Nigeria’s naira eased
against the U.S dollar on the interbank market but was stable at the central bank’s foreign exchange auction on Monday, as demand for the greenback by importers and foreign firms remitting dividends outweighed dollar sales by oil companies.
Traders said the naira closed at 163.10 to the dollar, weaker than the 162.85 per dollar it stood at on Friday.
A resurgence of demand from some companies remitting dividends to their home countries and importers’ dollar requests outside the official window drained dollar liquidity in the market, they said.
“We expect the central bank to intervene in the market to support the naira in the coming days, otherwise the local currency will depreciate further,” one dealer said.
Traders said France’s Total sold $5 million to some lenders on Monday, but it was too little to lift the naira.
The currency of Africa’s second biggest economy has fallen from a level around 159 to the dollar three months ago to consistently weaker than 160, in the last two months, driven by partly an exit of offshore investors from the local debt market.
Attempts by the central bank to provide support for the currency through regular direct dollar sales to the interbank market have eaten into the Africa’s top energy producer’s foreign exchange reserves, which declined by 2.17 per cent month-month to $36.8 billion by June 27, compared with $37.64 billion a month earlier.
Sales of about $900 million by the state-owned energy company NNPC to some lenders within the last two weeks temporarily provided the naira some relief, but dollar liquidity has since started to dry up.
At its bi-weekly auction on Monday, the central bank sold $350 million at 155.94 to the dollar, the same amount and rate at its previous auction last Wednesday.