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Nigeria’s Trade Surplus Widens in Third Quarter on Oil

The trade surplus in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, widened to 989 billion naira ($6.1 billion) in the third quarter compared with the previous three months as oil exports climbed, the statistics agency said.

The surplus increased nearly threefold from 248.5 billion naira, while the value of exports, led by oil, rose 8.4 percent to 3.87 trillion naira, the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement published on its website today. Oil shipments, representing 95 percent of total exports, rose 23 percent to 3.69 trillion naira from the previous quarter, the agency said.

The trade data shows a surge in import demand in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period last year, “which likely explains the significant downward pressure on foreign-exchange reserves,” Yvonne Mhango, a Johannesburg-based economist at Renaissance Capital, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Imports into Africa’s most-populous country and top oil producer jumped 91 percent to 9.3 trillion naira from January to September, compared with the same period last year, according to the statement. Total trade declined 2 percent to 6.75 trillion naira because of the decline in imports, the agency said.

The Nigerian central bank has been struggling to build the country’s reserves, which stood at $33 billion on Dec. 2, about the same level as the previous year, according to data from the Abuja-based bank. Nigeria’s benchmark Bonny Light crude has risen 17 percent this year.

The West African country imports most of its fuel products because of a lack of refining capacity, helping meet foreign-currency demand with twice-weekly auctions.

The naira declined 0.1 percent to 161.7 per dollar on the interbank market today, the weakest since Oct. 21 on a closing basis, as of 3:20 p.m. in Lagos, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency retreated after the central bank failed to meet demand for U.S. dollars at two straight auctions.

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