CBN sets N50m capital for Tier 2 microfinance banks

The Central Bank of Nigeria has introduced a Tier-based system for unit microfinance banks in the country.

The apex bank also adjusted the time frame given to the different categories of microfinance banks to recapitalise.

The different categories are the unit, state and national operators.

In a circular to all microfinance banks released on Monday on the ‘Review of minimum capital requirement for microfinance banks in Nigeria,’ the CBN reviewed a circular it had earlier issued to the microfinance banks on October 22, 2018.

The CBN stated that the Tier 2 unit microfinance banks must have a minimum capital of N50m, while Tier 1 would maintain the N200m minimum capital introduced for unit microfinance banks in October 2018.

The circular read, “The Central Bank of Nigeria revised the categories of microfinance banks with a view to ensuring continued operations of microfinance banks in the rural, unbanked and underbanked areas of the economy.

“The unit microfinance banks shall comprise two Tiers: Tier 1 unit microfinance bank which shall operate in the urban and high-density banked areas of the society; and Tier 2 unit microfinance banks which shall operate only in the rural, unbanked or underbanked areas.”

Following the above, the CBN stated that the minimum capital requirement for the categories of microfinance banks had been revised.

It stated that Tier 1 unit microfinance banks must meet a N100m capital threshold by April 2020 and N200m by April 2021.

Tier 2 unit microfinance banks, it added, must meet a N35m capital threshold by April 2020 and N50m by April 2021.

The CBN stated that state microfinance banks must increase their capital to N500m by April 2020 and N1bn by April 2021.

A national microfinance bank must hold a capital of N3.5bn by April 2020 and N5bn by April 2021, it added.

Before the apex bank commenced the recapitalisation of the microfinance institutions in 2018, the minimum capital base for national microfinance banks was N2bn, state microfinance banks was N100m, while the unit microfinance banks had a minimum capital requirement of N20m.

CBN plans single-digit interest loan for oil palm producers

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Monday unveiled fresh plans to revive the palm oil value chain to enable the sector to generate foreign exchange and reduce the level of unemployment in the country.

The CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele,  unveiled the strategies while speaking during a meeting with stakeholders in the Palm Oil Value Chain.

The meeting, which was held at the headquarters of the CBN, was attended by Governors of Akwa Ibom, Edo and Abia states and chief executives of companies operating in that sector of the economy.

Emefiele said as part of the apex bank’s Anchor Borrowers Programme and its Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, the CBN would work with large corporate stakeholders and smallholder farmers to ensure availability of quality seeds for this year’s planting season and agro-chemicals in order to enable improved cultivation of palm oil.

In addition, he said the bank would also work to encourage viable off-taker agreements between farmers and large-scale palm producing companies.

He noted that loans would be granted through the ABP and CACS programmes at no more than nine per cent per annum to identified core borrowers.

With an estimated three million hectares of land under cultivation and abundance of suitable arable land, the CBN governor said the bank would need the cooperation of state governments in the oil palm producing zone.

He said their cooperation would make land available to investors with proven financial and technical capabilities, who will be able to support developments of large scale palm oil plantations in the country.

He announced that all the states in the South-South and South-East regions had agreed to provide at least 100,000 hectares for the initiative.

The programme, he stated, was also expected to accommodate the smallholder farmers.

He said, “This renewed focus by the CBN to support improved growth in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors in Nigeria, is clearly in line with the Federal Government’s determination to diversify the base of Nigeria’s economy away from a reliance on crude oil, so as to insulate our economy from the vagaries and shocks associated with volatility in crude oil prices

“Let me stress that we are not unmindful that our current focus to make life difficult for smugglers of the products being targeted under our intervention will be resisted by unpatriotic and recalcitrant beneficiaries of the status quo.

“We will not be deterred by their criticisms but will appeal to Nigerians to support these initiatives.

“No doubt, there will be initial pain caused by this new focus, but the medium and long run benefits remain unassailable and glorious for our dear country.”

