The Financial Times UK has described the economic policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration as the ‘height of foolishness’. The leading international business publication in an article by Steve Johnson, the deputy editor of the Financial Times, said the economic policies of the Buhari administration is doomed to fail because it is tailored after Venezuela’s exchange rate policy and China’s failed equity market strategy. The article faulted the circuit breaker on the Nigerian stock exchange which pauses trading for 30 minutes if stock prices fall 5 per cent and will cease for the day if it is triggered twice in a session, or after 1.45pm.
It noted that this month, Beijing abandoned a similar policy after just four days, stating that in a falling market the existence of the circuit breaker encouraged more selling as traders rushed to exit while they could. Quoting John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics, it said: “It is hardly confidence-inspiring that Nigeria is copying a Chinese policy that is widely seen to have failed.” See the full article below:
Nigeria plans to create a $25 billion fund with public and private financing to modernize infrastructure and avoid a recession. Copying Venezuela’s exchange rate policy and China’s failed equity market strategy might seem the height of foolishness.
But, at least in the opinion of John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics, that is precisely what Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, has just done. “Low oil prices are battering Nigeria’s export-dependent economy, but it’s the government’s market-distorting response that risks pushing the country into a Venezuela-style crisis,” Mr Ashbourne says.
“Nigeria is sliding towards a Venezuela-style FX regime and adopting a Chinese-style stock market circuit breaker. Neither will reassure foreign investors, many of whom seem to be eyeing the exits.” Both measures were announced after markets closed on Friday, January 15. The circuit breaker on the Nigerian stock exchange, one of the worst performing in the world this year with a fall of 17.7 per cent, will pause trading for 30 minutes if stock prices fall 5 per cent.
Trading will cease for the day if it is triggered twice in a session, or after 1.45pm.
This month, Beijing abandoned a similar policy after just four days, concluding that in a falling market the existence of the circuit breaker encouraged more selling as traders rushed to exit while they could. “The effect is akin to calling last orders at a crowded bar,” Mr Ashbourne says.
“It is hardly confidence-inspiring that Nigeria is copying a Chinese policy that is widely seen to have failed.” He accepts that Nigeria’s circuit breaker may not be as badly designed as the Chinese version.
Whereas the NSE All Share index rarely falls by 5 per cent a day, the Shanghai Composite did so a dozen times in 2015. The NSE’s version has not yet been called into action. Nevertheless, Mr Ashbourne says that using a circuit breaker to shore up the market, rather than to avoid volatility, is “deeply flawed”.
Simultaneously, the central bank has said it will stop selling US dollars into the interbank FX market. Nigeria has operated a de facto twin currency system for the naira since February 2015, when the bank held the official interbank rate at N199 to the dollar to avoid a spike in inflation.
The unofficial rate, available at bureaux de change, has plunged to N300/$, as the first chart shows. However Mr Ashbourne argues the latest move takes Nigeria a step along the road to a Venezuela-style scenario, where the dollar now buys 913 bolívars on the black market, according to dolartoday.com, compared with an unofficial rate of 6.28/$.
“Suspending US dollar sales to the interbank market will force consumers and firms to source dollars at bureaux de change,” he says, while providing an implicit subsidy for companies and individuals with the connections needed to access the official rate. As the second chart shows, Nigeria’s reluctance to let the naira’s official exchange rate weaken means it has borne the brunt of the sharp fall in oil prices since the middle of 2014.
In naira terms, the oil price has fallen from $115 a barrel to around $35, with the modic** of weakening permitted so far doing little to take the edge off the fall in oil prices to $28 in dollar terms.
In contrast, Russia, which has allowed the rouble to fall sharply, is still seeing oil prices of around $65 in local currency terms, with many other oil exporters such as Brazil and Azerbaijan also seeing more cushioning of the blow than Nigeria.
Charles Robertson, chief global economist at Renaissance Capital, who drew up the second chart, expects Nigeria to bow to the seemingly inevitable and devalue the naira, given that his calculation of fair value is N305/$, very close to the current black market rate.