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In panic, forex speculators prepare to dump dollars

For most speculators who bought forex at less than N400/$1, they are pondering whether to sell

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Forex speculators are apprehensive that a slew of circulars issued by the central bank during the week could lead to a strengthening of the naira against the dollar. The CBN said it will sell $10,000 per Bureau De Change operator ahead of the reopening of the air space.

For most speculators who bought forex at less than N400/$1 just before the first round of devaluation in March, they are pondering whether to sell at the current rate of N475 in time before panic sets in. This apprehension is reminiscent of 2017 when the CBN announced the new Investor and Exporter Window for trading forex at market-determined prices.

The move led to a strengthening of the naira from N500/$1 to N360/$1 piling huge losses on speculators who betted for more depreciation.

Speculators show panic

Nigeria’s exchange rate policy has meant many businessmen have had to resort to crude ways of hedging against foreign exchange rate risk. As rumours of devaluation swirled in March some quickly converted their naira into dollars sending the parallel market exchange rate rocketing past the official rate.

For Mike a businessman who deals in luxury fashion wear, the fear is real and he is pondering whether to sell now and book his profits or wait to see if the exchange rate will depreciate further. “I bought forex at less than N380 earlier in the year just before the black market rate started depreciating. At N477/$1 my margin gain is close to N90 so selling now means I remove my profits rather than let it disappear” he explains preferring to go by his first name.

Another FX street trader Musa, feared that the exchange rate could strengthen if the CBN pumps in forex to the BDCs on Monday as anticipated  According to him, “buyers are running from buying forex now because there seems to be panic selling at the moment. I lost some money between Friday and Saturday and would definitely avoid buying forex at the moment.

Predicting the direction of the exchange rate has become easy for some speculators. All they need to do is watch the price of oil which is perfectly correlated with the direction of the exchange rate. Another major factor as many have come to learn is what decisions come out of Plot 33, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Way, the head office of the Central Bank.

Last week, the apex bank issued a slew of circulars culminating in an order warning that it will go tough on exporters who are guilty of forex non-repatriation. It also directed banks to submit the names, addresses, and Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs) of all the exporters who have failed to repatriate their export proceeds. Necessary ‘action’ would be taken against such defaulters, the CBN said in a statement.

A BDC operator Ismail of Ango Gold expressed concern over what could happen this week in this forex market if operators do not comply with CBN’s instructions. “We are worried about the CBN’s latest warnings as sellers will being arrested if being caught hiking the price.” 

Waiting for CBN

This week is likely to be a defining moment for what could happen to the exchange rate. If the central banks sell $10,000 to half of the nearly 3,000 registered BDC’s we could see a turnover of $15 million in the first week. Add to a daily average of $42 million at the Investor & Exporter window (NAFEX) and we could finally start to gauge what the true value of the naira against the dollar really is.

There is also the wired forex transfer market which caters to people trading in hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single transfer but circumventing the official exchange rate market. The exchange rate in this market is typically sold at a premium to the official black market price trading in the streets of Lagos Island.

But even this market is under threat from the CBN’s hammer, with banks instructed to report BVN linked accounts connected to export proceeds not declared in the official market. The CBN also booted out third parties from accessing the Form M, a document required for accessing forex to pay for imported goods.

These are all red flags to Mr. Peter Afolayan a Private Investor who trades in Equities, Commodities & other financial instruments with foreign currency-denominated holdings in the UK and Nigeria. He believes the announcement of the opening of the airspace to travel and the announcement of the sale of forex to BDCs is bad news for anyone holding the dollar. According to Mr. Afolayan, “I planned to sell off my holdings last week but will do so this week… I see the rates crashing to N410-420/$1 because of the recent circulars of the CBN”. However, if you are long on the dollar and perhaps use it as savings then I suggest you keep it”

But not everyone is this optimistic about the Naira strengthening. A recent report from Goldman Sachs, “a significant devaluation of the naira is likely in 12 to 18 months to stabilize Nigeria’s external accounts. An exchange rate of 500-550 per dollar should bring about the desired balance…. compared with a current rate of about 407”.

Nigeria’s balance of payment, a tool used to determine the value of a local currency’s value against the dollar is in deficit, leading to speculations that the CBN probably needs to devalue once more to achieve the right balance.

The true test will happen this week and all eyes will be on two markets. The black market and the BDC market.

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CURRENCIES

Exchange rate stabilises at N410/$1 as oil price rallies above $65 per barrel

The exchange rate between the Naira and the US Dollar closed at N410/$1 at the Investors and Exporters window on Monday as oil prices hit $65.24 per barrel

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Monday 22nd February 2021: The exchange rate between the Naira and the US Dollar closed at N410/$1 at the Investors and Exporters window, where forex is traded officially.

Naira remained stable on the NAFEX window to stand at N470 to a dollar on Monday, which is the same rate it closed on the previous trading day.

Also, Naira depreciated on the parallel market to close at N480/$1 on Monday, 22nd February 2021. This represents a N2 drop when compared to N478/$1 recorded on Friday, 19th February 2021.

