Oyetunji Abioye and Stanley Opara
The Nigerian Stock Exchange All-Share Index on Wednesday posted the biggest return since the beginning of this year, as investors reacted positively to the Central Bank of Nigeria's Monetary Policy Committee's decision to allow a flexible foreign exchange regime.
The market capitalisation appreciated by N354bn to close at N9.706tn from N9.352tn on Tuesday, while the NSE ASI closed at 28,260.61 basis points from 27,231.50 basis points the previous day.
Tuesday's decision of the CBN to adopt a flexible exchange rate policy was a shift from a peg of 197 to 199 for the naira, against the dollar which analysts see as overvalued and hampering investments.
A total of 474.402 million shares worth N3.503bn exchanged hands in 5,260 deals on the floor of the NSE on Tuesday.
The financial services and industrial goods sectors were the biggest beneficiaries of the renewed investor interest as they gained 589 basis points and 416 points. United Bank for Africa, Oando Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and FCMB Group Plc emerged as the top five gainers.
UBA shares appreciated by N0.45 to close at N4.87 from N4.42, while those of Oando closed at N6.63 from N6.02 the previous day.
The price of Zenith Bank's stocks closed at N16.51 from N15.00 on Tuesday, appreciating by N1.51, while that of Diamond Bank rose to N2.11 from N1.92, gaining N0.14. FCMB shares also appreciated by N0.14 to close at N1.56 from N1.42 the day earlier.
The top five losers were Mobil Oil Nigeria Plc, Union Dicon Salt Plc, Glaxo SmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc, Ikeja Hotel Plc and Forte Oil Plc.
FBN Holdings Plc topped the volume chart for the second consecutive session, trading 73 million units, whilst GTBank led the value chart, trading 46 million units worth N960m.
Analysts at Vetiva Capital Management Limited said, "Given the strong demand observed in today's (Wednesday) session as indicated by market breadth, volume and value, we see room for further gains in Thursday's (today) trading session as the MPC's decision to adopt a flexible exchange rate continues to whet investor appetite for stocks across sectors."
Bond prices also rose as traders bought debt to cover positions taken before the central bank decision as they had expected the main rate to stay at 12 per cent to boost the country's economy in view of slowing growth.
However, the naira remained flat against the United States dollar at the parallel on Wednesday as news over the adoption of a flexible exchange rate policy by the CBN created uncertainties in the forex market.
The naira, which closed at 346 against the dollar at the parallel market on Tuesday, maintained the same value on Wednesday.
Analysts said forex traders were confused over how the new rules would be implemented. The central bank has only said it will give guidance within days.
The forex traders, however, said they expected the policy shift to boost dollar supply and lure back foreign investors.
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