Nigeria Central Bank Holds Rate to Support Economic Recovery

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Nigeria’s central bank held its benchmark interest rate for a fourth straight meeting, prioritizing the recovery of the economy from last year’s recession over fighting inflation that’s near a four-year high.

The monetary policy committee kept the rate at 11.5%, Governor Godwin Emefiele said on Tuesday in an online briefing. The decision by the 10 members who attended the meeting was unanimous. That’s a change from March, when six favored a hold and three voted for a hike of at least 50 basis points. The median of six economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey was for an unchanged stance.

Inflation, which slowed marginally to 18.1% in April, is driven by supply-side factors, including insecurity and poor infrastructure, Emefiele said. The MPC sees price-growth pressures easing as domestic supply grows, he said.

Nigeria Central Bank Holds Rate to Support Economic Recovery

Food prices have been a key driver of headline inflation due to disruptions caused by an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, a worsening conflict between nomadic cattle herders and crop farmers in key agriculture areas and restrictions on foreign-exchange access for imports including rice, dairy and fertilizer.

The central bank urged the government to intensify efforts to tackle insecurity and also to avoid another strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown because that will weigh on the economy, Emefiele said.

What Bloomberg Economics Says

“We forecast policy makers to hike rates later in the year once they are confident in the strength of the recovery. The committee has hinted at 4Q 2021 as the likely time-frame to start the hiking cycle -- in line with the guidance given by global central banks.”

--Boingotlo Gasealahwe, Africa economist

-Click here for the full REACT

The MPC cut the key rate by 200 basis points in 2020 to support Africa’s largest economy against the impact of coronavirus lockdowns and a plunge in oil prices. However, gross domestic product still contracted the most since at least 1991 and while Nigeria emerged from a recession in the final three months of last year, data on May 23 showed the rebound is still very fragile, with first-quarter growth at 0.5%.

The economy remains on a trajectory of recovery and recent data suggests that will continue through 2021, Emefiele said.

GDP could expand 2.5% this year and 2.3% in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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