Emefiele said that resuscitating the country’s palm oil sector was vital to the government’s growth objectives as it would assist in creating jobs for Nigerians.

He said the meeting was an important one as it brought together key players across the palm oil value chain, state governments, banks, and officials of the CBN, in order to examine the challenges faced by palm oil operators.

He said the need to meet the stakeholders in the sector was borne out of the conviction that revitalising the sector would enable Nigeria to regain its position as one of the leading global producers of palm oil.

He said currently, Nigeria still expended close to $500m on oil palm importation annually, adding that time had come to change the narrative.

He said the apex bank would support improved production of palm oil to meet not only the domestic needs of the market but to also increase exports in order to improve forex earnings.

He said, “As some of you may recall, in the late ’50s and ’60s, Nigeria was not only the world’s leading producer of palm oil, it was also the largest exporter of palm oil, with close to 40 per cent of the global market share.

“Today, we are a distant fifth among leading producers of palm oil; we barely produce up to three per cent of the global supply of palm oil, with an estimated production of 800,000 metric tonnes of palm oil, while countries like Malaysia and Indonesia produce 25 million and 41 million tonnes of palm oil respectively.”

“We have also become a net importer of palm oil, importing between 400,000 – 600,000 MT of palm oil in order to meet local demand for this commodity.

“Despite the availability of over three million hectares of farmland for palm oil cultivation, production remains low at close to two tonnes per hectare, relative to a global benchmark of 25 tonnes per hectare.

“This is as a result of the maturation of existing palm trees, as some of these trees were planted in the ’50s, as well as low investment in replanting high yielding palm oil seeds. As some of you may know, the usual lifecycle for optimum palm production is 25 years.”

The CBN governor said if Nigeria had kept pace with its peers in supporting improved cultivation of palm oil, at the current global market price of $600 per tonne, and an assumed production level of 16m tonnes, Nigeria could have generated close to $10bn worth of foreign exchange.

This analysis, he noted, did not take into consideration the number of jobs that could have been created in rural communities from large scale smallholder developments.

In due course, the CBN governor said the bank intended to also address challenges in the cocoa, cassava, beef/cattle ranching, dairy and fish sectors.

He said soon, every region of the country would feel the positive impact of the CBN intervention in the agricultural sector.

These efforts, he stated, would not only enable the bank to conserve foreign exchange, but also create jobs on a mass scale.

He expressed optimism that as the measures began to bear fruits,  states would become more economically viable, given the massive economic activities that would occur from catalysing activities in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

He said, “Today’s meeting was enlarged to include Executive Governors and other top government functionaries from the oil palm producing states to elicit their buy-in and set a partnership model that would, with immediate effect, stimulate investments in the palm oil plantations, such that within the next 3-5 years, the global share of the country’s oil palm production would more than double.

“Our ultimate vision is to overtake Thailand and Columbia to become the third largest producer over the next few years.”

The Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, said that there were a lot of factors that were making the country uncompetitive in oil palm production.

He said for the intervention of the CBN to achieve the needed results, there was a  need to have a very clear plan that would provide the right infrastructure for the land to be given out by governors.

He also said there was a need to determine where to get the planting materials that would serve as input for oil palm farmers.

He added that the issue of farming practices and training of smallholder farmers must also be considered, noting that to attract any meaningful investment, there must be some form of incentives to attract investors.

Apapa Customs generates N61bn revenue in two months

Image result for Apapa Customs generates N61bn revenue in two monthsThe Apapa Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has said it generated N61bn revenue in the first two months of this year.

The outgoing Controller of the command, Bashir Abubakar, who disclosed this in Lagos on Monday, said the feat was achieved by the drive of the officers in enforcing compliance in the operations.

“The command, between January 1st and March 14th, seized 24 containers of tomato paste and vegetable oil with duty paid value of N200,867,000. The export seat in the command made $2,505,076 and N765.3m on free on board,” he said during a ceremony where he handed over to Mohammed Abba-Kura as the new controller.

