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Oil Prices and Foreign Exchange (FX) Reserves

10 min read

Tuesday, June 08,
2021 10:08 AM / by Coronation Research/ Header Image
Credit:  Vanguard Newspapper


can almost hear the sigh of relief coming from Abuja. Oil prices are up and the
immediate threat to the nation’s foreign exchange reserves has receded. Markets
(long-dated bonds and equities) have responded positively. However, inflation
is still far above risk-free rates and the unofficial exchange rate is
slipping. The game is not yet won.



Last week, the exchange rate in the Investors and Exporters Window
(I&E Window) strengthened by 0.30% to close at N410.75/US$1. However, in
the parallel (or street) market, the Naira weakened by 1.41% to close at
N502.00/US$1, the lowest level since 22 February 2017 (N505.00/US$1). The move
has widened the gap between the two market rates to 22.22%.


 In the past week, ABCON
(Association of Bureau De Change Operators) commenced its “Operation No Street
Trading” to stop the hawking of foreign exchange by unlicensed BDC operators,
in order to (1) clamp down on speculation, and (2) reduce the divergence
between the official and parallel rates. The CBN also announced that it would
increase FX allocations to meet travel allowance requests and tuition payments,
amongst other invisibles. Elsewhere, the CBN’s FX reserves fell very slightly,
by 0.07% over the week to US$34.22bn. Despite the efforts of the CBN to
increase US dollar supply to the I&E Window and NAFEX market, we expect the
parallel rate and the I&E Window rates to continue to be under pressure
over the months to come.

 Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

Bonds & T-bills    

Last week, the secondary market for FGN bonds experienced renewed
bullish sentiment, as investors cherry-picked yields across the curve. As a
result, the yield of an FGN Nairadenominated bond with 10 years to maturity
fell by 27bps to 12.94%, the yield on the 7- year bond fell by 28bps to 12.87%,
and the yield on a 3-year bond fell by 54bps to 11.66%. The overall average
benchmark yield fell by 31bps w/w to close at 12.21%. Despite the recent
improvement in demand, we maintain our view of an upward trend in bond yields
amidst still negative inflation-adjusted returns.


Activity in the Nigerian Treasury Bill (T-bill) secondary market
remained bearish. The annualised yield on a 328-day T-bill in the secondary
market fell by 7bps to 9.50%, and the yield on a 284-day OMO bill fell by 61bps
to 9.79%. However, the average benchmark yield for T-bills rose by 16bps w/w to
close at 6.26%, while the average yield for OMO bills rose by 37bps w/w to
close at 9.96%. On Wednesday the Debt Management Office is expected to roll
over N91.26bn (US$221.9mn) in maturing T-bills via auction. We anticipate
another oversubscribed auction, which may enable the DMO to keep stop rates on
hold for the time being. The CBN mopped up liquidity via an OMO auction last
week, selling a total of N18.30bn in bills. As a result, the stop rates for the
89-day (7.00%), 180- day (8.50%), and 348-day (10.10%) bills remained unchanged
from recent auctions. We still expect secondary market yields to trend upwards
over the coming weeks amidst the continued squeeze on system liquidity.



The price of Brent crude rose by 3.25% last week, closing at
US$71.89/bbl, the highest level since May 2019, with a 38.78% increase
year-to-date. The average price year-todate is US$63.81/bbl, 47.65% higher than
the average of US$43.22/bbl in 2020. Last week, oil prices rallied to levels
above US$70/bbl, higher than pre-pandemic levels, off the back of the positive
global economic outlook. During the OPEC+ (Organization of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries, plus Russia) meeting on Tuesday, the plan to ease
production cuts by 840,000bpd in July was reaffirmed, as global oil demand is
anticipated to increase by 6 million barrels per day. Additionally, members
were required to submit plans to compensate for producing at levels above the
set quota. With the proposed increase in global supply unlikely to exceed
expected demand, our view is that oil prices are likely to remain well above
the US$60.00/bbl mark for several months.



