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Time to cut? Nigeria central bank gathers for first 2018 meeting

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

LONDON (Reuters) – The Nigerian central bank’s monetary policy committee will finally meet on Wednesday to set interest rates for the first time this year.

Interest rates have been stuck at a record high of 14 percent since July 2016. However, the committee had to cancel its January meeting due to an inability to form a quorum following a number of departures that reduced it to just five out of 12 members.

A majority of analysts taking part in a Reuters poll said they expected rates to stay on hold for now, but that they would be cut later in the year.

Here are three graphics showing Nigeria’s changing economic dynamics.

 

1/ EASING PRESSURE

The pace of inflation has steadily slowed since the start of 2017, with the core reading hovering close to the 12 percent mark. And with exchange rates fairly stable and demand-related pressures absent, inflation rates could be sinking further, making Nigeria ripe for easier monetary policy.

“After a year of lethargic disinflation, the drop in headline inflation to 14.3 percent in February 2018 ignites hope that inflation is still on a steady course towards the target 9.0 percent ceiling and that conditions could continue improving to favour unwinding the present hawkish monetary stance,” StratLink wrote in a note to clients.

 

2/ WHERE’S THE GROWTH?

Nigeria returned to growth in 2017 with the economy expanding 0.83 percent after shrinking by 1.58 percent in 2016, which was its first annual contraction in 25 years. However, latest growth figures are still well below its potential, the recovery has been fragile, and private sector credit lending lacklustre.

Political stalemate has been a common occurrence in Nigeria and has hampered reforms, while lawmakers still have to pass the 2018 budget. But with elections coming up in 2019, the heat is on for policy makers to help stimulate growth.

“The main focus will be to try and do something positive to the economy, to try to kickstart bank lending to the economy against a very weak backdrop, where the budget has not been passed and money supply is weak,” said Razia Khan, chief economist for Africa at Standard Chartered.

 

3/ RISING BUFFERS

Meanwhile a recovery in oil prices, successful debt sales including rolling local into external debt, and a significant amount of portfolio investment have helped replenish the central bank’s coffers. In March, foreign exchange reserves stood at $46.2 billion – a near 9 percent jump month-on-month.

Nigeria’s foreign exchange buffer has climbed 53 percent since March 2017 when it stood at $30.30 billion – though reserves remain far from the peak of $64 billion in August 2008.

 

(Reporting and graphics by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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South Africa cuts main interest rate as inflation falls within range

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s central bank cut its main interest rate to 6.5 percent on Wednesday, in another boost for the economy after ratings agency Moody’s left intact its last investment-grade credit rating.

Traders and economists had expected the 25 basis-point cut in the repo rate after a slowdown in consumer price inflation to 4.0 percent in February, which put price growth well within the central bank’s 3-6 percent target range.

It was the first easing step since July and comes as South Africa rides a wave of investor optimism in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa replacing scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February.

The rand fell, however, as the rate cut dents somewhat the appeal of local assets versus developed-market peers. Banking stocks also fell.

South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago told a news conference that inflation risks had subsided somewhat since January and that the bank had raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 1.7 percent from 1.4 percent.

But he said that the bank had not started “a journey of cutting” and that the future path of the repo rate would depend on data.

Four members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to cut the rate while three wanted to keep it on hold, Kganyago said. There was no discussion of a more aggressive 50 basis-point rate cut.

Despite the central bank’s broadly upbeat tone, Kganyago said that the growth outlook remained relatively constrained and that the policy-setting committee would prefer to see inflation expectations anchored closer to the midpoint of its target range.

Analysts said they were not expecting to see a flurry of further rate cuts.

Razia Khan, an Africa-focused economist at Standard Chartered, said: “We think that today’s 25 basis-point cut was probably it in terms of South Africa’s easing cycle”.

Moody’s said on Friday that it expected to see a strengthening of South Africa’s institutions under Ramaphosa which could translate into greater economic and fiscal strength.

S&P Global, another of the “big three” ratings agencies, said it wanted to see stronger per capita growth before it would consider raising its credit rating.

 

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Nomvelo Chalumbira; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by James Macharia and Hugh Lawson)

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Gold falls for fourth day as dollar stays firm ahead of Fed meeting

Comments (0) Actualites, Economy, US

(Reuters) – Gold prices extended losses into a fourth session on Monday and hit a more than two-week low, with the dollar remaining supported as investors expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this week.

