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Nigeria Naira Drops to 1-Week Low on Dollar Demand After Holiday

Nigeria’s naira depreciated to the lowest in a week against the dollar as demand for the U.S. currency increased after the end of public holidays.

The currency of Africa’s biggest oil producer declined 0.3 percent to 158.2 per dollar as of 3:31 p.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The naira has risen 2.7 percent this year, making it the best performing currency in Africa after the Zambian kwacha.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, which sells dollars to lenders at auctions on Mondays and Wednesdays to support the naira closed on Aug. 20 in observance of the Islamic public holiday. The interbank market where lenders trade the currency was also closed. Nigeria’s population of more than 164 million is split almost equally between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north.

“We are expecting higher dollar demand after the Eid el Fitr holiday as no sales were made during the period,” Usman Onoja, chief executive of Lagos-based Lovonus Bureau De Change Ltd., said by phone today.

The central bank sold $120 million at a foreign-currency auction today at 155.80 naira a dollar, the Abuja-based bank said in an e-mailed statement. That was less than the $126.8 million at a previous sale on Aug. 15.

“The sale was not adequate to meet demand, outside of the official auction,” Onoja said.

The central bank held its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record 12 percent on July 24 to contain inflation and support the naira. The inflation rate declined to 12.8 percent in July from 12.9 percent a month earlier, the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics said Aug. 17.

Yields on the West African country’s 16 percent domestic debt due 2019 fell 33 basis points to 15.55 percent according to Aug. 17 prices on the Financial Markets Dealers Association website. Borrowing costs on the nation’s $500 million of Eurobonds due 2021 fell two basis points to 4.935 percent today.

Ghana’s cedi appreciated 0.1 percent to 1.939 a dollar in Accra, the capital.

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