Abubakar, who described the incoming controller as a goal getter, said the good target of the command would be maintained.

He urged officers of the command to extend goodwill and cooperation to the new Controller while thanking them for a warm relationship during his stay in the command.

The PUNCH reported in February that the Apapa Area Command said it generated N404bn in 2018, up from N350.9bn in the same period in 2017.

Abubakar had said at a press briefing that the amount realised was 95 per cent of the 2018 revenue target of N426.1bn.

“This also shows that the command collected N53bn above the revenue generated in 2017,” he said.

Abubakar attributed the success to the selfless stance of the officers and men as well as the support and back-up by the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.) and his management team.

NSC Seeks End To Trade Barriers In ECOWAS Region

Image result for NSC Seeks End To Trade Barriers In ECOWAS Region

By UDO ONYEKA

The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, has called on stakeholders in the ECOWAS sub-region to work towards eliminating issues of trade barriers.

Bello who spoke at the Borderless Alliance workshop and launch of ECOWAS Trade Liberlisation Scheme (ETLS) handbook in Lagos said the sub-region would benefit more when trade barriers are removed.

The NSC boss who was represented on the occasion by the Director, Consumer Affairs of the Council, Chief Cajetan Agu noted that the trade barriers would ease when stakeholders and authorities comply with approved standards and rules.

He canvassed for synergy between the public and private sectors to achieve the necessary cost effectiveness in doing business in the sub-region.

According to him removing obstacles to intra-regional integration in the ECOWAS sub-region would be particularly beneficial to the small-scale traders that conduct cross border commerce within the sub-region.

He identified the potential benefits as food security, job creation, poverty reduction, increased tax revenues for authorities and long-term development.

“It is our belief that if relevant stakeholders and authorities comply with approved standards and rules, barriers to trade would automatically ease off and pave-way for seamless operations at our borders. The public and private sectors should therefore synergize to achieve the necessary cost effectiveness in doing business in the sub-region”, he said.

Bello commended the Borderless Alliance and UKaid for developing ETLS Handbook which is a compilation of documentation requirements needed to transact cross-border trade.

The handbook identifies common barriers facing cross-border trade stakeholders for specified products.

TEF to Announce Selected Entrepreneurs for 2019 Programme March 22

By UDO ONYEKA

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) said it would announce the selected applicants for the 2019 cohort of the Foundation’s flagship Entrepreneurship Programme on March 22, 2019.

The event, which marks the 5th round of the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme, will take place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, a statement by the organization has said.

Through its $100million Entrepreneurship Programme, the Foundation empowers 1,000 entrepreneurs annually, who receive $5,000 in non-refundable seed capital, access to mentors, a 12-week training programme and opportunities to promote their businesses to a global audience.

All applicants receive access to TEFConnect, Africa’s digital entrepreneurial hub, which provides access to networks, training, further capital sources and business opportunities.

According to the statement the Foundation in 2018, launched TEFConnect, the digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs as a means of cascading proven entrepreneurial tool kit to the huge numbers of applicants.

“The platform, which has currently over 400,000 users, providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to network, receives training and forge business partnerships to scale their businesses beyond physical borders.

“In the five years since the Foundation launched its Entrepreneurship Programme, it has empowered 4,000 African entrepreneurs directly and an additional 470 entrepreneurs supported by the Foundation’s partners”, the statement said.

The Foundation’s CEO, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu said “Each year we see a significant uplift in applicants. Our execution partner, Accenture Development Partnerships, are currently reviewing and finalising the applications. Over 215,000 African entrepreneurs applied from across 54 African countries, up from 151,000 applications last year, with an increase in female representation from 62,000 in 2018 to 90,000 in 2019.

“These rising figures demonstrate the burning desire of the African entrepreneur to develop our continent, and we must urgently convert this passion into viable businesses to develop our continent.

“Our Programme has developed a robust mechanism for directing capital effectively and efficiently, to those who can deploy it in local communities with the greatest impact. We are looking forward to working with partners to collaborate with us, to scale the platform and process we have created. Empowering African entrepreneurs must be a shared responsibility to create economic prosperity for all”, she said.

