Parallel Market Rate at an All-Time High

September 14, 2021/CSL Research

Image Credit: UBA Plc

In recent weeks, severe pressure has been mounting on the exchange rate at the parallel market following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) policy stance to discontinue the supply  of FX to Bureau De Change Operators (BDCs). Consequently, the premium between the  parallel market rate and the rate at the Investors & Exporters (I&E) window has continued to  widen. Since the last Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting when the decision was  made, the Naira at the parallel market had depreciated by 8.2% to NGN550/US$, while the  I&E window has remained relatively stable, currently at NGN412.75/US$. Thus, the parallel  market premium had worsened to 33% from 23% when the policy was made on 27 July 2021.

While the CBN’s action seems justified based on the illicit financial behaviour of the BDC  operators, we believe the timing of the ban (summer period: JuneAugust) is inopportune.  The summer period is characterized by pentup FX demand to meet personal travels and  educational needs. Though the apex bank redirected the FX supply previously meant for the  BDCs to commercial banks, restrictions on FX demand limit placed by the banks on  customers have not changed and stringent requirements to access FX from the banks can  be discouraging for some. As such, customers have resorted to getting FX from the parallel market, pushing exchange rates to new levels. Besides, with the current situation, inflows from the Naira 4 Dollar scheme aimed at boosting liquidity at the parallel market may not have a farreaching impact. Also, the inability of FPIs to get FX for repatriation has stalled  foreign portfolio inflows, a major source of dollars into the economy.

In our view, we understand that the policy’s aim may be to trail all FX claims within the market, but this has not helped to ease FX demand pressures. In 2016, when the CBN took a similar action, it yielded limited results, as the parallel market premium was estimated at 61% as of yearend. That said, we expect liquidity from the planned Eurobond issuance of US$3.0bn and Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of US$3.4bn to increase FX liquidity. Thus, we do not expect a devaluation this year.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

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