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South Africa’s growth outlook dilemma for central bank, treasury

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s central bank could resume its rate hiking cycle despite a poor growth outlook, its head said on Friday, while its treasury reined in state companies to avoid ratings downgrades and a long economic slowdown.

Africa’s most industrialised country is on the brink of its first recession after contracting 1.2 percent in the first quarter as key sectors shrunk due to severe drought and falling commodity prices.

Governor Lesetja Kganyago said the central bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) would raise rates if inflation, fuelled in part by a weaker rand, remained elevated.

The rand has weakened nearly 20 percent against the dollar in past 12 months as looming rate hikes in the United States, the threat of a downgrades to “junk” status and diminished business and consumer activity locally weighed on its value.

“Although the MPC remains ready to respond to renewed inflation pressures, it remains mindful of the weak state of the economy,” Kganyago said.

Headline inflation has been higher than the Reserve Bank’s (SARB) upper target of 6 percent since January, prompting it to lift lending rates by 200 basis points from early 2014 despite poor growth.

The bank sees growth averaging zero percent in 2016.

“The rand exchange rate has been sensitive to these developments, with elevated levels of volatility,” said Kganyago said, adding the next round of rating reviews in December were key.

South Africa is also in a fiscal bind, with government’s plan to boost growth to an annual 4 percent to tame widespread unemployment, poverty and the growing cost of borrowing facing a number of obstacles.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday warned state firms that they would have to live without state bailouts of around $35 billion as treasury focused on achieving the deep spending cuts it promised in the February budget.

“The key concern that ratings agencies and others would have is that as a result of levels of mismanagement, those guarantees shouldn’t be called out at any stage,” he said.

On Monday, Fitch announced it had downgraded South Africa’s local currency debt. Fitch and S&P Global Ratings now both have South Africa’s local and foreign currency debt ratings a step away from subinvestment.

Maya Senussi of Roubini Global Economics said local government elections on Aug. 3, where the ruling African National Congress is expected to face a stern test, could worsen the dilemma for government before the general election in 2019.

“The big danger is that fears about the 2019 general election will prompt populist measures from the ANC, exerting more pressure on the stretched Treasury and further delaying much-needed reforms,” the economist said.

($1 = 14.1600 rand)


(By Mfuneko Toyana. Additional reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by James Macharia and Tom Heneghan)

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Nigeria’s central bank raises benchmark rate to 14%

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by a surprise 200 basis points to 14 percent on Tuesday and maintained its existing cash reserve ratios for commercial banks in a bid to stabilise the naira.

In a Reuters poll, the median forecast of 13 analysts taken July 18-21 predicted that Nigeria would raise interest rates by 100 basis points to 13 percent.


(Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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South Africa should not underestimate ratings downgrades risk

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa should not underestimate the risk of credit rating downgrades this year if the ailing economy does not improve, Central Bank Deputy Governor Daniel Mminele said on Wednesday.

Pretoria dodged ratings downgrades from Moody’s, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch earlier this year, giving policymakers time to act to strengthen the economy of Africa’s most industrialised country before the next round of reviews due by December.

Analysts have said South Africa’s economy faces hurdles and that the threat of “junk” status is looming.

“During May and June, South Africa received confirmations of unchanged credit ratings from all three major credit rating agencies,” Mminele said in a speech posted on the bank’s website.

“These confirmations, however, came with a very clear message: further improvements in the macroeconomic fundamentals are required.”

He said this suggested that “in the absence of demonstrable progress being made as part of a concerted effort involving all social partners, the risk of downgrades during the next reviews towards the end of this year should not be underestimated.”

The bank expects South Africa’s economy to grow by 0.6 percent this year and a modest recovery is seen over the next two years, but Mminele said the assumptions underlying the estimate had not factored in any possible spillover effects from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

“The UK’s present and future are now riddled with uncertainty, naturally accompanied by a flight to safety,” Mminele said.

“For South Africa, the implications through direct trade links are expected to be relatively minimal. In 2015, the UK accounted for only 4 percent of our total merchandise exports.”

Mminele, however, said financial linkages were far larger relative to the size of the South African economy.

For example, the value of South African assets owned by UK corporates and investment funds amounted to 46.5 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2014.

In turn, South African investors owned UK assets amounting to 33.2 percent of the African country’s GDP.

“In addition, both foreign direct investment and portfolio flows are also significant. This means that South Africa could very well be affected by the realization of tail risks emanating from asset liquidation by UK corporates and investment funds,” Mminele said.


(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia)

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DR Congo slashes growth forecast for 2016 to 5.3 pct: cenbank

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KINSHASA (Reuters) – The central bank of the Democratic Republic of Congo has slashed its GDP growth forecast for 2016 to 5.3 percent, compared with 6.9 percent last year, as a slump in commodity prices batters its mineral-dependent economy.

The central bank statement obtained by Reuters on Monday did not give details as to what was behind the revision. Congo has suffered from falling prices in its key mineral exports, including copper, cobalt, tin and diamonds.

