NSE: Market index drops to 13-month low

By The Citizen
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The Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) main share index hit a 13-month low and government bonds fell on Tuesday as foreign investors pulled out of Nigerian assets, prompting the central bank to sell dollars to support the ailing naira.

The share index closed down 1.6 percent at 36,744 points, a level last seen on Oct. 7, 2013. The index has now fallen 11 percent in the past month, although it picked up briefly last week.

Nigeria's currency has come under pressure in the past two months from falling global oil prices, dampening appetite for assets in Africa's biggest economy and chief oil exporter.

Though the central bank has been intervening this year to prop up its value, the naira has lost 4.3 percent since Jan. 2.

Foreign investors pulled more money out of the stock market on Tuesday, mainly in the relatively liquid banking and cement sectors, as the oil price fell 3 percent to a four-year low of just above $82 a barrel and as Nigerian companies reported mixed results.

The naira, which had earlier lost 0.3 percent intraday against the U.S. currency as funds repatriated cash, recovered some ground after the central bank intervened to close down 0.1 percent at 165.90 to the dollar, dealers said.

The local unit of Italian oil firm Eni sold $25 million alongside the central bank to support the naira.

Nigeria's stock market rose 47 percent last year, vastly outperforming emerging market peers which were down on average 4.9 percent.

But this year Nigeria's stock index is down 9.6 percent.