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,310.03 per ounce at 0735 GMT. Prices fell to $1,307.51 earlier in the session, their lowest since March 1.

U.S. gold futures for April delivery dropped 0.2 percent to $1,309.40 per ounce.

“I think the overall economic recovery is good enough for the (U.S.) central bank to consider a faster pace of normalization of monetary policies,” said Mark To, head of research at Hong Kong’s Wing Fung Financial Group.

A two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting begins on Tuesday, with the U.S. central bank expected to hike interest rates for the first time this year.

“It is somehow expected and is already priced in the market so I stick to my prediction that precious metals, with gold included, are going to have range-bound trading, unless something really surprising happens,” said To.

With a 25 basis point rate hike seen as a done deal, one key focus is on whether Fed policy makers forecast four rate hikes this year instead of the three they had projected at December meeting.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, becoming less attractive to investors as it does not bear interest.

The dollar inched higher against a basket of major peers on Monday as traders braced for the Fed meeting and as the increased threat of trade protectionism kept markets on edge. [USD/]

The dollar index was up 0.1 percent at 90.302. On Friday, it hit a two-week high near 90.38, following strong U.S. economic data.

“Potential market headwinds from the underlying (susceptibility) to risk-appetite, heightened (geo) political tensions, inflation concerns, Russia tensions, to name a few, could help keep the floor on gold prices in check,” Stephen Innes, APAC trading head at OANDA, said in a note.

Gold speculators cut their net long position by 16,153 contracts to 145,659 contracts, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data. This was the smallest net long position since early January.

Among other precious metals, silver was down 0.3 percent at $16.26 per ounce and palladium inched 0.1 percent lower to $993.90 per ounce.

Platinum was 0.5 percent lower at $938.49 per ounce after falling to its lowest since Jan. 3 at $936.50.

 

(Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; editing by Joseph Radford and Subhranshu Sahu)

 

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South Africa’s Q1 business confidence rises 11 points to 45

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Leaders, Politics

(Reuters) – South Africa’s business confidence rose in the first quarter by 11 points in a sign that the country’s economy is picking up pace, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) business confidence index compiled by the Bureau for Economic Research rose to 45 points in the first quarter from 34 points in the fourth quarter but remained below the 50-mark separating the net positive and negative territories.

“First quarter confidence jump is driven more by the expectation that the recent (mainly) market-friendly political development will boost activity levels in future than an immediate improvement in the real economy,” chief economist at RMB Ettienne Le Roux said.

Business confidence was dented by policy uncertainty under the leadership of Jacob Zuma but economists say President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December, and as president last month, has raised expectations that the country will make economic reforms.

South Africa’s economy grew more than expected at the end of last year as agriculture and trade recovered, data showed last Tuesday, boosting its chances of avoiding a potentially debilitating credit ratings downgrade.

Earlier in the month, The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (SACCI) monthly business confidence index (BCI) fell to 98.9 in February from 99.7 in January as exports, imports and retail sales fell.

“It goes without saying that the current uncertainty around land reform needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. If allowed to linger, the latest rise in the RMB/BER BCI (Business Confidence Index) could easily fizzle out with little or even no enduring positive impact on business capital expenditure and the economy at large,” Le Roux added.

 

(Reporting by Rahul B and Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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Nigeria increases excise duties on tobacco and alcohol

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Health, Politics

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has approved an increase in excise duties on tobacco and alcoholic beverages, the finance ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The west African country, which has Africa’s biggest economy, fell into recession in 2016 largely due to low oil prices. It emerged from recession last year, mainly as a result of higher crude prices, and is trying to raise non-oil revenues.

In addition to a 20 percent tax on tobacco, the government will add an extra fixed tax per cigarette. A percentage tax on alcoholic beverages will be replaced by taxes of fixed amounts based on volume.

The finance ministry said the changes will take effect from June 4 this year.

The move would have “a dual benefit of raising the government’s fiscal revenues and reducing the health hazards associated with tobacco-related diseases and alcohol abuse,” it said in its statement.

The ministry said the new regime was in line with a directive from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc on the harmonisation of member-states’ legislation on excise duties.