Its previous estimate in April projected growth at 6.6 percent for this year, itself revised down from 9 percent earlier. The latest estimate brings it closer to the IMF forecast, currently at 4.9 percent.

Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer, relies heavily on raw materials, which account for 98 percent of export earnings. After bouncing back at the start of the year, copper on the London metal exchange fell by a quarter last year, and has fallen further in 2016.



(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Joe Bavier)


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Algerian president fires central bank governor

Comments (0) Business, Latest Updates from Reuters, Middle East

ALGIERS (Reuters) – President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday fired Algeria’s central bank chief, who had been under pressure from ruling party critics over his management of fall-out from the global oil price drop, two government sources said.

No official declaration had been made so far about the dismissal of Mohammed Laksaci, who had been the central bank governor for more than a decade. Bouteflika had held a cabinet meeting early on Tuesday, according to state news media.


(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Botswana’s economy to return to growth this year

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

GABORONE (Reuters) – Botswana’s economy will return to growth this year after contracting in 2015 as water and electricity supply stabilise, the central bank said on Monday.

Consumer prices in the southern African country will remain within the bank’s target of between 3 and 6 percent, the Bank of Botswana’s Kealeboga Masalila said at a conference.

Botswana’s economy contracted 0.3 percent in 2015 due to a sharp fall in mining output as global demand for commodities sank and a severe drought pushed up inflation.


(Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Joe Brock)

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Nigeria to adopt flexible FX regime, details to follow

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank is adopting a flexible foreign exchange rate regime, Governor Godwin Emefiele said on Tuesday, in a policy U-turn designed to boost exports and stave off a recession in Africa’s biggest economy.

The bank has previously kept a de facto peg of around 197 naira per dollar but that has become unsustainable due to a shortage of hard currency stemming from a slump in oil revenues.

On the parallel market, the naira has fallen to some 40 percent below the official rate.

“The MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) voted unanimously to adopt a flexible exchange rate policy to restore the automatic adjustment properties of the exchange rate,” Emefiele told reporters.

Details of the new rules would be published in a few days, he added.

He said the central bank would “retain a small window for funding critical transactions” and that “details of operations of the market would be released by the central bank at the appropriate time”.

On Monday, the government said it would use a lower rate of 285 naira per dollar for petrol imports rather than the pegged official rate of 197.


(Reporting by Camillus Eboh, Ulf Laessing and Alexis Akwaqyiram; Editing by Ed Cropley and Catherine Evans)

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South Africa cbank keeps key rate unchanged, sees tepid growth

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s Reserve Bank left its benchmark repo rate unchanged at 7 percent on Thursday, with the governor saying that moderating pressures to long term inflation left it room to pause in its tightening cycle.

The Bank had raised lending rates by a total of 100 basis points at its previous three meetings, as it fought to keep headline inflation within its target band of between 3 and 6 percent as severe drought and a weaker currency weighed.

The rand turned slightly weaker after the decision, easing to 15.9735 against the dollar.

Governor Lesetja Kganyago said the bank lowered its inflation forecast for the next three years, and noted that the country’s economic recovery would be slow.

He said that while headline consumer prices would average 6.7 percent in 2016, up from previous forecast of 6.6 percent, inflation in 2017 and 2018 would moderate.

“Although the inflation forecast has shown a moderate improvement over the medium term, the risks are still assessed to be on the upside,” Kganyago said.

“The MPC remains focused on its inflation mandate, but sensitive to the extent possible to the state of the economy.”

Inflation in Africa’s most industrialised country stood at 6.2 percent in April versus 6.3 percent in March, data showed on Wednesday.

“The MPC will not hesitate to act appropriately should the inflation dynamics require a response, within a flexible inflation targeting,” Kganyago added.

Twenty-two of the 32 economists polled by Reuters had expected the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) to hold interest rates at 7.00 percent this month.


(Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia)

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Egypt’s central bank offers $120 million to cover pharmaceutical imports

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s central bank said it is offering $120 million in its regular currency sale on Tuesday to be used for imports of pharmaceutical products, manufacturing components, vaccines and related chemicals and infant formula.

Egypt’s economy has been hobbled by a shortage of foreign currency since a 2011 uprising drove away tourists and foreign investors. Dollars are rationed through weekly auctions imports of essential goods get priority.

The central bank, which has been keeping the pound artificially strong, devalued the currency on March 14 to 8.85 per dollar from 7.7301 and announced a more flexible exchange rate policy. It later strengthened the pound to 8.78 per dollar, where it has remained since.

A weaker currency has made it more expensive to import raw materials, and with the price of finished medicines fixed by the Health Ministry, some manufacturers have stopped making cheap generic medicines to staunch growing financial losses.

On Monday, Egypt raised the price cap on medicines that cost up to 30 Egyptian pounds ($3.38) by 20 percent in an effort to address drug shortages, the health minister said on Monday.


($1 = 8.8799 Egyptian pounds)


(Reporting by Asma Alsharif, editing by Larry King)

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