By Chijioke Ohuocha
ABUJA, Aug 15 – Nigeria’s central bank plans to auction 150 billion naira ($489.5 mln) of open market bills on Thursday, traders said, its second bill sale in a week as the country seeks to attract more foreign investors.
The bank last month shifted policy to try to force banks to lend to help revive an economy stuck with low growth after a recent recession. But with falling oil prices and foreign investors taking profits, the naira is regaining focus.
The central bank planned to sell the bills with maturities from 84-day to 350-day, traders said, after the bank auctioned 34.4 billion naira in treasury bills on Wednesday at higher rates. Last week, the bank sold 100 billion naira in bills.
Pressure has been building on the naira currency as oil prices drop and foreign investors book profits on local bonds in response to yields which have fallen from as high as 18% a year ago.
In a further sign of pressure on the currency, President Muhammadu Buhari told the central bank on Tuesday to stop providing funding for food imports, his spokesman said.
The naira was quoted at 364 on Thursday on thin liquidity, traders said, a level where it has traded this week. It eased to 364 per dollar on Friday, from a quote of 363.50 as falling oil prices tightened liquidity on the currency market.
A dollar shortage was initially caused by a slowdown of foreign inflows after local debt market yields declined.
Nigeria operates a multiple exchange rate regime that it has used to manage pressure on the currency. The official rate of 306.90 is supported by the central bank but the traded rate of 364 is widely quoted by foreign investors and exporters.
$1 = 306.45 naira Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha Editing by Mark Heinrich