Morocco trade deficit widens 13.1 pct in first five months: agency

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s trade deficit widened 13.1 percent to 78.45 billion dirham ($8.03 billion) in the first five months of 2017 compared with a year earlier, driven by increased imports, the foreign exchange regulator said on Monday.

The trade gap was up from 69.45 billion dirhams during the same period last year, as energy imports rose 42.7 percent to 28.25 billion dirhams, and spending on equipment imports rose 8.1 percent to 50.61 billion dirhams.

Total exports rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier to 103.31 billion dirhams, pushed by a 7.9 percent rise in phosphate exports totaling 17.41 billion dirhams.

Tourism receipts fell by 5.8 percent. Remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans who live abroad slightly rose 0.2 percent to 24.33 billion dirhams, while foreign direct investment rose 24 percent to 12.90 billion dirhams.

($1 = 9.7663 Moroccan dirham)


(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; editing by Patrick Markey)


Read more

S.Africa watchdog says Barclays Africa must repay $86.44 mln over bailouts

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

PRETORIA (Reuters) – Barclays Africa Group unduly benefited from apartheid-era bailouts and must repay 1.125 billion rand ($86.44 million), South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog said on Monday, though the bank denied any wrongdoing.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in January reopened a probe of Absa, a unit of Barclays Africa, following a wider report published last November by her predecessor.

She said on Monday that the probe had found that the apartheid government breached the constitution by supplying Bankorp, which was acquired by Absa in 1992, with a series of bailouts from 1985 to 1995.

Absa said in a statement it had not received a copy of the report and denied any wrongdoing, saying it “met all its obligations in respect of the loan provided by the South African Reserve Bank by October 1995.”

“Once we have read it we will consider our legal options including seeking a High Court review. It is our firm position that there is no obligation to pay anything to the South African government,” Absa said.

Shares in Barclays Africa fell 2.61 percent to 142.68 rand by 1253 GMT.

($1 = 12.7941 rand)


(Reporting by Dinky Mkhize in Pretoria and Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia)


Read more

South Africa watchdog to oppose Zuma bid to set aside influence-peddling report

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog will oppose a bid by President Jacob Zuma to have a report on claims of influence-peddling by him and his government set aside, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said on Monday.

Thuli Madonsela, Mkhwebane’s predecessor as Protector, released the report in November. It called for a judicial inquiry into allegations that Zuma, some cabinet members and some state companies acted improperly, but stopped short of asserting that crimes had been committed.

In December Zuma, who has denied wrongdoing and faced down calls for his resignation over a series of scandals that have plagued his administration, asked the High Court to set the report aside.

In February, Mkhwebane said she was seeking legal advice on how to proceed on the issue.

On Monday she told a news conference her office would oppose Zuma’s application to have the report set aside.

($1 = 12.7941 rand)


(Reporting by Dinky Mkhize; Editing by James Macharia and John Stonestreet)


Read more

Uganda central bank cuts lending rate to 10 percent

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda’s central bank lowered its key lending rate to 10.0 percent on Monday from 11.0 percent, saying a stable exchange rate for the shilling and subdued domestic demand had contributed to an easing of core inflationary pressures.

Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile told a news conference the economy expanded by 3.9 percent in 2016/17 (July-June), down from a growth rate of 4.7 percent in the previous year, due to drought and slow implementation of public investment projects.


(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Read more

South Africa’s Sibanye says sacks 1,500 workers over wildcat strike

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African mining firm Sibanye Gold has fired around 1,500 workers taking part in a wildcat strike at its Cooke mine, it said on Thursday, prompting an angry reaction from the biggest gold miners’ union.

Workers at the mine downed tools over a week ago, angered by a company drive to root out illegal miners which has included the arrest of employees for collusion and taking food down to the illegal miners working underground.

Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa for decades, with bullion pilfered from both disused and operating mines, and Sibanye has vowed it will clear all illegal miners from its shafts by January 2018.

The Cooke mine employs close to 4,000 underground miners and Sibanye said the sacked workers could appeal their dismissals.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the largest union in the gold mining industry, said earlier that nearly 2,000 miners were fired, including 1,100 of its members, who it said had been “wrongly dismissed.”

Sibanye said 793 NUM members had been dismissed.

NUM said they had been forced to take part in the strike in the face of coercion and intimidation from rival union the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). Last week 16 NUM members at Cooke were assaulted.

