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Investors’ Confidence Returns In Developed Markets

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Sentiment toward stocks rose around the world, reaching a record level in the US, as reports on manufacturing showed the global economy is recovering and investors bet that profits grew for the first time since 2007.

Investors forecast gains in each of the nine countries represented in the Bloomberg Professional Confidence Survey for the first time since the data began in 2007. The sentiment measure for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 35 per cent to 54.37.

That’s only the second time the reading exceeded 50, signaling participants anticipate a rally in the next six months. The responses from 4.101 Bloomberg users were gathered January 4-8 as the MSCI World Index added 2.6 per cent.

Rising factory output in the US China and Europe helped send the S & P 500 to six straight gains to begin the year.

Analysts estimate that fourth quarter earnings reports beginning this week will show S&P 500 profit rose 62 percent, according to data complied by Bloomberg.

The results will follow the biggest annual rally since 2003 for MSCI World Index of equities in 23 developed nations. “The market is clearly in an upside trend”, said Luis Benguerd, a trader at inter-brokers Espanola in Barcelona, Spain, who participated in the survey.

“As long as we keep getting these macro figures and companies do as good as analysts expect them to do, that’s enough to keep this trend going”

The MSCI World has rebounded 74 percent from a 13-year low in March after the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate at almost zero and the US government lent, spent or guaranteed as much as $9.66 trillion to end the recession and unlock credit markets.

US factory output expanded in December at the fastest pace in more than three years, according to a report from the Tempe, Arizona-based Institute for supply Management. Chinese manufacturing surged the most since April 2004 last month, data compiled by London-based H SBC Holdings Plc and Market Economics showed. Production increased for a third month in December, Markit said.

The three reports were released January 4. The Bloomberg Sentiment Indexes for the US, Japan and Spain rose above 50 and reached all-time highs. The U.K gauge topped 50 for the first time since October, while Switzerland climbed to a record.

Spain exceeded 50 for the first time, adding 17 percent to 51.41. Confidence in Switzerland climbed 3.6 per cent to 60.89 and U.K index surged 22 per cent to 55.61. The measures for Italy, France and Germany increased 14 per cent, 3.7 per cent and 2.4 per cent to 62.61, 57.77 and 53.33 respectively.

The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index of European equities may advance 9.2 per cent through the end of 2010 as the economy grows strategists at New York based Citigroup Inc wrote in a January 4 report. Signs that the global economy is rebounding from its first recession since World War II have helped push prices on the MSCI World to 34.7 times profit from the past year at its 1.656 companies. That’s the most expensive valuation since 2002, making equities vulnerable should earnings fail to materialise.

Alcoa Inc., the biggest US aluminium producer, began earnings season on January 11 by missing the average analyst profit forecast. The S&P 500 lost 0.9 per cent following the New York based company’s report.

“Alcoa’s bottom-line number was not good and investors are selling because expectations were high”, said Mark Bronzo, a money manager in Irvington, New York, at security global investors, which oversees $21 billion. “The fear gets heightened”.

The MSCI World fell 0.4 per cent on Wednesday morning in New York  on a decline in oil and concern the Federal Reserve is preparing markets for higher interest rates.

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Lawmakers Want CBN To Halt Naira Devaluation

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The House of Representatives has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to urgently put in place a policy to check further devaluation of the naira to the United States dollar and other international legal tenders.
The House decried that while the Nigerian currency was losing value, others in Africa were appreciating.
At the plenary on Wednesday, the House unanimously adopted a motion moved by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Pensions, Mr Bamidele Salam, which warned the CBN of the implications of further devaluing the naira.
The motion was titled, ‘Matter of urgent public importance on the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria to urgently put in place monetary policies to stop the free fall of the naira against the dollar and other international legal tenders’.
Salam recalled that the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, while addressing the Bankers’ Committee at a summit on the economy in Lagos earlier in February, informed the committee about the naira devaluation against the dollar.
The lawmaker also quoted Emefiele as saying at the summit that the official exchange rate stood at N410 to the dollar.
“That is 7.6 per cent weaker than the rate of N379 published on the central bank’s website,” Salam noted.
According to the lawmaker, while the value of the naira relative to the dollar had declined by nine per cent in the last six months, the South African rand and Ghanaian cedi had appreciated by 11.4 per cent and one per cent, respectively.
Salam also recalled that the CBN adopted multiple exchange rates in 2020, in a bid to avoid an outright devaluation. 
He noted that the official rate used as a basis for budget preparation and other official transactions differed from a closely controlled exchange rate for investors and exporters known as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing Methodology.
He stressed that the naira had traded in a tight range between N400 and N410, while the NAFEX rate was different from the parallel market, considered illegal by the CBN, where the naira closed at 502.
Salam said, “The House is concerned that devaluation is likely to cause inflation because imports will be more expensive any imported goods or raw material will increase in price; aggregate demand increases, causing demand-pull inflation. Firms/exporters have less incentive to cut costs because they can rely on the devaluation to improve competitiveness.
 ”The concern is that the long-term devaluation may lead to lower productivity because of the decline in incentives.
 ”The House is further concerned that devaluation of the naira makes it more difficult for Nigerian youths especially in the IT sector, whose businesses are online and must necessarily transact businesses in the US dollars. 
“It also reduces real wages. In a period of low wage growth, a devaluation that causes rising import prices will make consumers feel worse off “.