Nigeria’s export to France, Spain, three others hit N2.286tn

Nigeria’s total export to five major countries totalled N2.28tn in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics on commodity price indices and terms of trade (Q4 2018) revealed that Nigeria’s exports to Spain and China were N569.4bn and N113.3bn, while the figures for The Netherland, France and India were N328.7bn, N494.9bn and N780.1bn respectively.

India was Nigeria’s major export market in Q4 2018 accounting for 15.5 per cent (N780.1bn) of total exports.

The largest export commodity to India was crude oil (N730.3bn). This was followed by natural gas liquified (N39.1bn), sesamum seed (N4.1bn), cashew nuts (N2.0bn) and others.

Nigeria imported live purebred horses (N66.5bn), live horses (N9.3bn), primates (N6.8bn) and other live mammals (N6.6bnn) from India during the period under review.

Nigeria’s exports to Spain was valued at N569.4bn, making it the second largest export market for Nigeria in Q4 2018.

Crude oil was the top Nigerian export during the period under review, valued at N471.6bn.

Other goods exported to Spain during the period were natural gas liquified valued at N93.1bn, leather prepared after tanning (goat) (N2.1bn) and others.

In terms of imported commodities, live purebred breeding horses valued at N295.2bn, live horses other than purebred valued at N285.9bn, primates valued at N283.4 bn and other live mammals valued at N270.2bn were imported from Spain.

China had maintained its position as a major trading partner of Nigeria. In Q4 2018, Nigeria’s export trade with China was dominated by natural gas liquified which amounted to N63.4bn in value, followed by crude oil (N23.5bn), sesamum seed(N13.7bn), propane, liquified (N8.0bn) and butane, liquefied (N4.7bn).

In terms of imports, machines for reception of voice, motorcycles, machine tools for working stones, Amorphous PET chips and machines for cleaning seeds worth N35.6bn, N19.9bn, N18.9bn, N15.6bn and N14.2bn respectively were imported from China.

In Q4 2018, Nigeria exported N432.2bn worth of crude oil to France. Other major export commodities include Natural Gas Liquified valued at N62.1bn and technically-specified natural rubber valued at N0.6bn.

Data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics on commodity price indices and terms of trade (Q4 2018) revealed that Nigeria’s exports to Spain and China were N569.4bn and N113.3bn, while the figures for The Netherland, France and India were N328.7bn, N494.9bn and N780.1bn respectively.

India was Nigeria’s major export market in Q4 2018 accounting for 15.5 per cent (N780.1bn) of total exports.

The largest export commodity to India was crude oil (N730.3bn). This was followed by natural gas liquified (N39.1bn), sesamum seed (N4.1bn), cashew nuts (N2.0bn) and others.

Nigeria imported live purebred horses (N66.5bn), live horses (N9.3bn), primates (N6.8bn) and other live mammals (N6.6bnn) from India during the period under review.

Nigeria’s exports to Spain was valued at N569.4bn, making it the second largest export market for Nigeria in Q4 2018.

Crude oil was the top Nigerian export during the period under review, valued at N471.6bn.

Other goods exported to Spain during the period were natural gas liquified valued at N93.1bn, leather prepared after tanning (goat) (N2.1bn) and others.

In terms of imported commodities, live purebred breeding horses valued at N295.2bn, live horses other than purebred valued at N285.9bn, primates valued at N283.4 bn and other live mammals valued at N270.2bn were imported from Spain.

China had maintained its position as a major trading partner of Nigeria. In Q4 2018, Nigeria’s export trade with China was dominated by natural gas liquified which amounted to N63.4bn in value, followed by crude oil (N23.5bn), sesamum seed(N13.7bn), propane, liquified (N8.0bn) and butane, liquefied (N4.7bn).