AMCU officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Located about 60 kms(35 miles) south-west of Johannesburg, the Cooke mine produces about 181,700 ounces of gold a year and brings in around 377 million rand ($29 million) in operating profit, or just over 6 percent of the group’s total.

Over 240 illegal miners have been arrested since the stoppage began. They have been forced to come to the surface because of the strike, which has emptied the shafts of employees, thereby starving them of their sources of food and water underground – an unintended consequence of the strike.


(Writing by and additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter)


Read more

Nigerian exchange bureau head urges rate unification

Comments (0) Non classé

By Oludare Mayowa

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank must step up efforts to unify the country’s multiple exchange rates to sustain gains in the local currency over the last few months, the head of the country’s exchange bureaus said.

Africa’s biggest economy has at least six exchange rates which include one for Muslim pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia, a retail rate set by licensed exchange bureaus, and a rate for foreign travel and school fees, in addition to the official and black market rates.

Nigeria is battling a currency crisis brought on by low oil prices which tipped its economy into recession and created chronic dollar shortages. It wants to attract foreign investors and strengthen its currency to ward off inflation.

The central bank has been intervening on the official market in the last few weeks to try to narrow the spread between rates on the official market and black market – where the local currency trades around 30 percent weaker. It has sold about $5 billion since February.

The bank opened a currency window in April for investors to trade the naira at rates set freely between buyers and sellers, hoping to increase the amount of dollars available in Nigeria.

“The gradual convergence of the exchange rate on both black market and investor forex window is an opportunity for the central bank to unify rate in all segments of the forex market,” Aminu Gwadabe, president of the country’s Association of Bureaux De Change Operators told Reuters late on Thursday.

Gwadabe said a move to eliminate multiple rates would restore investors’ confidence in the economy and boost offshore dollar inflows, further strengthening the naira.

Central bank spokesman Isaac Okorafor said the regulator would sustain its current efforts to improve dollar liquidity in the market until it was able to achieve currency rate convergence.

The naira was quoted at 365 to the dollar on the black market on Friday, while the local currency was quoted at 372.70 per dollar at the investor window.

The local bourse rose to a two-year high on Wednesday as investors snapped up Nigerian stocks after MSCI increased the country’s weighting in its frontier market index.

Nigeria’s forex reserves grew to around $30.22 billion by June, from $26.44 billion a year ago, as oil production and oil price stabilise in the wake of OPEC and non-OPEC oil output cut deal, analysts have said.


(Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Toby Chopra)


Read more

Djibouti accuses Eritrea of occupying disputed territory after Qatar withdrew peacekeepers

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Djibouti accused neighbouring Eritrea on Friday of occupying disputed territory along their border after Qatar withdrew its peacekeepers.

Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said Djibouti’s military were “on alert” and that it has lodged complaints to the U.N. and the African Union.

Qatar announced that it was pulling its contingent out on June 14, days after the two East African countries sided with Saudi Arabia and its allies in their standoff with Qatar.

Doha’s foreign ministry did not give a reason for the move but it comes as Doha faces a diplomatic crisis with some of its Arab neighbours. They cut ties a week ago, accusing Qatar of backing Islamist militants and Iran, something Doha strongly denies.

“Qatari peacekeepers withdrew on June 12 and 13. On the same day, there were Eritrean military movements on the mountain,” Ali Youssouf told Reuters.

“They are now in full control of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. This is in breach of the UN Security Council resolution,” he added, referring to areas that the neighbours dispute.

Authorities in Asmara were not immediately available for comment.

Djibouti, a close Western ally, hosts French and U.S. military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea’s arch foe and Washington’s top regional ally, Ethiopia.

Eritrea has fractious ties with the West, which had previously accused it of backing Somali and other regional insurgents. Asmara denies the charges.

Clashes broke out between the Horn of Africa countries in June, 2008, after Djibouti accused Asmara of moving troops across the border, raising fears the spat could engulf the entire region.

The dispute triggered several days of fighting that killed a dozen Djiboutian troops and wounded dozens. Eritrea had initially denied making any incursions, accusing Djibouti of launching unprovoked attacks.

The U.N. Security Council then requested both sides withdraw from the area, before the neighbours accepted a Qatari request to mediate and deploy peacekeepers.





(Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by)

Read more

Nigeria to sell 140 bln naira bonds on June 21 – debt office

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria plans to auction 140 billion naira ($460 million) in bonds on June 21, the Debt Management Office said on Friday.

