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Nigeria’s Foreign Reserves Fall; Stocks Hits 3-Year Low As Buhari’s Govt Drags On

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Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves fell to $30.04 billion by Nov. 26 from $30.10 billion the month before, the latest central bank data showed on Monday.

Reserves were down 18.6 percent on the year from $36.9 billion in the same period last year.

Nigeria’s dollar reserves have been hit by a plunge in crude prices and the central bank’s decision to defend the currency.

In the capital market, stocks hit a 3-year low on Monday as investors complained the government has yet to start tackling the problems of Africa’s biggest economy, nearly three weeks after ministers were sworn in.

The stock market, which has the second-biggest weighting after Kuwait on the MSCI frontier market index , shed 0.84 percent on Monday on thin volumes to close at 27,385, a level last seen in December 2012. The index is down 20.3 percent year-to-date.

Nigerian shares lost 6.5 percent in October as foreign investors, the most active traders, stayed on the sidelines. It posted a further 6.1 percent decline in November.

Market capitalisation has been drifting lower as investors wait for government plans and as the poor outlook for Africa’s top oil producer drags down the relatively liquid banking and consumer goods sectors.

All the sectors on the stock market have fallen sharply this year with the consumer goods index down 22.4 percent and the index of the top 10 banks shedding 19.9 percent.

“The role foreign investors play in the Nigerian equity market cannot be ignored … hence the need for the central bank and government to review their stance on forex policies,” said Ayodeji Ebo, head of research at Afrinvest.

President Muhammadu Buhari swore in his cabinet on Nov. 11, five months after he took office, but work may not get under way until early next year as the country comes to a halt for a Christmas break in mid-December, analysts said.

The central bank announced a surprise interest rate cut last week to lift the economy. But the bourse rose for only one day as investors looked for fiscal policy signals.

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