into the country, some CBN forex policies which discourage foreign investors.
The President of the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), Aminu Gwadebe, during his chat with Nairametrics, said that the decline in Nigeria’s external reserve despite the recent increase in oil prices was due to supply shocks and shortages of foreign exchange due to drop of forex inflow from various sources.
Gwadebe said, ‘’You know we have a lot of supply shocks and shortages even before the appreciation of the crude oil prices, we just came out of recession with less than even 0.1%. We know the prices of crude oil, the demand came down throughout the Covid-19 period, even now with the new variant. So the IMTOs inflow has reduced drastically, export proceeds have reduced drastically, the I & E window has also gone down drastically. You know you can appreciate what is happening at the I & E window, their trade transactions sometimes hover up to N420/$1.’’
On why increased oil prices have not stopped the further slide in the reserves, the ABCON President said, ‘’Completely all the sources coming have dried up, the oil prices dried up, IMTO window dried up. We are talking about a month, and these are contracts that have been closed for 3, 6 months delivery, we are just witnessing it. It will take time, it’s a very good buffer, no doubt we rely on it heavily for 90% of our foreign exchange supply. So if we have that improvement, it will give the CBN the muscle, the wherewithal to continue to support the local market. It will give CBN the muscle to make any speculation, check any hoarding.”
‘’Now that we have prospects in oil prices definitely that news, that coming in of new inflows will give the CBN the muscle to make any speculation, to checkmate hoarding, because they are in I & E window, they are in BDC window, they are in a lot of windows, so they can come up with liquidity. Definitely, it is going to. And we have seen the impact because the way it was going before this increase in crude oil prices, it was worrisome and if you look at it now it has remained stable, the highest it went is N480 for the parallel market and its always trending down. There is that stability just for that news, so you can imagine when we start receiving the liquid grill just imagine what it will become just like people have predicted and analyzed N430, N450/$1 is what we might be looking at by the end of the year,’’ he added.
On his part, a treasury and financial analyst, Odinaka Nwokonkwo, while giving reasons why it should be that way, pointed to CBN obligations. He said the apex bank paid Eurobond maturities in January or thereabout, and did FX swap with local and international counterparts which may have matured and needed to be paid down.
He said, ‘’There is a Eurobond maturity that CBN funded for, so that would also reduce the reserves, then another thing is when you look at, CBN has been intervening in the forex market. So on that space, you are seeing retail, you are seeing SME and invisibles intervention weekly. Retail is biweekly and SME and invisible about $100 million weekly. So sometimes CBN has bilateral transactions with international institutions and local banks where they take their FX and basically give them treasury bills, so that also is part of the reserves.
‘’So if some of those swaps have matured and CBN needs to pay down these bonds, they will also see a reduction. So it’s a combination of a lot of things. And also what is the volume of sales of the oil, are we really selling more, is the quantity we are selling is the same as what we are selling before. The demand might drop a little bit because some countries also have a second lockdown.’’
Nwokonkwo also believes that in the next quarter, there might see an accretion because some of those obligations may not be there.
While pointing out that the accretion rate is slower than the debit rate, he said the oil price at $65 is not a significant increase compared to CBN FX obligations.
These external reserve figures and swings point to two things: Nigeria seems to be overestimating the power of it oil to keep the country running and the enduring reality it needs to find other ways of earning foreign exchange.
The exchange rate between the naira and the US Dollar closed at N411/$1, at the Investors and Exporters window on Wednesday.
Naira appreciated marginally against the US Dollar on Wednesday as it closed at N411 to a dollar at the NAFEX window, representing a 0.15% gain when compared to N411.63 recorded on the previous trading day. This is as oil prices rallied back at the global market.
Meanwhile, the naira remained stable against the dollar to close at N480/$1 on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. This was the same rate that it closed on the previous trading day.
The forex turnover at the Investor and Exporters (I&E) window dropped by 44% from $59.17 million recorded on Tuesday to $33.15 million on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Trading at the official NAFEX window
The Naira appreciated against the US Dollar at the Investors and Exporters window on Wednesday to close at N411/$1. This represents a 63 kobo gain when compared to N411.63 recorded on the previous trading day.
- The opening indicative rate closed at N410.66 to a dollar on Wednesday. This represents a 55 kobo drop when compared to N410.11/$1 recorded on Tuesday.
- Also, an exchange rate of N415 to a dollar was the highest rate during intra-day trading before it closed at N411/$1. It also sold for as low as N390/$1 during intra-day trading.
