Nigeria Stocks Rally to 12-Week High as Buhari Leads Vote

Nigerian stocks jumped the most in 12 weeks and dollar bonds extended a rally as former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari held a narrow lead in the race for the presidency.

More than four shares climbed for every one that fell on the Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index, taking the gauge to its highest level since Jan. 6, and paring losses this quarter to 8.4 percent. Yields on $500 million of Nigerian dollar bonds due July 2023 fell for a ninth day to the lowest level since Dec. 10.

“The fact that the voting is behind us now in itself is positive, even though we’re still waiting for results,” Yvonne Mhango, a Johannesburg-based economist at Renaissance Capital, said by phone. “It means sooner rather than later we’re going to see a resumption of business activity.”

The election, a key test of stability in Africa’s largest oil producer, pitted President Goodluck Jonathan, 57, against a united opposition led by Buhari, 72. The vote was delayed by six weeks and took place against the backdrop of a six-year insurgency waged by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, and a plunge in the price of oil, the country’s main export, which has slowed growth in Africa’s largest economy and weakened the currency.

The all-share index rose 2.1 percent, climbing for an eighth day, to 31,753.15 by the close in Lagos, the commercial capital. Yields on the nation’s Eurobonds dropped 18 basis points to 6.31 percent as 3:20 p.m. in London. The naira was little changed at 199.05 per dollar.

Vote Rigging

About 800 people were killed and at least 75,000 forced to flee their homes after Buhari lost elections in 2011. Buhari leads with 49.2 percent of the vote to 46.9 percent for Jonathan with tallies from 25 of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, the Independent National Electoral Commission said in Abuja.

“A violent crisis remains possible, however, if the losing candidate refuses to accept the result, which could spook the markets,” John Ashbourne, the Africa economist for Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said in an e-mailed note on Tuesday. The voting itself was “surprisingly smooth,” he said.

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