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Stock Futures Rise Sharply, Indicates Higher Open

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Expectations for another round of upbeat U.S. economic reports and China’s reassurance it will hold onto European debt sent stock futures sharply higher Thursday.

Dow Jones industrial average futures are up almost 200 points.

Reports on weekly jobless claims and first-quarter gross domestic product are expected to show the domestic economy is strengthening.

Asian markets rose overnight and European markets are also significantly higher. The euro, which is seen as an indicator for confidence in the health of Europe’s economy, rose to $1.2270.

The gains came after the agency that manages China’s $2.5 trillion in foreign reserves denied a Financial Times report that China was considering cutting its exposure to European debt.

Concerns about whether mounting debt problems in Europe will upend a global economic recovery have dragged down stocks around the world in recent weeks. Volatility has also increased as investors remain jittery about how budget cuts in some European countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal could affect growth.

In the U.S., traders are expected to get another batch of upbeat economic reports for the second straight day. Some focus has returned to the domestic economy in recent days, though investors are still keeping an eye on Europe.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 189, or 1.9 percent, to 10,110. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures surged 24.70, or 2.3 percent, to 1,085.90, while Nasdaq 100 index futures rose 41.75, or 2.3 percent, to 1,833.25.

Economists predict the Labor Department will say initial claims for unemployment benefits fell last week after an unexpected jump a week earlier. Claims likely fell 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted total of 455,000, according to economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

High unemployment remains a stumbling block to a stronger recovery in the U.S. The unemployment rate jumped to 9.9 percent last month.

A separate report is expected to show the nation’s economy grew at an annual rate of 3.4 percent in the first three months of the year. That is better than a previous estimate that said GDP rose 3.2 percent during the first quarter.

While slow, steady growth is seen as a positive coming out of the recession and helped drive stocks higher early in the year, it still isn’t strong enough to make a big dent in unemployment. Growth would have to climb to around 5 percent for a year to cut the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point.

Even if the reports top expectations and stocks open higher, early morning gains have not necessarily meant the market will remain strong throughout the day.

Twice this week, stocks have rallied early in the day only to see those advances erased in late-day selloffs. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 135 points Wednesday morning, but ended the day down about 69 points. It was the Dow’s eighth drop in the last 10 trading sessions.

The slide Wednesday afternoon was tied to the Financial Times report questioning whether China would cut its holdings of euro-denominated bonds.

Stocks had been rallying for most of the day after two upbeat reports on the U.S. economy. April durable goods orders and new home sales both rose more than forecast, providing evidence that the volatility in markets and concerns about a potential slowdown in Europe’s economy have not affected a domestic recovery.

Bond prices fell Thursday as investors moved into riskier assets. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.28 percent from 3.19 percent late Wednesday.

Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.8 percent, Germany’s DAX index gained 2.2 percent, and France’s CAC-40 jumped 2.1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 1.2 percent.

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CBN Assures On Depositors’ Fund Safety 

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reassured the banking public of the safety of their deposits and the banking system’s resilience.
CBN’s Acting Director of  Corporate Communications Department, Mrs Hakama Sidi-Ali, gave the assurance in a statement on  Monday in Abuja.
The statement, a response to concerns raised about the stability of some Nigerian banks in the wake of Heritage Bank Plc’s license revocation, faulted claims that the CBN was considering revoking the operating licences of Fidelity, Polaris, Wema, and Unity Banks.
It also clarified that a circular issued by the Bank on January 10, 2024, notifying the public about the dissolution of the Boards of Union, Keystone, and Polaris Banks, was currently being circulated as though it was freshly issued.
According to the Director, Heritage Bank’s case was isolated.
“Allegations of further revocation of licences prior to the completion of CBN’s recapitalisation exercise are mere fabrications aimed at creating panic within the system”, Sidi-Ali said.
She stated that bank customers, particularly those of Heritage Bank, need not worry about the safety of their deposits, adding that the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) had commenced payment to the bank’s insured depositors.
The spokesperson urged members of the public to continue their regular banking activities without fear, dismissing any false reports regarding the health of specific Deposit Money Banks.
“The CBN, with its robust regulatory framework, is proactively ensuring the stability of Nigeria’s financial system, thereby guaranteeing the safety of depositors’ funds in all Nigerian financial institutions”, she said.
Sidi-Ali reiterated the assurances of the CBN Governor, Olayemi Cardoso, that the recapitalisation of banks in Nigeria was intended to bolster the banking system and safeguard the sector against risks.

