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Stronger economic outlook, U.S. stockpile draw lift oil prices

Oil prices edged higher on Wednesday on the prospects for stronger global economic growth amid increased COVID-19 vaccinations and a report that crude inventories in the United States, the world’s biggest fuel consumer, fell.

Brent crude futures for June rose by 34 cents, or 0.5%, to $63.08 a barrel by 0123 GMT while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for May was up 32 cents, or 0.5%, to $59.65.

“Optimism on the global economic outlook boosted sentiment in the crude oil market,” analysts from ANZ bank wrote in a note on Wednesday.

Prices were buoyed as data on Tuesday showed U.S. job openings rose to a two-year high in February while hiring picked up. This followed earlier data showing U.S. services activity touching a record high in March and China’s service sector showing the sharpest increase in sales in three months.

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday unprecedented public spending to fight COVID-19, primarily by the United States, would push global growth to 6% this year, a rate unseen since the 1970s.

Optimism on a wider rollout of vaccines also boosted prices with U.S. President Joe Biden moving up the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility target for all American adults to April 19.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell in the most recent week, while fuel inventories rose, according to three market sources, citing American Petroleum Institute (API) figures ahead of government data on Wednesday.

Crude inventories fell by 2.6 million barrels in the week ended April 2, the sources said, citing the API data. Forecasters had predicted a drop of just 1.4 million barrels.

Oil production in the U.S. is expected to fall by 270,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 to 11.04 million bpd, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday, a steeper decline than its previous monthly forecast for a drop of 160,000 bpd.

Iran and world powers held what they described as “constructive” talks on Tuesday and agreed to form working groups to discuss potentially reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that could lead to Washington lifting sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and increasing oil supply.

A third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders: study

One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said on Tuesday.

Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.

Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19.

“Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections,” said Max Taquet, a psychiatrist at Britain’s Oxford University, who co-led the work.

Buhari accepts transition of PTF to PSC on COVID-19

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the transition of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 effective from April 1, 2021 with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergent status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic.

Boss Mustapha, the Chairman PTF, announced the restructuring in Abuja yesterday at the PTF press briefing.

This transformation also came at a time a consignment of 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccines was donated by the government of India to Nigeria.

The new mandate to the PTF followed the submission of the report to the President after the expiration of the three months’ mandate extension granted to it.

IMF raises Nigeria’s 2021 GDP growth forecast to 2.5%

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised upward its growth forecast for the Nigerian economy in 2021 from one per cent it had predicted in January to 2.5 per cent.

IMF, in its latest World Economic Outlook titled: “Managing Divergent Recoveries,” that was released yesterday, however, expects a 2.3 per cent economic growth for the country in 2022.

For Sub-Saharan Africa generally, the IMF also anticipated growth of 3.4 per cent this year, higher than its earlier forecast of 0.2 per cent.

“The pandemic continues to exact a large toll on Sub-Saharan Africa (especially, for example, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa). Following the largest contraction ever for the region (1.9 per cent in 2020), growth is expected to rebound to 3.4 per cent in 2021, significantly lower than the trend anticipated before the pandemic. Tourism-reliant economies will likely be the most affected,” the IMF said.

It stated that some countries have continued to observe high and volatile inflation and may be limited in the monetary accommodation they can provide without risking destabilising inflation.

“Rapidly rising food prices have already lifted headline inflation rates in some regions, including sub-Saharan Africa and Asia,” it added.

Courts grounded as judiciary workers begin strike

Judiciary workers yesterday made good their threat to embark on industrial action to press home their demand for the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary.

Reports from states showed that a task force raised by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to enforce the strike, went from courtroom to courtroom to ensure compliance with the directive.

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