Jameel Ahmad is the chief market analyst at Forex Time (FXTM). Having worked in the UK, US and Cyprus, Jameel has built a very strong background not only in forex analysis but also in risk management and project management, all of which have been crucial stepping stones in accomplishing the position he holds today.
In this interview with peter ugwu, he spoke extensively on the devaluation of Naira, the forex market and impact of technology on the Forex market.
Devaluation of the Naira
I felt that the central bank’s choice to act proactively and attempt to devalue the Naira before the drop in oil prices even really began, was an interesting strategy and one which I personally supported.
This action has resulted in the Naira only depreciating by around 15% against the US Dollar this year, despite the Nigerian economy being very dependent on oil trade.
It appears that the central bank’s attempt to gradually devalue the Naira has avoided the issue of unexpectedly alarming investors.
On the flip side, the central banks of other countries dependent on oil trade such as Norway and Russia acted differently, and have seen a much more rapid weakening of their currencies.
Economic Factors Responsible for CBN’s Action
The primary reason behind the drop in the Naira was to combat the substantial fall in oil prices, with the Nigerian economy heavily relying on Crude exports for its earnings.
Debate on Whether CBN Should Have Acted Differently
This is a question that could be repeatedly asked, and one that will be widely debated by others. In some ways the central bank acted proactively by devaluing the Naira before the drop in oil prices even began to hit full momentum.
Other central banks appear to have waited for the decline in oil prices to accelerate before acting, with this stirring some panic among investors and leading to unexpected levels of market volatility.
If moves to devalue the Naira occurred after the decline in the oil prices had already commenced, this would have risked creating market panic.
Therefore, there are arguments for both sides here.
Expected Impact on the Economy
This is an interesting question, and there are a few different approaches that could explain what impact the drop in oil will have.
From the economic standpoint of Nigeria, there is a high reliance on oil exports so there are disadvantages that this will have on the Nigerian economy.
At the same time, Nigeria has been attempting to develop a focus on more service related industries, therefore there is an opportunity for the economy to continue focusing on this.
The same approach goes for the other economies heavily relying on crude exports, as this creates an opportunity for economies to diversify from being reliant on a few sectors.
The likely knockback the drop in oil prices will have on oil reliant economies will have some impact on the global stage, however it could also help the global economy as well. For example, some of the major economies are large consumers of oil (China, Japan, and India) and these economies will benefit from the lower prices.
In the longer term, the lower prices should encourage economies to import more oil and continue expansion projects. Continuing expansion projects is extremely important, because this would lead to increased demand for the commodity and provide oil with its highest prospects of a rebounding price.
Price of Oil Appreciating
This is appearing increasingly unlikely, with the current economic conditions being aggressively against the commodity.
In order for oil to even begin recovering a proportion of its substantial losses, these economic conditions have to change.
There is currently an overpowering supply and demand equation threatening the oil markets, which is heavily weighted in favour of the bears and preventing possible bulls from even considering purchasing.
Despite there being repeated reports over an oversupply being present in the markets, oil production levels are still on the rise.
This is weakening the price of oil on its own. We also have repeated global economic concerns dominating news headlines, which is raising fears that there will be less demand for oil moving forward.
These two factors are combining together to allow the bears to dominate, which is why the oil markets are making new milestone lows on such a frequent basis.
Devaluation of the Naira, the Falling Oil Price and the Forex Market
One of the benefits of the forex market is that it allows for speculating on the market in both directions.
This means that even in a situation where a currency or commodity price is crashing, a trader has the potential to make a profit.
As such, I believe that the forex market is to a certain extent ‘immune’ from the kind of panicked mass exodus we see in other investment markets.
Of course, the forex market is just as prone to losses, but the ability to make a loss or profit lies in the hands of the trader and the trading decisions they make, as opposed to with other investments where there are external factors playing a role.
Assessment of Forex Market in 2014
Since the summer months of 2014, policymakers from some of the major central banks did provide insight towards the divergence in both economic sentiment and monetary policy around the global economy widening.
As 2014 wound up, this became one of the catalysts behind the increased market volatility. The other main catalyst behind the high market volatility has been the unexpected drop in oil prices.
My assessment of the market would be that there are still unanswered questions regarding the global economic recovery, and this is likely to remain in the headlines for at least the first quarter of 2015.
I also see the divergence in both economic sentiment and monetary framework from the major central banks continuing, which will further the potential for market volatility.
Although market news might continue to have headlines centered on global economic concerns, the US economy is continuing to progress and this will hopefully raise optimism in the global economy.
Phobia among Nigerians Concerning Forex Trading
I would say that this has reduced, as more Nigerians than ever before are becoming interested in trading forex and, as a result, the currency market is one of the fastest growing financial markets in Nigeria.
There is a real movement in the Nigerian people for them to take control of their own financial destiny and, because forex trading is open to almost anyone, it is a truly democratic investment option.
Forex is still a relatively new investment tool for many Nigerians which is why we focus so heavily on educational training programs and seminars.
These training sessions cover everything from the very basics of the market, right through to developing detailed trading plans and risk management strategies.
One thing can be guaranteed in investments; in order to truly prosper in any financial market it is critical to understand how the market works and to ensure you execute a balanced risk management strategy.
FXTM Assessment of Nigeria in the Global Forex Market
The forex market is developing quickly in Nigeria and interest in it is fast catching up on some of the more established financial markets, such as stock trading.
However we recognise that Nigerian traders need further education and support in order to truly benefit from investing in the financial markets which is why we organize demo contests and bespoke educational events.
Demo contests in particular are great learning experiences and they are completely risk free. By participating you are able to experience live trading conditions and the thrill of the market without risking any real money.
This is a great advantage for both novices and experienced traders as it means not only can you familiarize yourself with the platforms and tools of forex trading, but you can also test strategies and see what works best for you.
Forex trading is also somewhat of a singular activity and by participating in a demo contest you become part of a community in which you can challenge yourself against other traders from all around the world.
Impact of internet Access on Nigeria Forex Trading
Having reliable and consistent internet access is important to any form of online investment, including forex trading, but with the growing trend for people all around the world to access the internet via mobile devices, some of the challenges regarding internet access are being reduced.
Mobile internet adoption rates in Nigeria have accelerated in the past five years and last year it was reported that 32.5 million Nigerians were accessing the internet through mobile devices compared with 7.3 million users back in 2008.
The popularity and growth of mobile internet adoption has had a positive impact on our business as we are finding that more clients than ever before are accessing the forex market through our mobile and tablet apps, and I can only see this trend growing in the future.
Role of Technology in the Forex Market
Technology has been critical in the evolution and even the creation of the retail forex market. Until the internet developed into the phenomenon that we know it as today, forex trading was restricted to just banks and financial institutions.
It was only once the online revolution took hold in the late 1990s and the early 2000s that online forex trading platforms emerged and the currency trading market became open to retail investors.
The opening up of the retail forex market is routinely called the “democratization” of the forex industry because it took away many of the practical barriers to entry that had previously stopped independent investors becoming involved in the forex market.
Since then, the technology has developed so enormously that it is now possible to trade from virtually anywhere via desktop, laptop, mobile phone or tablet.
Technological developments are especially important to market participants in fast-developing economies such as Nigeria because it means that investors have the same access to the market that they would have anywhere else in the world, whether that is New York, London or Lagos.