Nigeria Central Bank Holds Benchmark Interest Rate at 12%

The Central Bank of Nigeria left its benchmark interest rate unchanged for an eighth consecutive meeting as inflation exceeded the bank’s target.

The Monetary Policy Committee kept the policy rate at 12 percent, Governor Lamido Sanusi told reporters today in the capital, Abuja. That was in line with the forecasts of 12 of the 13 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

While inflation slowed to 12 percent in December, it’s still above the central bank’s target of less than 10 percent. The central bank expects inflation to ease close to the target this month as higher fuel prices that took effect in January last year fall out of the calculation.

“After the first quarter, inflation will likely trend higher, in which case the MPC cannot afford to cut rates too soon,” Adedayo Idowu, a Lagos-based analyst at Vetiva Capital Management Ltd., said in an e-mailed response to questions before the rate decision.

Rising government spending is adding to pressure on inflation. Lawmakers increased the benchmark oil price in this year’s budget by $4 to $79 a barrel, providing more funds to the government to spend. President Goodluck Jonathan hasn’t yet signed the budget into law.

Nigeria saves revenue above the budgeted oil price, and raising it would inject more liquidity into the economy. That may force the central bank to keep interest rates high, crimping investment, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on Oct. 10.

The economy expanded 6.5 percent in the third quarter, down from 7.4 percent in the same period a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The country expects to produce 2.53 million barrels a day this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Abuja at mmazen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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