She urged all stakeholders to cooperate in ensuring the success of the process, which she said would be for the overall growth of the Nigerian economy.

“Without prejudice to the ongoing recapitalisation process, I want to restate that the Nigerian banking industry remains resilient. Key financial soundness indicators remain within current regulatory thresholds.

“Customers are, therefore, encouraged to proceed with their transactions as usual, as the CBN is committed to ensuring the safety of the banking system”, she said

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NERC Approves New Tariff Hike For Port Harcourt DisCo

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In spire of calls that the recently hiked “Band A” tariff be reversed, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has approved a new tariff hike for the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (DisCo).
NERC permitted the PHED to raise tariffs for Band A customers categorised as Maximum Demand 2 Special (A – MD2 Special).
MD customers are customers that have a load of 45kVA and above. They also operate and maintain their dedicated transformers.
From N206 per kilowatt-hour, this category of customers within the Port Harcourt franchise will now pay N225/KWh.
In a regulatory instrument tagged June 2024 Supplementary Order to the Multi-Year Tariff Order – 2024 (“June 2024 Supplementary Order”) for Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Plc, the NERC said the tariff approval was under the Tariff Review Application by PHED.
“Further to Section 23 of the MYTO-2024, this Supplementary Order seeks to reflect the changes in the pass-through indices outside the control of licensees including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rate, available generation capacity and gas price for the determination of Cost-Reflective Tariffs”, NERC stated.
The electricity regilator emphasised the basis for the review, saying the Naira to the US Dollar exchange rate of N1,469.06 per dollar has been adopted for June to December 2024. It said this has been determined by adding a 1 per cent transaction cost to the average foreign exchange rate of N1,454.52 during the period May 1 to 24, 2024 as obtained from the website of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It also added that the Nigerian inflation rate of 33.69 per cent for April 2024 as published by the National Bureau of Statistics was applied to revise the Nigerian inflation rate projection for 2024.
“Under Section 116 of the Electricity Act and extant regulations, the commission has considered and approved for PHED, the tariffs (in Table 2) effective 1st June 2024. The approved tariffs shall remain in force subject to monthly adjustments of pass-through indices including inflation rates, naira/dollar exchange rates and gas-to-power prices.
“In line with the policy direction of the Federal Government of Nigeria on electricity subsidy, the allowed tariffs for Bands B – E customer categories shall remain frozen at the rates payable since December 2022 subject to further policy direction by the government.
“With this policy, the estimated subsidy benefit for customers under the PHED franchise in 2024 is approximately N11.49bn monthly”, the NERC stated.
In April, the NERC announced a new tariff for customers in Band A, from N68/KWh to N225/KWh.
It later reduced the tariff to N206.80/KWh based on the rebound of the naira.
Meanwhile, organised labour and manufacturers have kicked against the Band A tariff.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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AMJON Partners School To Train Journalists On Maritime Operations 

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The Association of Maritime journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) has gone into a mutually beneficial collaboration with School of Eloquence to strengthen the capacity and reporting skills of Maritime journalists.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Chairman, AMJON Organising Committee, Mr. Segun Oladipupo and made available to our correspondent in Lagos on Monday.
According to the statement, “This year’s edition, tagged “Special Edition”, is a collaborative effort between the foremost Public Speaking training School,  School of Eloquence and AMJON”.
Oladipupo said the training is slated to hold on Friday at the School of Eloquence premises at Osborne Road, Ikoyi.
“Experts from the Nigeria Customs Service, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and School of Eloquence have been lined up to train journalists on the rudiments of their own operations”, according to the statement.
Speaking, the President of AMJON, Paul Ogbuokiri, said journalism required constant training to be in tune with evolving trends in the industry.
According to him, journalism has taken a leap from what it used to be and journalists need to equip themselves with modern journalism tools that will help them to catch up with the trends.
“We need constant training and restraining to be relevant in this age of journalism. If we fail to update ourselves, we will soon fizzle out,
“This partnership with the School of Eloquence is a right step in the right direction. It will no doubt, energise our knowledge of reportage”, he stated.
On his part, the Chairman, Organising Committee, Segun Oladipupo, said the event would afford members the opportunity to take their reporting to enviable height
He, therefore, enjoined participants to seize the opportunity to learn new trends in journalism and also learn the business side of the job.
He thanked the School of Eloquence for providing a platform for Nigerian journalists to take a flight in their daily assignment.

Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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