Nigeria Holds Key Rate At 14%

The central bank of Nigeria left its benchmark interest rate steady at 14 percent on July 25th 2017, in line with market expectations, mentioning the headwind confronting the economy and global uncertainties. Six of the eight members of the monetary policy committee voted to hold rates, while two voted for a cut. The inflation slowed for 16.1 percent in June, the lowest in 13 months.

Excerpts from the Statement by the Central Bank of Nigeria:

The Monetary Policy Committee met on the 24th and 25th of July 2017, against the backdrop of a relatively improving global economy. However, protectionism in trade and immigration fragilities in the financial markets, remain the key risks to global economic stability. On the domestic front, the economy is on a path to moderate recovery with a positive short- to medium-term outlook, premised largely on fiscal stimulus and a stable naira exchange rate. Inflation expectations also appear sufficiently anchored with the current stance of monetary policy.

Notwithstanding the improved outlook for growth, the Committee assessed the implications of the uncertainties arising from the continued normalization of monetary policy by the US Fed and the implications of a strong dollar, the weak recovery of commodity prices, and the uncertainty of US fiscal policy. The Committee similarly evaluated other challenges confronting the domestic economy and the opportunities for achieving economic growth and price stability in 2017.

The Committee expressed satisfaction with the gradual but consistent decline in inflationary pressures in the domestic economy, noting its substantial base effect, continuous improvements in the naira exchange rate across all segments of the foreign exchange market, and considerable signs of improved investments inflows. The Committee welcomed the move by the fiscal authorities to engage the services of asset-tracing experts to investigate the tax payment status of 150 firms and individuals in an effort to close some of the loopholes in tax collection, towards improving government revenue. However, the Committee expressed concern about the slow implementation of the 2017 Budget and called on the relevant authorities to ensure timely implementation, especially, of the capital portion in order to realize the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

The MPC thinks that easing at this point would signal the Committee’s sensitivity to growth and employment concerns by encouraging the flow of credit to the real economy. It would also promote policy consistency and credibility of its decisions. Also, the Committee observed that easing at this time would reduce the cost of debt service, which is actually crowding out government expenditure. The risks to easing however, would show in terms of upstaging the modest stability achieved in the foreign exchange market, the possible exit of foreign portfolio investors as well as a resurgence of inflation following the intensified implementation of the 2017 budget in the course of the year. The Committee also reasoned that easing would further pull the real interest rate down into negative territory.

The argument for holding is largely premised on the need to safeguard the stability achieved in the foreign exchange market, and to allow time for past policies to work through the economy. Specifically, the MPC considered the high banking system liquidity level; the need to continue to attract foreign investment inflow to support the foreign exchange market and economic activity; the expansive outlook for fiscal policy in the rest of the year; the prospective election related spending which could cause a jump in system liquidity, etc. 

In summary, the MPC decided to:
(i)  Retain the MPR at 14 per cent;
(ii) Retain the CRR at 22.5 per cent;
(iii) Retain the Liquidity Ratio at 30.00 per cent;
(iv) Retain the Asymmetric corridor at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.

Nigeria Holds Key Rate At 14%

Joana Taborda |
7/25/2017 5:34:02 PM