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Naira Weakens for First Day in Three on Funding for Fuel Imports

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s naira weakened for the first time in three days as oil importers increased demand for dollars after the government promised to refund retailers for selling at subsidized rates.

The currency of Africa’s largest oil producer depreciated by 0.1 percent to 157.72 per dollar as of 3:20 p.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital. Nigeria sold $150 million at a foreign-currency auction today, with lenders buying the entire amount on offer, the Abuja-based Central Bank of Nigeria said in an e-mailed statement. The marginal rate, which is also used as the prevailing exchange rate depreciated 0.1 percent to 156.01 naira, compared with 155.90 at the previous sale on Feb. 29, it said.

“We expect the demand for dollars to mount pressure on naira” following the removal of uncertainty on subsidy payments to fuel importers and “the likely increase in credit facilities from banks for oil imports,” analysts at Lagos-based Cowry Asset Management Ltd., wrote in an e-mailed note to clients today.

Fuel retailers resumed imports after a government assurance they will receive refunds for selling at subsidized prices, the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. said Feb. 23. Nigeria is revising the 2012 budget to include 888 billion naira ($5.6 billion) in fuel subsidies, the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Feb. 16. President Goodluck Jonathan backed out of a plan to fully remove fuel subsidies after gasoline prices more than doubled, sparking a strike by labor unions.

The regulator kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record high for a second consecutive meeting on Jan. 31 to stabilize prices. Inflation in the West African nation accelerated to 12.6 percent in January from 10.3 percent.

Ghana’s cedi depreciated for a fourth day, dropping 0.5 percent to 1.7150 per dollar, as of 3:20 p.m. in Accra, the nation’s capital.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emele Onu in Lagos at eonu1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hilton Shone at hshone@bloomberg.net

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