The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may devalue the Naira again if the pressure on the currency continues through the first half of 2015.
The pressure on the currency has been sustained as falling oil prices and the general elections intensifies.
In its report titled: Macroeconomic and Banking Sector Themes for 2015, Nigeria's Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) wrote, "As pressure continues to increase in the first half, we expect that the CBN may consider another devaluation within a range of N175-N180 per USD, as reserves and oil prices continue to fall."
Last year November, the CBN devalued the naira from N150 - N160 to one U.S dollar to N160 - N176, as it struggles to preserve macroeconomic stability. It also increased its benchmark interest rate to a record high of 13 percent from 12 percent. But the conditions that brought about the devaluation still exist and may get worse in the coming months.
Oil prices have fallen to less than $45 per barrel from over $100 in less than a year, and analysts have predicted a further decline as the oil glut which brought about the price crash has shown no sign of ending soon.
Currencies of several emerging economies were hit by the US Federal Reserve's tapering policy, but currencies of oil-based economies such as the naira and the Russian rouble have been hard hit. "The commencement of normalisation of monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve… has accentuated capital outflows," CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele said last November. As at January 5, the CBN pegged the country's forex reserve at $34.49 billion, a $20 million gain over December, 2014's $34.47 billion. The apex bank says rising internal demand for the dollar had been exerting more pressure on the foreign exchange market. This is expected to continue until after the general elections in February.
When the new CBN governor assumed office last year, he promised to gradually reduce interest rates. "We shall pursue a gradual reduction in interest rates," he had said in his presentation.
However, the forces, that necessitated the devaluation of the Naira also necessitated a hike in interest rate. The CBN thus raised its benchmark interest rate by 100 basis points to 13 percent. GTBank however expects it to further increase it by 50 – 100 basis points.
According to the bank, a combination of reduced liquidity in banks, rising costs of funding, continued pressure on the Naira and rising yields in fixed income investments will compel banks to hike lending rates. Lending rates, it predicts, may end up rising by as high as 100 – 200 basis points.
As at last year September, inflation was pegged at 8.3 percent, but despite the devaluation of the Naira in November, last year ended with inflation actually reversing to 8 percent.
The rate averaged 12.29 percent from 1996 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 47.56 percent in January of 1996 and a record low of -2.49 percent in January of 2000, according to Trading Economics. GTBank, Nigeria's third largest bank, however expects inflation to pick-up to low double digits by the middle of the year.
The GTBank wants the CBN to show a more proactive stance this year. Policies fostering currency stability, economic improvement and the continued development of growth sectors are expected of the apex bank, as there is a limit to what can be achieved solely through monetary policy.