Nigeria Stocks Fall Most in a Month as Elections Loom, Oil Falls

Nigerian stocks fell the most in over a month as political tension rises less than two weeks before a presidential election and as oil slumped to a six-year low.

The Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index dropped 2.6 percent to 29,929.56, at the 2:30 p.m. close in Lagos, the commercial capital. That’s the worst performance since Feb. 12, extending the gauge’s loss this year to 14 percent. U.S. oil futures slumped to the lowest level since March 2009.

“We’ve always expected that as the elections draw near, investors will get cautious and pull out,” Seun Olanipekun, a Lagos-based analyst at Investment One Financial Services Ltd., said by phone. “That’s the major reason for the fall. The consumer names, the banking names, the oil and gas names -- all have significantly declined.”

President Goodluck Jonathan and his main rival Muhammadu Buhari will face each other on March 28 in what is set to be the tightest election since Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, ended military rule in 1999. The poll was delayed by six weeks after security forces said they needed more time to end Boko Haram’s insurgency in the north-east.

A victory for Jonathan, a Christian from the crude-producing south, would pose a “real potential for civil unrest” in the north, Thomas Horn Hansen, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, said last week in Lagos. There’s also a risk of a backlash in the oil-rich Niger River delta if former military ruler Buhari, a Muslim northerner, unseats Jonathan.

Nigeria’s capital markets had already been hit by crude prices falling around 50 percent since June, battering an economy that relies on the commodity for over 70 percent of government revenue and 90 percent of export earnings.

Nine stocks gained, 34 fell and 138 were unchanged. Zenith Bank Plc, the West African country’s second-biggest lender by market value, slumped 8.7 percent to 18.80 naira and Seplat Petroleum Development Co. weakened 5 percent to 408.50 naira.

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission will be able to hold credible elections, its Chairman Attahiru Jega said Monday.

“From all the information available to me, there is evidence indicating that we are much better off security-wise than we were before the postponement of the election,” Jega said.

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