The NGX All-Share Index (NGX-ASI) was up by 1.23% last week,
moderating the year-todate loss to 3.84%. MRS +9.57%, FCMB Group +8.20%, and PZ
Cussons +3.77% closed positive last week, while International Breweries -6.14%,
Lafarge Africa -4.43%, and Stanbic IBTC -1.96% closed negative. Sectoral
performances were mixed as the NGX Industrial Goods index led the gainers,
rising by +2.60%, followed by the NGX 30 index +1.35%, NGX Insurance index
+1.25%, NGX Pension index +0.63%, and NGX Banking index +0.04%. Conversely, the
NGX Oil and Gas index led the losers, declining by 0.79%, followed by the NGX
Consumer Goods index -0.37%. Bargain buying has ensued following the slowdown
in the upward trend in yields in the fixed income market. It seems possible
that the bulls will decide the direction of the market over the coming weeks.
However, given our expectation for fixed income yields to resume their upwards
movement, we are not sure for how long this trend can continue


Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

Oil Prices and FX Reserves

Ask a Nigerian the Naira/US dollar exchange rate on any given day
and you will receive an answer. The same is true of fuel prices and, by
extension, crude oil prices. Both economic indicators are close to the heart of
anyone running a business or a household.


So, the news that the price of Brent crude has risen through the
US$70.00/bbl mark is good for some (e.g. government oil revenues) and bad for
others (e.g. fuel prices). Oil and gas account for some 80% of Nigeria’s
exports and upwards of 60% of government budget revenues. High oil prices,
combined with sustained production, support the Federal Government’s (FGN)
finances and the foreign exchange reserves of the Central Bank of Nigeria

 Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.


However, the relationship between oil prices and production on the
one hand, and the reserves of the CBN on the other, is complicated. Oil is sold
at forward, not spot, prices; Nigeria’s gas is sold at contracted, not
commodity, prices; and oil is exchanged for fuel in swaps. So, accurately
determining oil & gas revenues is not easy. And the CBN’s FX reserves are
influenced by other factors, including the government’s foreign borrowing and
how many US dollars the CBN supplies to the foreign exchange markets at any
given time. (For example, the CBN was supplying some US$1.0bn per month to
Nigeria’s FX markets during the second half of 2019.)


Rather than attempt a granular model of the relationship between
oil prices and CBN reserves (we have tried) it is better to look at the
long-term relationship between them and establish some rules of thumb.
Accordingly, the CBN’s FX reserves tend to prosper when Brent crude is
consistently above US$60/bbl (though above US$50/bbl will do). They fall when
the price of Brent crude holds below these levels, at which times the FX
reserves of the CBN can trend below US$30bn. At this point the Naira is
susceptible to devaluation. This was the case in June 2016 when it fell from
N199/US$1 to N316/US$1, with a knock-on devaluation in August 2017 to


Alternatively, and more recently, the CBN might look at oil prices
and choose to allow the interbank rate to devalue. (What we refer to as the
interbank rate is, these days, the same as the NAFEX and the I&E Window
rates.) This was the case in March 2020 when the NAFEX and I&E rates moved
from N367/US$1 to N388/US$1 and in February 2021 when they moved from N381/US$1
to N410/US$1. By using pre-emptive and small-step exchange rate adjustments,
the CBN has protected its FX reserves over the past fifteen months (see chart).


Brent crude prices comfortably above US$60/bbl mean strong FX
reserves. Even better is to rely on the comfort of these US dollar inflows to
borrow more. The FGN is likely to do this with a US dollar Eurobond issue this
year, perhaps in the region of US$3.0bn (which would be banked with the CBN).
The CBN issues its own Nairadenominated bills to foreign investors (who sell US
dollars to purchase them, holding a non-deliverable forward for their currency
exposure) but this form of foreign portfolio investment (FPI) seems to be weak
at the moment, and does not appear as a significant source of US dollars for


As for the price of Brent crude itself, this is in the hands of the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partner Russia
(OPEC+). In response to the oil price crash in 2020 they reduced their combined
production by 9.7 million barrels per day (mbpd), a limitation which they are
now unwinding slowly. The market judges this rate of restoration (there will
still be just under 6.0mbpd of cuts by July this year) to be slower than what
is required, given the upswing in global demand. Both OPEC+ and the markets
appear to be content with this. So, the price of Brent appears firm, at least for
the time being, which enhances Nigeria’s US dollar inflows for 2021 and takes
the pressure off the FX reserves of the CBN.