- Forex turnover at the Investor and Exporters (I&E) window dropped by 43.97% on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
- According to the data tracked by Nairametrics from FMDQ, forex turnover declined from $59.17 million recorded on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, to $33.15 million on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
The world’s largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin rallied back above $50,000 on Wednesday to close above $51,000 compared to its previous closing of $48,814.26 as it recovers from one of the most severe dips in its history.
- The cryptocurrency rose by as much as 11% as bullish momentum returned after last week’s selloff, reaching the highest level in 2 weeks.
- The cryptocurrency has been volatile with prices plunging 21% last week before recovering with the earlier broad bounce back in global equities. On a technical basis, the GTI Global Strength Indicator, which detects trend fluctuations, has begun to curl upward, suggesting a bullish move for Bitcoin.
- Bitcoin was trading below $44,000 earlier this week, having hit an all-time high the week before above $58,000. Its rebound suggest the third great price rally in its history may still be underway
- Meanwhile, Ether ETH=BTSP, the coin linked to the Ethereum blockchain network, dropped by 6% to $1,612.4 on Wednesday.
Oil price decline
Brent Crude oil rose by $1.06 on Wednesday to close at $64.07 representing a 1.7% increase when compared to $63.01 recorded on the previous trading day.
- Oil prices rose on Wednesday, following reports that the OPEC+ group could be weighing the possibility not to increase collective oil production from April as widely expected and despite a shockingly large crude build (the largest on record) as estimated on Wednesday by the EIA, oil prices were still holding strong.
- The OPEC+ alliance is considering keeping the oil production cuts from March in place in April as well, in view of the still-fragile global demand recovery.
- Also, a US government report showed a record drop in domestic fuel inventories from the aftermath of a deep freeze that shuttered refineries in several states.
- WTI Crude closed at $60.91 (0.60%), OPEC Basket $61.97 (-3.53%), Bonny Light $63.11 (-0.64%), and Natural Gas $2,800 (+0.57%).
External reserve dips to lowest in two months
Nigeria’s external reserve continued its decline as it dropped by 0.12% to $34.957 billion as of March 2, 2021, compared to $34.998 billion recorded as of March 1, 2021.
- This represents the lowest external reserve position Nigeria has recorded in over two-months when it stood at $34.98 billion as of 24, December 2020.
- It is also worth noting that Nigeria lost over $1.2 billion in external reserves in the month of February.
- The decline in Nigeria’s external reserve has persisted in the month of February, despite rallying oil prices in the month. This is a cause for worry, as Nigeria will hope to boost its reserve in order to meet up with its accumulated needs, hindered by the crash in oil prices earlier in 2020.
Sources in the central bank have denied a recent Bloomberg report that the CBN will be unwinding its Open Market Operations programme which has targeted foreign investor inflows for the last three years.
According to a Bloomberg article, the central bank was “preparing an end to an era of debt sales” in reference to OMO bills which are highly lucrative risk-free securities loved by foreign investors due to their relatively high yields.
The report cited comments from CBN director of monetary policy, Hassan Mahmud who they claimed said: “offerings to non-residents of so-called Open Market Operations bills — introduced to help stabilize the naira following the oil-price collapse in 2015 — are to be phased out once current obligations have been redeemed.”
However, a senior source within the central bank denied this claim reiterating that there are no plans to unwind the sale of OMO bills to foreign investors. The source who preferred anonymity as the bank was yet to comment officially claimed it was “fabricated” and not true.
Why this matters
The central bank has relied on Open Market Operations as a means of attracting Foreign Investor dollars into the country. The dollars are also used as a liquidity buffer for the country’s falling external reserve and a major factor in stabilizing the exchange rate between 2016 and 2019.
- To achieve this purpose, OMO bills were priced at attractive yields (as high as 18% per annum at some point) and were a major source of earnings for yield-hungry foreign investors. The CBN also provided them with near guarantees on their foreign exchange hedging it via FX Swaps.
- However, in 2019, the CBN yanked off local and institutional investors from accessing OMO market leaving foreign investors and banks as the only buyers of the bills.
- A recent Chapel Hill report read by Nairametrics suggests OMO bills held by foreign investors topped $11 billion as of June 2020.
- The report also claims CBN OMO sales dropped by 70% to a 5-year low of N6.5 trillion in 2020.
You want to share a story with us? You want to advertise? You need publicity for a product, service, or event? Contact us on WhatsApp – +1 (317) 665-2180