Naira stays down at 292/$ —Agency report

• Investors hold on upon uncertainty

Naira was stuck at a record closing low of 292.90 to the dollar on Wednesday after just one transaction was carried out, with the supply of dollars drying up and no intervention by the central bank, traders said.

On the black market, the naira was quoted at 368 on Wednesday.

The naira was unchanged from Tuesday’s close after one transaction worth $380,000 was made on Wednesday. That trade was done at 1150 GMT, more than three hours after the market opened.

The interbank market had seen just $300,000 traded on Tuesday, again in one transaction.

Traders had expected the central bank to intervene to ease dollar shortages, but that did not materialise. Commercial banks had been quoting to trade the dollar as low as 295.50 naira on Wednesday.

“Recent FX reforms have been enough to re-open the investment case for Nigeria, but there is still some uncertainty about the functioning of the market,” Alan Cameron, economist at Exotix said.

“The absence of volatility at N283/US$ was interpreted as a sign that administrative controls were still in place; it remains to be seen if those will be fully removed.”

Banks had been quoting the dollar at 281 to 285 naira after the central bank lifted its 16-month old peg of 197 naira to the dollar last month.

But the lack of liquidity has curbed activity, leaving the central bank as the main supplier of dollars, traders say.

On Monday, currency traders introduced a maximum resale premium on dollar trades to try to boost liquidity after a transaction made without spreads sent the naira tumbling to a record intra-day low.

Investors have welcomed the removal of currency controls but many are still steering clear until Africa’s biggest economy shows signs of a concrete recovery.

“Most investors would like to see a more liquid FX market before resuming purchases of local assets,” said Samir Gadio, head of Africa strategy at Standard Chartered Bank.

“Given the significant discount of naira-settled futures, a number of offshore financial institutions and hedge funds could be tempted to get involved in the foreseeable future.”

A total of $579.3 million has been sold in futures contracts ranging between one month and one year. A one-month contract for $26.7 million due on July 27 was sold at 279 naira.

In non-deliverable forward markets, the one-month naira-dollar forward was quoted at 314.50.