The Nigerian debt market has been faced with a series of challenges, most of which were triggered by the worst pandemic recorded in human history. Its prospects in attracting foreign portfolio investors were dampened as macros on Nigeria’s economy revealed a downtrend in the market, and this trend has only worsened in the past months.
The fixed income market sustained its downward trajectory for the third consecutive month in June 2020 largely driven by excess liquidity as well as an overall scarcity of instruments in the market. Reports from several analysts indicate the demand for fixed income securities has increased considerably over the last 6 months driving down interest rates earned by investors.
Victor Silas an Investment analyst told Nairametrics about the OMO bills liquidity for the month of June. He said, “For June, fixed income rates were liquidity-driven following the ban of locals from OMO and limited investment outlets. OMO bills maturities are creating more liquidity for locals and it is finding its way to the bond market and Treasury bill.
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“The 2050 trading below 11% yield and the 364-day Treasury bill closing at 3.4%. It just tells you there are a lot of liquidity concerns for locals.”
Most foreign portfolio investors based abroad are staying out of naira debt dominated securities; this shows that Nigeria’s debt markets are now controlled by local investors.
Nigeria attracted just $67.9 million in Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) inflow for the month of April 2020, the lowest inflow recorded this year. A cursory look at the Central Bank data shows that FPI sharply reversed from $2.30 billion at the beginning of the year (January) to just $67.9 million inflow in April 2020. Nigeria like most emerging markets relies heavily on foreign portfolio investments to shore up its external reserves and manage its exchange rate position.
Portfolio inflow into money market instruments fell from N1.6 billion and N1.4 billion in January and February respectively to just N229 billion and N49 million in April and May respectively. On the flip side, those that still have their investment stuck in Nigeria, have stayed away from any other type of investment except money market instruments such as bonds and treasury bills. Most of the investors are waiting patiently for the central bank to fund their dollar purchase so they can exit.
Emmanuel Orji Emerging Market/ Fixed Income Trader, COMERCIO PARTNERS spoke to Nairametrics on the performance of fixed income securities in June. He said;
“Subsequently, the unexpected reduced sale at the June bond auction of NGN100 billion as against the NGN150 billion originally offered further strengthened the aggressive bullish run in the bond market.
“The bond auction closed relatively strong as a result, with a bid to cover ratio of 3.6x and rates declining by 120bps, 70bps, and 45bps to print at 8.00%, 11.00%, and 12.15% across the 3-year, 5-year, and 30-year maturities respectively. Note: BPS refers to basis points, a financial term for percentages. 100 basis point is equal to 1%.
“As a result, yields for the benchmark securities monitored declined across all maturities on a month-on-month basis, with yields of the sovereign bonds with 3-year, 5-year, 10-year and 20-year maturities declining by 332 bps, 138 bps, 96 bps, and 138 bps to close at 5.64%, 7.13%, 9.76%, and 10.05% respectively.
“Given the amount of idle PFA cash sitting in bank placement (c. NGN1.5 trillion) and the sudden weakness in demand for equities, we expect the buying interest to persist in the near term, which should drive yields lower in the bonds market.”
Nigerian fiscal stakeholders have resorted to borrowing domestically as opposed to seeking for funds abroad, another effect of the pandemic. This is expected to lead to an increase in the yields of FGN bonds in the short and mid-term horizon as the inward plan to seek funds locally intensifies.
Where this leaves equities
Concomitantly, the equities market benefitted from the apparent thirst for asset yielding investments in recent months. As yields for safer investment fell, investors shifted to the equities market taking advantage of the earning season often market by dividend payouts. Most stocks paid dividend yields in double digits following the stock market crash in March 2020.
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But by June the market sell-offs ensued with investors moving funds out to secure stakes in corporate debt securities. The yoyo between debt and equity is likely to ensue as uncertainty remains in the forex market and the country’s stimulus plans.
Some retail investors who spoke to Nairametrics insist they have abandoned the Nigerian Stock Market preferring to trade in cryptocurrencies or US stocks. The proliferation of intech supported investing apps has made cross border investing easier providing access to market far beyond the shores of Nigeria.