March 24, 2020 / 3:04 PM / 14 days ago

In wait-and-see mode, Nigeria's central bank holds rates

Nigeria's Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele briefis the media during the MPC meeting in Abuja, Nigeria January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria’s central bank held its benchmark lending rate at 13.5% on Tuesday, as its governor said it would take time to assess measures already taken to support the economy in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Godwin Emefiele said the bank’s monetary policy committee voted unanimously to retain the rate.

Nigeria relies on crude sales for 90% of foreign exchange earnings and has come under pressure after oil prices plunged amid a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The pandemic has also hit global demand for oil.

Last week the bank devalued Nigeria’s naira currency and announced a stimulus package to support Africa’s biggest economy.

Emefiele said that, in light of recent actions already taken by the bank, the committee “resolved to allow time for the measures to permeate the economy” before deciding on any other steps that may be required.

The move bucks a global trend of monetary easing. Other African countries - including Ghana, Kenya and Congo - have cut their main lending rates in the last few days.

As of Monday, Nigeria had 40 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death, a 67-year-old former oil official.

Reporting by Paul Carsten and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alison Williams

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