• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s Cardoso fires two big signals with 600bps rate hike in 1 month

Olayemi Cardoso, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) fired at least two strong signals to the investor community with the apex bank’s latest interest rate hike on Tuesday.

First is that the CBN is well aware of the competition it faces from emerging market peers for investor funds and will do what it can to beat them to those funds.

Second is the CBN is very much independent as it has gone on to hike rates despite the implication for the government’s borrowing costs.

Read also: Respite as CBN, again, slashes Customs FX duty rate by 3%

The CBN has in the space of one month matched the 600 basis points hike delivered by its Egyptian counterpart in one fell swoop.

“Good move from Nigeria,” said Charles Robertson, head of macro strategy at FIM Partners.

“That’s pushed up interest rates by 6% (600bp) in about a month, equal to Egypt’s one off hike.

Both countries are now serious about stabilising currencies and cutting inflation,” Robertson said.

The CBN had in February hiked rates by a record 400 basis points and has followed that up with another 200 basis points increase, taking the monetary policy rate to 24.75 percent, the highest since 1999.

International investors are already beginning to dip their toes back into Nigerian local debt after the much-needed rate hike last month.

The latest hike, combined with the steady climb in the naira’s value against the dollar, is expected to attract even more interest from offshore investors.

Analysts in a BusinessDay survey had predicted a 100 basis point hike but the CBN surprised them with double their expectations.

The second signal the CBN fired with what is now a 600 basis point hike in one month is that the Abuja-based bank is independent and that Cardoso is not tied to the apron strings of his long-time boss, President Bola Tinubu.

There were initial fears that Cardoso, who served as the Commissioner for the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget when President Tinubu governed Lagos, would balk at an aggressive rate hike to keep the government’s borrowing costs low.

Cardoso’s predecessor, Godwin Emefiele, had kept interest rates artificially low in the face of spiraling inflation as he weighed the impact of a hike on the government’s finances.

Nigeria spent over 90 percent of its revenues servicing its loans in 2023.

Read also: Naira gains across markets as CBN sells dollar to BDCs

Cardoso doesn’t seem to worry much about that as he keeps his focus on the core mandate of the CBN – price stability.

Prior to the MPC meeting, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that inflation jumped to 31.7 percent in February compared to 29.90 percent in January.

Cardoso, who had voted for an even bigger rate hike in February, was widely expected to raise rates again at today’s meeting in his bid to deliver real positive returns on naira assets.

The gains of the last hike include increased investor participation in local bonds with the dollar inflow helping to stabilize the embattled naira.

 

Details later….