Brent Crude oil price hit a record high as it closed at $65.24 per barrel as Goldman Sach’s projection indicates bullish trades in Q2 2020.

Trading at the official NAFEX window

The exchange rate between the Naira and Dollar at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window maintained the same rate as recorded on Friday last week to close at N410/$1 on Monday, 22nd February 2021.

  • The opening indicative rate closed at N408.04 to a dollar on Monday. This represents a 43 kobo drop when compared to N407.61 to a dollar that was recorded the previous trading day on Friday, February 19, 2021.
  • An exchange rate of N412 to a dollar was the highest rate during intra-day trading before it closed at N410/$1. It also sold for as low as N389.75/$1 during intra-day trading.
  • Forex turnover at the Investor and Exporters (I&E) window declined by 20.8% on Monday, February 22, 2021.
  • According to the data tracked by Themoneymetrics from FMDQ, forex turnover decreased from $66.41 million recorded on Friday, February 19, 2021, to $52.58 million on Monday, February 22, 2021.

Cryptocurrency Watch

  • The largest cryptocurrency in the world, Bitcoin dipped by 4.76% on Monday to stand $54,753.48 as of 11:10pm.
  • This came after the world’s richest man, Elon Musk disclosed that the price of bitcoin and Ethereum seems to be high.
  • Meanwhile, three days ago, the world’s most demanded crypto-asset breached the $1 trillion market capitalisation to become the sixth most-valuable asset worldwide.
  • It is worth noting that, following the directive of the CBN prohibiting regulated financial institutions from dealing with Cryptos, Nigerians have moved towards peer-to-peer transactions trading directly without a third party.
  • According to a recent study seen by Themoneymetrics , the use of Bitcoin for peer-to-peer lending in Nigeria surged by 16% since the CBN directive took effect about 18 days ago

Crude oil prices top $64 per barrel

Crude oil prices picked up again on Monday as Brent Crude gained an additional $2.33 to close at $65.24 per barrel.

  • The increase represents a 3.7% increase when compared to $62.91 per barrel recorded on the previous trading day.
  • The price increase came shortly after Goldman Sach forecasted that oil prices would climb around $70 per barrel in the second quarter of the year.
  • It could also be attributed to the realization that U.S oil production and refineries will take a bit of time to resume their normal level of output after the Texas Freeze knocked out oil refineries.
  • The oil market rallied despite the news that Saudi Arabia and Russia might be on the verge of a disagreement again over output agreement, which the group will deliberate on in March.
  • Meanwhile, Brent closed at $65.24 (+3.7%), WTI closed at $61.49 (+3.8%), Bonny Light at $62.09 (-1.16%), and Natural Gas closed at $2.946 (-0.24%).

Declining external reserve despite bullish oil prices

Nigeria’s external reserve dipped further on Thursday, 18th February 2021, to stand at $35.47 billion.

  • This represents a decline of 0.15% compared to $35.53 billion recorded as of Wednesday, 17th February 2021.
  • Despite rallying oil prices, Nigeria’s external reserve has recorded a steady decline since the 25th of January 2021, losing a sum of $958.1 million in less than a month.
  • It is worth noting that despite the significant increase recorded earlier in January, the current reserve positive is only $99.9 million more than $35.37 billion recorded as of 31st December 2020.
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CURRENCIES

Exchange rate weakens at NAFEX window as Naira settles at N410/$1

Naira closed against the US Dollar at N410/$1 on Friday, 19th February 2021, indicating a drop of 0.54%

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Friday 19th February 2021: The exchange rate between the Naira and the US Dollar closed at N410/$1 at the NAFEX window, where forex is traded officially. Naira  

Naira closed against the US Dollar at N410/$1, representing a 0.54% drop compared to N407.8/$1 recorded on Thursday 18th February 2021. This is the second time in the week that the exchange rate has closed at N410/$1 and the ninth consecutive trading day it closed over N400/$1.

Also, Naira depreciated at the parallel market to close at N478/$1 on Friday, 19th February 2021This represents a N1 shortfall compared to N477/$1 recorded on the previous day.

Trading at the official NAFEX window

The Naira depreciated against the dollar at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window on Friday, closing at N410/$1 for the second time in the week. This represents a N2.2 drop when compared with the N407.8/$1 that it closed on the previous trading day. 

  • The opening indicative rate closed at N407.61 to a dollar on Friday. This represents a 48 kobo drop when compared to N407.13 to a dollar that was recorded the previous trading day on Thursday, February 18, 2021. 
  • An exchange rate of N424.15 to a dollar was the highest rate during intra-day trading before it closed at N410/$1. It also sold for as low as N390/$1 during intra-day trading. 
  • It is also worth noting that throughout the week, the lowest rate during any inter-day trading was N390/$1. 
  • However, forex turnover at the Investor and Exporters (I&E) window rose by 5.9% on Friday, February 19, 2021. 
  • According to the data tracked by Themoneymetrics from FMDQ, forex turnover increased from $62.69 million on Thursday, February 18, 2021, to $66.41 million on Friday, February 19, 2021. 