This does not mean an end to the pressure on the Naira in FX
markets (after all, the devaluation of August 2017 took place when the level of
CBN FX reserves was trending upwards), but it does remove the threat of a sharp
fall in FX reserves. Policy makers have been spared that and can turn their
attention to two other critical issues: inflation and the gap between official
and unofficial exchange rates.


Equity Portfolio

Last week the Model Equity Portfolio rose by 1.44% compared with a
rise in the NGX Exchange All-Share Index (NSE-ASI) of 1.23%, therefore
outperforming it by 22 basis points. Year to date it has lost 2.51% against a
loss in the NSE-ASI of 3.84%, outperforming it by 132bps.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

Having taken a knife to our overall overweight (23.1%) notional
position in banks in May, to end the month with a more-or-less neutral position
(15.1%) it was interesting to see that bank prices generally held up last week,
with our overall banks position delivering 2bps. However, over a period of
several weeks our actions has saved the Model Equity Portfolio a notional 8bps.


As we forewarned last week, we made notional purchases in the
cement sector in order to largely neutralise our exposure, making notional
purchases of BUA Cement while holding a slightly overweight position in Dangote


Our outperformance came from our slightly overweight position in
MTN Nigeria which delivered 46bps last week.


We continued to make notional purchases in insurance companies
AIICO and Custodian & Allied, though, as we described last week, liquidity
is frustratingly low. We made a small (500 shares) notional sale of Airtel
Africa and will continue to do so, whenever opportunities arise (but liquidity
is, again, scarce).


As we often write, we do not set ourselves the task of predicting
the direction of the market: rather we buy stocks which we like then their
valuations are inexpensive. However, the lull in the rise in market interest
rates (T-bill rates and bond rates) is bringing a degree of confidence back to
the equity market, so we see reasons for its recent gains and think these could
continue for a while. For the time being (and this really means until we
re-examine the situation next week) we will stick with our notional cash
position (12.4%) and largely neutral allocations to the main index weights.



to Coronation

CBN’s Box of Tools

Slow GDP
Points to MPR Rate Hold

Comparing Mutual Funds,
Apples and Oranges

and Foreign Direct Investment

The Strange Yield Curve

Bonds Sell-Off, US Bonds Rise

Oil Prices to the

CBN and Interest Rates

Policy Rate Decision

10.  Inflation
and Interest Rates

The US 10-Year Bond and

12.  T-Bill Rates Heading
Towards 10.0%

13.  Q4
2020 GDP and the Implications for Markets

14.  Eurobonds
and Foreign Financing

15.  Why
Inflation is Important

16.  Nigerian
GDP Better Than Thought

17.  Naira Crawling Peg?

18.  A Year in Two Charts

19.  Interest Rates on the Rise

20. Oil Above US$50.00 per Barrel

21.  Saving Interest Rate?

22. Where is the Money Going?

23. CBN Likely to Leave MPR at 11.50%

24. Second-best Equity Market in the World

25. The
Biden Effect

26. US Dollar Eurobond Yields Now Higher
Than Naira Yields?

27. Fiscal and Monetary Response to

28. Winners and Losers in Africa  

29. The Return of the Equity Market  

30. Which Way for Interest Rates?  

31.  Coronation Research Releases Report Themed: From Savings to
Mutual Funds

32. A Case of Eurobond Market

33. In the Hands of OPECplus  

34. The Policy Mix and The Markets  

35. The Oil Price and Production

36. Cracks In The Bond Market?  

37. No Big Change in FX Policy  

38. Coronation Research Releases Outlook for Insurance Sector -
From Lagoon To The Blue Ocean

39. Micro-Insurance, Tech, Key to
Deepening Nigeria’s Insurance Sector – 
Coronation Research

40. Navigating the Capital Market:
The Investors’ Dilemma

41.  Market Interest Rates Back Up
Coronation Research


 Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

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 Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

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