Nigeria Keeps Interest Rate Steady at 14%

The Central Bank of Nigeria left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 14 percent on November 22nd 2018, as widely expected. The last time policymakers changed rates was in July 2016, when they lifted the monetary rate by 200 bps. Policymakers said that it is expected moderate inflationary pressure by the end of the year. The annual inflation rate fell to 11.26 percent in October from 10.28 percent in September, mostly due to lower cost of food.

Excerpts from the Statement by the Central Bank of Nigeria:

The Committee assessed the macroeconomic environment in 2018 and noted the modest stability thus far achieved in domestic prices, output growth and the financial system. The Committee noted that the economy was on the right path but some key sectors continued to experience significant challenges. The MPC, however, expressed concern about the tepid growth expectations and growing uncertainty in the global financial markets arising from the poor reception of the Brexit deal by British politicians, continuing trade war between the US and her major trading partners, as well as the commencement of US sanctions on Iran.

The MPC welcomed the moderation in inflation in October, reflecting declining food prices. The Committee believes that given the negative output gap, the proposed increase in the national minimum wage would stimulate output growth due to prolonged weak aggregate demand arising from salary arrears and contractor debt. Consequently, its impact on the aggregate price level would be largely muted, given that the monetary aggregates have largely underperformed in fiscal 2018. In addition, the prevailing stability in the foreign exchange market would continue to moderate pressures on the domestic price level.

Overall, the MPC considered the options to loosen, hold or tighten. The Committee continues to hold the view that although loosening would encourage the flow of credit to the real sector, help in reduction of the aggregate cost of credit and spur business spending and investment, thereby reinforcing the CBN’s support for output growth and economic recovery, it, however, believed that doing so will reverse more rapidly, the gains of price and exchange rate stability achieved so far given the liquidity impact that would entail. The ensuing liquidity will exert pressure on the exchange rate in the light of increased capital flow reversals arising from monetary policy normalisation by the US Fed. This would further depress the capital market. As for tightening, The MPC hold the view that, while tightening will strengthen the stability of the foreign exchange market because of its dampening effect on the demand for foreign exchange, it was however convinced that this could simultaneously dampen investment growth, widen the output gap, depress aggregate demand and weaken output growth.

The MPC recognises the fact that it had held the policy rate and other policy parameters constant over the last several meetings. The Committee underscores that by holding its policy position constant, it has confidence in the various policies and administrative measures deployed by the Bank which have resulted in the moderation in domestic price levels and stability in the foreign exchange rate. Thus, a hold position is an expression of confidence in the policy regime, given the gradual improvements in both output growth and price stability. On this premise, the downside risks to growth and upside risks to inflation appears contained. 

In summary, the MPC voted to:
1. Retain the MPR at 14 per cent;
2. Retain the asymmetric corridor of +200/-500 basis points around the MPR;
3. Retain the CRR at 22.5 per cent; and
4. Retain the Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent. 

Nigeria Keeps Interest Rate Steady at 14%

Central Bank of Nigeria | Stefanie Moya |
11/22/2018 5:12:35 PM