Kenyan Shilling, Stocks Surge After Court Confirms Kenyatta Win

Kenya’s shilling rose to the highest in more than six months and the stock market surged after the Supreme Court upheld President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory and his challenger accepted the ruling.

The currency of East Africa’s biggest economy strengthened 0.6 percent to 84.78 per dollar by 2:47 p.m. in the capital, Nairobi, heading for its strongest close since Sept. 20, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Nairobi All Share Index gained 0.7 percent by the 3 p.m. close, with 43 of 61 stocks advancing and one declining.

“The shilling is rallying on the goodwill of the peaceful determination of the presidential petition and the confirmation of Kenyatta’s win,” Jeremiah Kendagor, head of trading at Nairobi-based Kenya Commercial Bank Ltd., said by phone. “The country has been saved from another political period of uncertainty that would have been occasioned by nullifying it and calling for fresh elections.”

Kenya’s six-judge Supreme Court on March 30 unanimously confirmed that Kenyatta, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague-based International Criminal Court, won the March 4 vote. It rejected a petition from runner-up Raila Odinga, who argued that the electoral process had been marred by irregularities and fraud.

Market Rally

Odinga’s rejection of results from the last elections in December 2007 triggered violence that led to the death of more than 1,100 people. Economic growth slowed by two-thirds to 1.5 percent and the shilling fell 18 percent in 2008.

By contrast, the first announcement of Kenyatta’s victory on March 9 triggered a surge in the Nairobi Securities Exchange, which has gained 24 percent this year. Foreign investors last year accounted for half of all trades on the bourse, compared with 10 percent five years ago. Kenya is the regional hub for companies like Google Inc., General Electric Co., Visa Inc. and PepsiCo Inc.

“We now know the election outcome and know how the political scene looks like and chances are that investors will be keen to put money in,” Eric Munywoki, a research analyst at Nairobi-based Old Mutual Securities Ltd., said by phone. “I expect our market to rally in the coming days.”

Kenyatta, a former finance minister and one of Kenya’s richest men according to Forbes magazine, campaigned on a promise to boost economic growth to between 7 percent and 10 percent a year by 2015 to help create one million jobs annually. The International Monetary Fund estimates Kenya’s economy will expand by 6 percent this year.

Robust Pickup

“We expect a robust pickup of economic activities as there were no major constraints like in the previous election,” Phumelele Mbiyo, regional head of macroeconomics research at Standard Bank Group Ltd.’s Kenyan unit, said by phone today.

That may increase the current account deficit and put pressure on the shilling, according to a March 27 Bloomberg survey of traders and analysts that forecast the currency may weaken as much as 3.7 percent to 89 per dollar this year.

“Key fundamentals such as a growing current account deficit will come into play and may put pressure on the shilling especially as the economy picks up on increased imports of capital goods,” Duncan Kinuthia, head of trading at Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd. said by phone.

Kenya’s current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, widened by 36 percent to $4.5 billion in the year to December 2012 compared with a year ago, according to Central Bank of Kenya data released March 20.

The nation’s capital markets may experience volatility around the time Kenyatta, 51, starts his trial at the ICC in July, Razia Khan, head of African economic research at Standard Chartered Plc, said by phone from London on March 11.

The court accuses him and and Vice President-elect William Ruto, 46, of masterminding clashes after the last election. Both say they are innocent and can defend themselves in court while carrying out their duties. Kenyatta is scheduled to start his trial in July while Ruto’s is set for May.

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