Cryptocurrency Watch

Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency in the world reached an all-time high on Sunday, 21st 2021 to stand at $58,022.48 as of 9:37 pm. 

  • This is just two days after the world’s most demanded crypto-asset breached the $1 trillion market capitalisation to become the sixth most-valuable asset worldwide. 
  • So far in the year, Bitcoin has gained 97.2% from $29,424.17 recorded as of 31st of December 2020. 
  • Meanwhile, the richest man in the world, Elon Musk disclosed through his twitter handle that the price of the two leading cryptos seems to be in overbought territory. 
  • However, popular American online financial advisory company, Motley Fool disclosed that it will be investing $5 million in Bitcoins in the coming weeks using the firm’s fund. 

Oil price dips as Saudi Arabia moves to reverse oil production cut

Crude oil price (Brent crude) dipped on Friday, 19th February 2021 to close at $62.91. 

  • Brent Crude oil price declined by 1.6% to close at $62.91 on Friday. 
  • The decline in oil prices came on the back of Saudi Arabia’s move to increase oil output. According to reports during the week Saudi Arabia is poised to reverse its 1mbpd voluntary production cut in the coming weeks. 
  • Also, about 4mb/d of US oil production was sidelined due to power outages and other equipment failures during the week, which include the damage of four of Texas’ largest oil refineries. A development that is expected to reduce crude oil demand. 
  • Meanwhile, WTI closed at $59.24 (-2.12%), OPEC Basket gained 1.52% to close at $63.43, Bonny Light closed at $62.09 (-1.16%) while Natural gas dipped by 0.42% to settle at $3.069. 

Dwindling external reserve

  • Nigeria’s external reserve dipped further by Thursday, 18th February 2021, to stand at $35.47 billion. 
  • This represents a decline of 0.15% compared to $35.53 billion recorded as Wednesday, 17th February 2021. 
  • Despite rallying oil prices, Nigeria’s external reserve has recorded a steady decline since 25th of January 2021, losing a sum of $958.1 million in less than a month. 
  • It is worth noting that despite the significant increase recorded earlier in January, the current reserve positive is only $99.9 million more than $35.37 billion recorded as of 31st December 2020. 
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CURRENCIES

Naira gains at NAFEX window as CBN’s intervention in forex market continues

The Naira appreciated against the dollar at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window on Tuesday, closing at N393.83/$1.

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On January 5, 2020, the exchange rate between the naira and dollar closed at N393.83/$1, the second trading day of 2021 at the Investors and Exporters’ (NAFEX) window where forex is traded officially.

This is an appreciation from the N394.30 recorded on the previous trading day, January 4, 2021.

Themoneymetrics understands that intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria has forced prices further down on Tuesday, sustaining the appreciation recorded on the last day of trading after the sharp depreciation recorded on the last trading day of 2020.

We also reported last week that the latest round of adjustment at the I&E window is temporary as the rates could fall back below N400/$1.

However, at the black market where forex traded unofficially, the exchange rate continued to remain stable at N470/$1 on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. The exchange rate at the parallel market closed at N470/$1 on the previous trading day January 4, 2021.  It has been trading at N470/$1 since the 29th of December 2020.

The exchange rate disparity between the parallel market and the official market widened again to N76.17 representing a 16% devaluation differential.

NAFEX

The Naira appreciated against the dollar at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window on Tuesday, closing at N393.83/$1 as against N394.30 reported on January 4, 2021.

  • This represents a 47 kobo gain when compared with that of the previous trading day.
  • The opening indicative rate was N394.63 to a dollar on Monday. This represents a N15.3 gain when compared to the N409.93 that was recorded on Monday, January 4, 2021.
  • The N411 to a dollar was the highest rate during intra-day trading before, it still closed at N393.83 to a dollar. It also sold for as low as N387.10/$1 during intra-day trading.

Forex turnover: Forex turnover at the Investor and Exporters (I&E) window rose by 47.3% on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

  • According to the data tracked by Themoneymetrics from FMDQ, forex turnover rose from $22.75 million on Monday, January 4, 2021, to $33.51 million on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
  • The average daily forex sale for last week was about $169.93 million, which represents a huge increase from the $34.5 million that was recorded the previous week.
  • The exchange rate is still being affected by low oil prices, dollar scarcity, a backlog of forex demand, and a shaky economy that has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Can the naira sustain below N400?

Last Thursday, December 31, 2020, the central bank allowed the exchange rate to depreciate to N410.25 as a late demand surge forced prices higher. Even though the highest price for the day was N411, the market still closed lower at N393.83 as the trend from the previous trading day continued, blowing any initial belief that a devaluation had occurred last week.

Devaluation supporters who had expected this to be a nudge towards “market reality” will be surprised by the appreciation recorded on Monday, suggesting that the central bank will continue with the defence of the local currency in the new year. On the flip side, policy supporters will cite this as the effect of market forces.

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