The debt office will sell 40 billion naira of bonds due in 2021 and 50 billion naira each of bonds due in 2027 and in 2037, using a Dutch auction system.

Settlement is expected the day after the sale. The bonds are re-openings of previous issues.

The central bank on Wednesday announced plans to sell 133.24 billion naira worth of Treasury bills at an auction next week.

Nigeria, which has Africa’s biggest economy, issues sovereign bonds each month to help fund its budget deficit, support the local debt market and maintain a benchmark for companies to follow.

The West African country expects a budget deficit of 2.36 trillion naira this year as it tries to spend its way out of a recession. It expects to raise money to cover more than half the deficit from the local market.

It has a series of debt issues lined up including a $300 million diaspora bond and a 100 billion naira debut domestic sukuk this month.

($1 = 304.68 naira)


(Reporting by Oludare Mayowa; editing by Alexis Akwagyiram)


Read more

Repo rate cut back on the cards for South Africa as inflation seen easing

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

By Vuyani Ndaba

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s economic growth will be much softer this year after the country slipped into recession in the first quarter, and with inflation easing an interest rate cut is back on the agenda, a Reuters poll found.

Africa’s most industrialised nation is expected to expand 0.7 percent in 2017, 0.2 percentage points slower than last month’s median as economists trimmed growth forecasts following South Africa’s first recession for eight years.

The median prediction for interest rates shows a cut is back in the forecast horizon – 25 basis points to 6.75 percent in January or March. Some economists have pencilled it in as early as July or September this year.

In March, the consensus was for the repo rate to be cut to 6.75 percent early next year but then President Jacob Zuma changed his finance minister for a fourth time, triggering debt downgrades and leading economists to push cuts off the horizon.

But a trimming is back on the cards and Mandla Maleka, chief economist at Eskom Treasury, said the cut could come earlier than 2018.

“It will be contingent on the persuasive improvement on domestic inflation and less volatile currency. Growth – much as it is not targeted by the Monetary Policy Committee – could be the game changer,” Maleka said.

After contracting 0.7 percent in the first quarter, the economy is expected to have rebounded and will expand 0.8 percent this quarter and 0.9 percent in the third.

In contrast to South Africa, the U.S Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise its interest rate this week due to a tightening labour market and may also provide more detail on its plans to shrink the mammoth bond portfolio it amassed to nurse the economic recovery.

South Africa’s Reserve Bank does not have the fire power of bond purchases like the U.S. Fed and only targets inflation, with an aim to keep it between a 3-6 percent range.

Consumer inflation slowed to 5.3 percent in May, and is expected to average 5.5 percent this year, a change to last month’s median of 5.7 percent.

Economists are worried that debt denominated in the heavily traded rand is in serious risk of being downgraded to “junk status” this year, ejecting it from crucial bond indexes that automatically invest in local bonds and prop up demand for the rand.

However, Thea Fourie, senior economist at IHS Markit, added that lower inflation and interest rate levels could support real incomes of households.

Fourie added South Africa’s growth environment was low partially due to very weak confidence, both for investors and consumers.

“This means big ticket spending plans are delayed,” she said.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is due to hold a conference at the end of June to review policy and make recommendations on amendments or new strategies. Investors hope that will address confidence issues.



(Editing by Alison Williams)

Read more

South Africa’s rand clings on to gains despite downgrade fallout

Comments (0) Economy, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand edged firmer on Wednesday, clinging on to recent gains despite continued fallout triggered by a Moody’s ratings downgrade last week and an anticipated interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

At 0640 GMT, the rand traded 0.2 percent firmer at 12.7350 per dollar compared to close of 12.7600 overnight in New York, bringing weekly gains to around 1.3 percent.

Following a one notch downgrade to its lowest sovereign investment grade on Friday, Moody’s cut the ratings of a dozen banks and companies including embattled power utility Eskom, further shaking confidence in Africa’s most advanced economy.

Quarterly business confidence and April retail sales due in the session are expected to shed more light on ailing economy. Growth shrunk 0.7 percent in Q1 2017 after a 0.3 percent contraction in Q4 of 2016.

Traders expect the U.S. central bank to increase interest rates by a notch when it concludes a policy meeting on Thursday, a move that could dampen demand for high-yielding emerging market assets.

South African bonds were flat, with the yield on benchmark 2026 government bond inching up 0.5 basis points to at 8.445 percent.

Stocks set to open higher at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange’s Top-40 futures index up 0.3 percent.


(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Cropley)


Read more