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Four West African Countries To Buy Nigeria’s Unutilised Electricity

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Four West African countries, Niger, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso, are collaborating to buy the unutilised power produced in Nigeria. 
The Chairman of the Executive Board of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), Sule Abdulaziz, disclosed this at the WAPP meeting on the North core project in Abuja, on Wednesday. 
Abdulaziz, who is also the acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), said the four countries were collaborating to make the power purchase from Nigeria through the North core Power Transmission Line currently being built.
He explained, “The power we will be selling is the power that is not needed in Nigeria.
“The electricity generators that are going to supply power to this transmission line are going to generate that power specifically for this project. So, it is unutilised power”.
He said Nigeria was expecting new generators to participate in the energy export for the 875km 330KV Northcore transmission line from Nigeria through Niger, Togo, Benin to Burkina Faso.
Abdulaziz said, “In addition, there are some communities that are under the line route, about 611 of them, which will be getting power so that there won’t be just a transmission line passing without impact”.
The WAPP chairman noted that the project, funded by World Bank, French Development Council and the African Development Bank, had recorded progress, adding that the energy ministers would be addressing security issues for the project at another meeting in Abuja.
He said, “Nigeria has the greatest advantage among these countries because the electricity is going to be exported from Nigerian Gencos (generation companies). 
“So, from that, the revenue is going to be enhanced and a lot of people will be employed in Nigeria”.
The Secretary-General, WAPP, Siengui Appolinaire-Ki, said the cost of the project was about $570 million, adding that part of the investment in each country would be funded by that particular nation.
According to him, the countries in the partnership, including Nigeria, are also being supported by donors.
He said the funding agreement was ready as partner countries were awaiting the disbursements.
Appolinaire-Ki, however, said the donor agencies had said they needed a Power Purchase Agreement between the buying and the selling countries to be executed before releasing the fund.

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Reps Probe N275bn Agric Loans Under Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari

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The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the disbursement of loans and credit facilities by the Federal Government in the agriculture sector since 2009.
The period under review covers the administrations of the late Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan as well as the present President, Muhammadu Buhari.
The resolution was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Chike Okafor at the plenary last Wednesday, titled ‘Need to investigate disbursements of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security’. 
Okafor said, from 2009 to date, the Federal Government had approved the disbursement of funds to farmers in various schemes to the tune of over N275billion, ranging from Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, to help farmers improve agricultural production and guarantee food security in Nigeria.
The lawmaker also noted that apart from increasing food supply, the schemes were to grant agricultural loans to large and small-scale commercial farmers to lower the prices of agricultural produce, generate employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.
He said, “The House is aware that since the approval, most farmers have not been able to access the loans due to stringent requirements being demanded by banks from prospective borrowers and the alleged siphoning of over N105billion meant for farmers by management of NIRSAL.
“The House is concerned that food production has not attained the expected level, despite the approval of over N275billion facilities to farmers. 
“The House is worried that the projected diversification of the economy from oil production to agricultural production and increase in agricultural output, food supply and promoting low food inflation will not be achieved if farmers are unable to access loans meant to increase agricultural production”.
Adopting the motion, the House resolved to mandate the Committee on Banking and Currency to “investigate disbursements and compliance of all agricultural loans/credit facilities to farmers from 2009 to date to enhance national food security in the country”.

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