In terms of imports, machines for reception of voice, motorcycles, machine tools for working stones, Amorphous PET chips and machines for cleaning seeds worth N35.6bn, N19.9bn, N18.9bn, N15.6bn and N14.2bn respectively were imported from China.

In Q4 2018, Nigeria exported N432.2bn worth of crude oil to France. Other major export commodities include Natural Gas Liquified valued at N62.1bn and technically-specified natural rubber valued at N0.6bn.

FG to redeem N139.6bn Treasury bills, bonds …as CBN auctions N48.6bn T-bills this week

The Federal Government is expected to redeem N48.6bn Treasury bills and make N91bn bond coupon payment this week to bolster system liquidity.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is also scheduled to auction N48.6bn worth of Treasury bills this week in a primary market auction.

The CBN conducted an Open Market Operation auction once last week, which was on Thursday and offered a total of N350bn across the short – and medium-term maturities, that is the 91-day and the 175-day maturities.

The 91-day and 175-day bills were oversubscribed by 1.1x and 1.2x, respectively leading to a decline in the stop rates by six basis points and 24bps, respectively.

At the primary market auction last week, there was high demand across the 91-day, 182-day and 364-day maturities, which were oversubscribed by 2.9x, 3.3x and 7.7x, respectively.

As a result, stop rates across all three tenors declined with the CBN fully allotting N89.5bn (the total volume offered) across the board.

The Treasury bills secondary market, thus, maintained its bullish sentiment last week largely due to the huge volumes of lost bids at the primary market auction, following lower-than-expected stop rates, as well as the continued absence of long-term OMO bills.

Consequently, average yields across all tenors declined by 19bps week-on-week to close at 13.3 per cent on Friday.

Major buying interests were recorded at the medium and long-ends of the curve, particularly the 18-Jul-19, 08-Aug-19 and 02-Jan-20 maturities.

However, sell-offs of the 28-Mar-19 and the 04-Apr-19 buoyed yields at the shorter end of the curve.

Analysts at Afrinvest Securities Limited said they believed that there would also be a strong demand at this week’s primary market auction, particularly at the long-end of the curve (the 364-day tenor) as investors locked in their funds in anticipation of further rate decline, predominantly if there would be no OMO auctions with long-term offers on Monday and Tuesday.

They said, “Investors are, therefore, advised to take advantage of the long-term primary market auction offer as well as selected secondary market bills as the apex bank has only offered short – and medium-term OMO bills in recent times.

“We expect buying interests by local and foreign investors, particularly at the medium-to long-end of the curve to persist, thereby pressuring yields downwards amidst reduced OMO auctions and the absence of long-term OMO bills.

“We also maintain that the stop rates at the PMA would guide rates obtainable on similar bills at the secondary market.”

Five firms bid for Afam, Yola power companies

Five firms have submitted financial and technical bids to purchase  51 per cent stake in the Afam Power Plc – an electricity generation company – and Yola Electricity Distribution Company.

Head, Public Communications at the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Amina Othman, disclosed this in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Monday.

Othman said that the five companies beat the Friday deadline set for the submission of financial and technical proposals.

She said, “A total of five bids were received by the BPE on Friday, March 15, 2019 – being the deadline for the submission of technical and financial proposals for the acquisition of the Yola Electricity Distribution Company and Afam Electricity Generation Company (Afam Power Plc & Afam Three Fast Power Limited) by prospective core-investors.

“Two firms – Quest Electricity Nigeria Limited and Sandstream Nigeria – submitted proposals to acquire the Yola Disco while DiamondStripes Consortium, Unicorn Power Generation Consortium and Transcorp Power, sought to acquire the Afam Genco.

“Sandstream submission was, however, found to be non-responsive as it failed to include a bank guarantee in line with the requirements in the Requests for Proposal.

Accordingly, the representative of the firm took the bid back.”

Speaking on the development, the Director-General of BPE, Mr Alex Okoh, assured the bidders that the evaluation of their bids would be subjected to the highest level of integrity culminating into the financial bids opening of the successful bidders.