Raising duties in Nigeria for alcohol could further hit consumer demand amid fragile growth.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), the world’s largest beer maker, expects its new $250 million brewery being built in Sagamu, Nigeria, to start production in the middle of this year, its head of Africa head has said.

 

(By Camillus Eboh and Chijioke Ohuocha. Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Peter Graff)

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IMF tells Ghana to adopt new revenue plan before April review

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Politics

ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana must legislate new measures to boost revenues by at least 0.5 percent of gross domestic product before the IMF reviews a $918 million credit deal next month, the Fund said.

The West African nation must also outline plans to clean up the financial sector and show stronger commitment to cut debt, including limiting its next Eurobond for budget support to $500 million, IMF said in a document seen by Reuters.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said last week the government planned to issue up to $2 billion of sovereign issuance by June to pay down debt that hit 68.7 percent of GDP last November and help finance the 2018 budget.

Ghana is seeking a combined fifth and sixth review of the IMF programme in early April, government and IMF sources told Reuters. The fifth review, originally scheduled for December, had delayed pending implementation of benchmark structural reforms.

“Parliament to adopt revenue measures equivalent to 0.5 percent of GDP (one billion cedis) by March 31 and do more later,” the Fund said. The document, dated Feb. 26, formed the basis for talks between an IMF staff mission and the government this week.

The mission left Accra on Thursday after discussing the actions required for the next review, as well as other reforms needed to exit the programme early next year. It is unclear if the talks were conclusive.

Ghana, which exports cocoa, gold and oil, is in its final year of the programme, designed to stabilise an economy dogged by high inflation and debt, and low growth.

The Fund said the government must publish by end of March an agreement between the Finance ministry and Bank of Ghana to reinforce zero financing of the budget deficit, a core condition of the programme.

The government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, inaugurated in January 2017 said it inherited $2.3 billion in accumulated debt owed to power utilities and has launched long-term bonds for repayment. It is also probing unpaid contract arrears of around $1.6 billion.

The IMF said while the country made progress, the central bank must adopt a fully market-based foreign exchange management policy and cut non-performing loans.

The government aims to cut the budget deficit to 4.5 percent of GDP in 2018 from a revised 6.3 percent while inflation is projected to fall to 8.9 percent. It sees GDP growth at 6.8 percent from a projected 7.9 percent in 2017.

 

(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; editing by John Stonestreet)

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South Africa economic confidence to get a lift after cabinet reshuffle.

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Leaders, Politics

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Confidence in South Africa’s economy will get a boost after Monday’s cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa returned trusted hands to crucial budget-related ministries, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

Seventeen of the 20 economists surveyed in the past three days said Monday’s reshuffle would have a significant positive impact on South Africa’s economic confidence this year.

One economist said it would be very significant, while the remaining two said it would have an insignificant impact.

In that same sample, 18 indicated they were optimistic the country’s business sector would play a bigger part in job creation in the next two years. One economist was very optimistic while the remaining one was pessimistic.

“Both business and consumer confidence is likely to be boosted by the election of Cyril Ramaphosa to President of the Republic and the cabinet reshuffle that (followed),” said Jeffrey Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s business confidence rose for a third month in a row in January to its highest since late 2015, on expectations the new leadership of the ruling party would stabilise economic policy, a survey showed last month.

“President Ramaphosa clearly has his sights set on improving the domestic business climate and promoting more public-private sector participation,” said Schultz.

Gross domestic fixed investment – normally capital spending, such as buying new machinery for future production – fell into a recession in 2016, recovering only slightly early last year before hitting another slump in the second quarter.

The private sector makes up nearly two-thirds of the gross domestic fixed investment contribution to GDP, although it has played a smaller role in recent years, with government pushing infrastructure projects to raise jobs.

Schultz added that it would take some time for the trust between business and the government to be rebuilt, but it was clear the new government has realised it needs business sector buy-in to get growth and reduce unemployment.

Unemployment was at just over 20 percent a decade ago and now more than a quarter of South Africa’s labour force is jobless.

 

OLD TRUSTED HANDS BACK AT HELM

Ramaphosa appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Monday and Pravin Gordhan as public enterprise minister. All but one of the 20 economists polled singled out these two National Executive appointments as most likely to inspire economic confidence.

