External reserves fall to eight-month low at $45.9bn

CBN headquarters, Abuja

The external reserves have dropped to an eight-month low of $45.9bn, the latest data posted on the Central Bank of Nigeria website has revealed.

The last time the reserves came to $45.9bn was January 31, this year.

The foreign reserves, which have been hovering between the $46 and $48bn marks since February, dropped to the $45bn mark on September 20, according to the CBN data posted on the website on Monday.

Indications had emerged a few weeks ago that the external reserves, which dropped to the $46bn mark a month ago, might fall further to $45bn.

The central bank data showed that shortly after falling to the $46bn mark on August 21, the foreign reserves had been on a gradual fall from $46.9bn on August 20 to $46.0 on September 19.

Within the space of three months, from May 2 to August 5, 2013, the foreign reserves had dropped by $1.8bn from the peak of $48.85bn to $46.98bn.

However, the CBN recently dismissed claims that the reserves were experiencing sharp decline, adding that the current value of $46bn showed that the fundamentals of the economy remained strong.

The CBN Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, said in spite of the uncertainties in the global economy, which had made major economies to cut interest rates in order to provide market liquidity, Nigeria’s external reserves would be invested in a currency mix that would optimise returns for the country.

He also allayed fears about the uncertainties of the Nigerian economy, stating that the reserves could finance about 11 months of importation.

Sanusi had said, “The fundamentals of the Nigerian economy are still very strong and occasionally, there might be increase or decrease, but it has been hovering between $45bn and $47bn, and that is very strong. In Africa, it is either the second highest or third highest. I think it is the second highest only after Algeria, and that’s really very remarkable.”

Sanusi said the move to invest the reserves in other currencies other than the dollar was necessary in view of recent events in the global economy that had driven yields to historical low levels.

The central bank boss said since the financial crisis of 2008, reserves managers had come under increased pressure to find ways of enhancing income.

This development, he noted, had made the CBN to diversify its reserve portfolios by investing in the Chinese Renminbi.

The Federal Government had targeted $50bn reserves by the end of 2012.

But the reserves closed the year at $44.26bn on December 24, 2012, finishing $6bn below the government’s target.

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