Okoh said the Evaluation Committee would meet immediately to discuss and finalise the scoring criteria before commencing the evaluation process which was expected to end on Thursday.

A total of 19 firms had indicated interest to acquire the Afam Power Company and the Yola Distribution Company put up for sale by the Federal Government at the close of the submission of bids for the Expression of Interest at 1 pm on Tuesday, September 26, 2018.

The request for expression of interest in the two companies was published by the BPE in national newspapers on August 16, 2018, and after evaluation of the EOIs, 11 firms qualified for the next stage but only the five were successful.

The Yola Distribution Company had been successfully privatised and handed over to the core investor in 2013. However, a force majeure was declared in 2015 by the core investor citing insecurity in the North-East region of the country. Following this, the company was duly repossessed by the Federal Government.

The transaction for Afam Power Generation Company, on the other hand, fell through due to the delay in signing the Gas Supply Agreement and the Gas Transportation Agreement.

In 2017, the National Council on Privatisation gave approval for a fresh transaction to privatise the two power companies, Othman said.

It is expected that the successful bidders will be responsible for operating the generation and distribution companies, making the necessary investments to improve the generation and distribution networks and customer service in line with the objectives of the Federal Government of Nigeria set out in the National Electric Power Policy, the BPE spokesperson added.

Decline in Treasury bill rates to persist

THE steady decline in interest rates on treasury bills, TBs, offer in the primary market since last month is expected to continue this week when the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, roll over N48.6 billion worth of maturing bills.

Last week the apex bank sold N89 billion worth of TBs in the primary market at lower stop rates. Stop rate for the 91-Days bills dropped by 15 basis points (bpts) to 10.75 percent from 10.9 percent in the previous auction held on February 27.

The stop rate on the 182-Days bills also dropped by five bpts to 12.5 percent from 13 percent in the previous auction, while stop rate for the 364-Days bills dropped by 152 bpts to 12.85 percent, the lowest since August last year, from 14.37 percent in the previous auction in February.

The Central Bank of Nigeria head office in Abuja, Financial Vanguard analysis of primary market TB auction since January revealed a two month downward trend in rates.

Between the first auction on January 16 and the auction held last week Wednesday (March 13), stop rate on 91-Days bills dropped by 25 bpts to 10.75 percent last week from 11 percent on January 16. Stop rate on 182-Days bills fell marginally by six bpts to 12.5 percent last week from 13.1 percent on January 16.

The biggest decline was recorded by the stop rate for 364-Days bills which fell by 215 bpts to 12.85 percent last week from 15 percent on January 16.

The above trend is driven by massive over-subscription (excess demand) for TBs fuelled by foreign portfolio investors seeking to take advantage of the high interest rate regime in the nation’s fixed income market.

This is reflected by the 88 percent increase in dollar injection by foreign portfolio investors through the Investors and Exporters (I&E) foreign exchange window, which rose to $3.07 billion in the first two months of the year (January and February) from $1.63 billion in Q4’18.

This massive inflow triggered 532 percent over-subscription in the primary market TBs auction held by the CBN on February 27.

The CBN offered and sold N115 billion worth of TBs while total subscription stood at N727.35 billion. This trend was repeated last week, with the primary market auction recording 575 percent over-subscription.

While the CBN offered and sold N89 billion worth of bills, total subscription (investors demand) stood at N600.52 billion.

Confirming this development, analysts at Lagos based Cowry Asset Management Limited said: “Amid demand pressure from the foreign portfolio investors, we saw stop rates fall across tenor days: 91-day, 182-day and 364-day maturities.”

They projected that the huge demand for TBs will persist this week when the CBN offers maturing TBs worth 48.6 billion, as well as further moderation in stop rates.

“In the new week, CBN will rollover T-bills worth N48.57 billion, viz: 91-day bills worth N3 billion, 182-day bills worth N8.39 billion and 364-day bills worth N37.18 billion.

We expect their stop rates to fall amid buy pressure. Amid the N169.44 billion bills maturing, we expect yields to further moderate given the declining stop rates.”