Both Nene and Gordhan served as finance ministers in the last administration but were unceremoniously sacked by former President Jacob Zuma.

A poll last month suggested South Africa’s new leadership would need to be prudent and creative in managing the economy to avoid a credit rating downgrade, by raising taxes without suffocating a chance for growth. [ECILT/ZA]

Moody’s is due to publish a review later this month, which economists said in February would offer the country a reprieve.

 

 

(By Vuyani Ndaba; Editing by William Maclean)

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Nigerian state oil firm spent $5.8 bln on fuel imports since late 2017

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Oil, Politics

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s state oil firm said on Tuesday it had spent $5.8 billion on fuel imports since late 2017, as it combats a fuel shortage that has left people queuing for hours at filling stations and hobbled an already-struggling economy.

“The corporation’s intervention became necessary following the inability of the major and independent marketers to import the product because of the high landing cost which made cost recovery and profitability difficult,” the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said in a statement.

The price of gasoline is a highly charged subject in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil exporter. President Muhammadu Buhari in 2016 raised the top gasoline price to 145 naira ($0.4603) per litre, a 67 percent hike, but did not remove a cap for fear of hurting people on low incomes.

The price cap makes it tough for many importers to profit from gasoline and NNPC has imported as much as 90 percent of the nation’s gasoline needs over the past year. Fuel shortages have gripped much of the country in the last few months.

An economic body that advises Nigeria’s government has been in discussion with the state oil company to determine whether gasoline is appropriately priced in the country, a state governor said last week.

The relatively cheaper cost of Nigerian fuel combined with crude oil price rises in the last few months mean smugglers can make more money selling fuel intended for the Nigerian market across borders, creating shortages in the West African giant.

Nigeria’s refining system means it is almost wholly reliant on imports for the 40 million litres per day of gasoline it consumes.

Efforts by Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, to end expensive subsidies in 2012 led to riots in the streets because the move would have doubled gasoline prices, angering citizens who see cheap pump prices as the only benefit from living in an oil-rich country

(Reporting by Paul Carsten, editing by David Evans)

 

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South Africa’s private-sector activity slows in November: PMI

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 5 (Reuters) – South African private sector activity slowed in November as new orders and output fell, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Standard Bank Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), compiled by IHS Markit, fell to 48.8 in November from 49.6 in October, staying below the 50 mark that separates expansion from

contraction.

“Lower underlying demand formed the basis for the decline as new orders fell at the quickest pace observed since early 2016.

This led output to fall, and at a faster rate than that noted in the previous month,” IHS Markit said in a statement.

South Africa’s economic gloom has been compounded by allegations of corruption in state-owned companies and of influence-peddling in government that have hurt investor confidence.

The ruling African National Congress will this month elect a successor to President Jacob Zuma as party chief, adding to the climate of uncertainty.

“Apart from South Africa’s economy being characterised by generally weak growth, we note that the rating agency review on November 24th and the upcoming ANC elective conference will have

delayed production and consumption decisions,” Standard Bank economist Kim Silberman said.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded South African debt to junk status on Nov. 24, citing its deteriorating economic outlook and public finances. Moody’s put the country on review for a

downgrade.

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Zimbabwe’s economic situation “very difficult”: IMF mission chief

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s economic growth is threatened by high government spending, an untenable foreign exchange regime and inadequate reforms, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said.

Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies but suffered decades of decline as former President Robert Mugabe pursued policies that included the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms and money-printing that led to hyperinflation.

Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday after nearly four decades in power following pressure from the military, the ruling ZANU-PF party and the general population.

New ZANU-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday.

Zimbabwe has not been able to borrow from international lenders since 1999 when it started defaulting on its debt, and has $1.75 billion rand in foreign arrears.

“The economic situation in Zimbabwe remains very difficult,” Gene Leon, IMF’s mission chief for Zimbabwe said in a statement to Reuters late on Wednesday.

“Immediate¬†action is critical to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level, accelerate structural reforms, and re-engage with the international community to access much needed financial support.”

Leon said Zimbabwe should resolve arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, among other reforms, for the IMF to consider future financing request from the country.

Zimbabwe should also be ready to implement strong macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, Leon said.

 

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia)

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