Naira Rises on Dollar Bets, Heads for Best Quarter Since 2007

Nigeria’s naira strengthened, heading for the best quarter since 2007, after foreign investors bought the nation’s debt and on speculation oil companies will make month-end dollar sales to lenders.

The currency of Africa’s biggest oil producer appreciated 0.1 percent to 157.67 per dollar as of 1.15 p.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That naira has gained 2.8 percent this year, the most since the fourth quarter of 2007.

Nigeria sold 80.9 billion naira ($513 million) of Treasury bills at an auction yesterday, the Central Bank of Nigeria said today. It sold 50 billion naira of bonds at an auction on March 28. Oil companies in Nigeria often sell dollars to lenders by month-end to meet domestic spending needs.

“The naira is expected to strengthen as oil companies sell dollars to meet up with month-end expenses and portfolio investors buy the local debt instruments,” Lagos-based Cowry Assets Management Ltd. analysts led by Edgar Ebinum, wrote in an e-mailed note today.

“Foreign investments into high yielding fixed-income securities and the outlook of the oil sector and reserves have supported the naira this quarter.” Sewa Wusu, currency analyst at Lagos-based Sterling Capital Ltd., said by phone.

Foreign reserves have risen 7.9 percent this year to $35.5 billion as of March 28, the central bank published on its website today. The nation’s bonny light crude is trading at more than 50 dollars a barrel above the 72 dollars a barrel incorporated into Nigeria’s 2012 budget, according to the bank.

Interest Rate

The regulator kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record high 12 percent for a third meeting on March 20. The inflation rate in the West African country declined to 11.9 percent in February from 12.6 percent a month earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The yield on Nigeria’s $500 million of dollar bonds due 2021 fell 10 basis points to 5.294 percent. Borrowing costs of domestic bonds due 2015 were unchanged at 15.46 percent, according to the Financial Markets Dealers Association website.

Ghana’s cedi depreciated 0.3 percent to 1.7825 per dollar as of 1:15 p.m. in Accra, the capital.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emele Onu in Lagos at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Emily Bowers at

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