In a bid to mop up the excess liquidity from the unmet demand for TBs in the primary market auction, the CBN on Thursday held secondary market (Open Market Operations, OMO) TB auction, which recorded 23 percent oversubscription.

Total public subscription to the N350 billion worth of bills offered by the apex bank stood at N429.5 billion while the apex bank sold N400.48 billion.

In response, cost of funds rose marginally at the end of the week with average short term rates rising by 1.8 basis points (bpts). Data from FMDQ showed that interest rate on Collateralised (Open Buy Back, OBB) lending rose by 2.0 bpts to 11.17 percent last week from 9.17 percent the previous week. Similarly, interest rate on Overnight lending rose by 1.6 bpts to 11.67 percent last week from 10.08 percent the previous week.

This trend may persist this week in the face of further liquidity mop by the CBN  in response to maturing OMO bills worth N169 billion during the week.

External reserves hit 5weeks high at $43bn The naira appreciated further last week in the I&E window as the nation’s external reserves rose to five weeks high of $43 billion on Thursday.

According to the CBN the external reserves recorded a weekly increase of $381 million last week to $42.987 billion from $42.606 billion on Thursday March 7.

The $42.987 billion recorded last week, March 14 represents the highest level since February 6 when the reserves peaked at $42.991 billion.

 

The rise in reserves may be unconnected to the huge dollar inflow from foreign investors through the I&E window since the beginning of the year. Last week, the volume of dollars traded in the I&E window dropped by 58 percent to $1.7 billion from $4.1 billion the previous week.

However, the naira sustained its upward trend in the market since last month. According to FMDQ, the indicative exchange rate dropped further to N360.18 per dollar last week from N360.42 per dollar the previous week, translating to 24 kobo appreciation for the naira.

OPEC to scrap April meeting, keeps oil cut in place

OPEC is set to scrap its planned meeting in April and decide instead whether to extend oil output cuts in June, when the market will be able to assess the full impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran and the crisis in Venezuela.

A ministerial panel of OPEC and its allies recommended on Monday that they cancel the extraordinary meeting scheduled for April 17-18, which means the next regular talks would be held from June 25 to June 26.

The energy minister of OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, said over the weekend that the market was looking oversupplied until the end of the year but that April would be too early for any decision on output policy.

“The consensus we heard is that April will be premature to make any production decision for the second half,” the Saudi minister, Khalid al-Falih, said on Monday.

“As long as the levels of inventories are rising and we are far from normal levels, we will stay the course, guiding the market toward balance,” he added.

The United States has been increasing its own oil exports in recent months while imposing sanctions on OPEC members Venezuela and Iran in an effort to reduce those two countries’ shipments to global markets.

Washington’s policies have introduced a new level of complication for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as it struggles to predict global supply and demand.

“We are not under pressure except by the market,” Falih told reporters before the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting in the Azeri capital, Baku, when asked whether he was under U.S. pressure to raise output.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of OPEC, blaming it for high oil prices. Many OPEC members have said Trump’s sanctions policies have elevated the market.

OPEC and its allies agreed in December to cut output by 1.2 million barrels per day – 1.2 per cent of global demand – during the first half of this year in an effort to boost prices.

The JMMC, which also includes non-OPEC Russia, monitors the oil market and conformity with supply cuts.

Asked if he had been updated on whether Washington would extend its waivers for buyers of Iranian crude, which are due to end in May, Falih said: “Until we see it hurting consumers, until we see the impact on inventory, we are not going to change course.”

Inventory levels and oil investments are the two main factors guiding OPEC’s action, Falih said, adding that oil industry estimates show that 11 trillion dollars of investments will be needed over the coming two decades to meet demand growth.

Oil inventories in developed countries continue to fluctuate, he said.

“Our goal is to bring global inventory levels down to more normal levels – and even more importantly, to proactively protect against a glut,” he said.

“Another important metric is the state of oil investments … we are not seeing an investment trend that will get us even closer to the required figures.”