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Pollution: US fines two Greek-based shipping firms $2m

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United States authorities have ordered two Greece-based shipping companies; Empire Bulkers Limited and Joanna Maritime Limited to pay $2 million ($1 million each) over violations of pollution acts in the US.

The two companies were convicted for knowing and wilful violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships APPS and the Ports and Waterways Safety Act related to their role as the operator and owner of the Motor Vessel (M/V) Joanna.

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The prosecution stems from a March 2022 inspection in New Orleans that revealed that required pollution prevention equipment had been tampered with and the ship’s log had been falsified to conceal illegal discharges.

The companies also admitted to an unreported safety hazard, the US Justice Department said.

“Make no mistake, wilful tampering with required pollution control equipment and falsifying official ship logs to conceal illegal discharges are serious criminal offenses,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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“In concealing major safety problems from the Coast Guard, the defendants here not only violated the law, but also recklessly risked the lives of the crew and the environment.”

The two related companies were also sentenced to serve four years of probation subject to the terms of a government-approved environmental compliance plan.

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Stock investors record N81bn gain

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Gains recorded by MTN Nigeria, Nigerian Exchange Group, and others lifted the stock market by N81bn at the close of trading on the floor of the Nigerian equity market on Monday.

This bullish trend extended the gains recorded by stock investors in the previous week.

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As a result, the market capitalisation closed stronger as buying interests in MTN Nigeria Communications Plc and Nigerian Exchange Group, Industrial & Medical Gases Nigeria, United Capital, Lafarge Africa, Oando other stocks scaled up.

Expectedly, the All Share Index rose by 154.65 absolute points, representing a gain of 0.29 per cent to close at 53,157.83 points.

Accordingly, investors gained N81bn in value as market capitalisation hit N29.609tn.

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As measured by market breadth, market sentiment was mixed, as 16 stocks advanced and 16 others declined.

Sovereign Trust Insurance recorded the highest price gain of 10 per cent to close at 33 kobo, per share.

Linkage Assurance followed with a gain of 8.89 per cent to close at 49kobo, while International Energy Insurance rose by 8.08 per cent to close at N1.07, per share.

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Industrial & Medical Gases Nigeria went up by 4.55 per cent to close at N8.05, while Courteville Business Solutions appreciated by 4.08 per cent to close at N0.51 kobo, per share.

On the other hand, McNichols Plc led the losers’ log by 8.96 per cent to close at N0.61 kobo, while Prestige Assurance followed with a decline of 8.70 per cent to close at N0.42 kobo, per share.

FTN Cocoa processors lost 6.06 per cent to close at 31 kobo, while SUNU Assurance and Japaul Gold & Ventures shed 5.88 per cent each to close at N0.32 kobo each respectively, per share.

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The total volume traded declined by 28.5 per cent to 191.636 million units, valued at N4.799bn, and exchanged in 4,359 deals.

Transactions in the shares of Guaranty Trust Holding Company topped the activity chart with 50.585 million shares valued at N1.271bn.

Zenith Bank followed with 18.017 million shares worth N452.440m, while Chams Holding Company traded 16.628 million shares valued at N4.451m.

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United Bank for Africa traded 14.935 million shares valued at N125.390m, while Transnational Corporation of Nigeria transacted 14.171 million shares worth N18.790m.

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Oil prices edge higher, interest rate outlook limits gains

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Oil prices rose on Monday from an 8 percent drop last week on supply concerns, but was still trading near three-week lows, driven by worries that slower growth in major economies may limit fuel use.

Brent crude futures rose 37 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $80.31 a barrel at 1218 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 13 cents or 0.2 percent to $73.52.

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While recession fears dominated the market last week, prospects for China’s recovery after the relaxation of COVID-19 curbs there remains a driver for oil prices.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects half of global oil demand growth this year to come from China, its chief Fatih Birol said on Sunday, adding that jet fuel demand was surging.

Last Friday, WTI and Brent slid 3% after strong U.S. jobs data raised concerns the Federal Reserve would keep raising interest rates, which in turn boosted the dollar.

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A stronger dollar typically reduces demand for dollar-denominated oil from buyers paying with other currencies.

Higher interest rates are checking price gains as they are likely to curtail economic growth and increases in fuel demand, analysts said.

“A resilient labor market could buttress households’ willingness and ability to continue consuming and therefore support corporate earnings and equities over the near term,” investment strategy firm BCA Research said in a note.

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“However … a reacceleration of aggregate demand could lead to a second wave of inflation.”

Supply concerns continued to weigh on markets, however, as operations at Turkey’s oil terminal in Ceyhan halted after a major earthquake struck nearby early on Monday.

Also, price caps on Russian products took effect on Sunday, with the Group of Seven (G7), the European Union and Australia agreeing on price limits of $100 per barrel on diesel and other products that trade at a premium to crude, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount such as fuel oil.

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Banking index raises stock market by N1.08tn

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Despite investors’ sentiment trading and uncertainty surrounding the 2023 general elections, the anticipation for dividend payout and sectoral performance of the NGX bank index raised the stock market capitalisation by N1.08tn in January.

The stock market in 2022 recorded foreign investors’ apathy due to the scarcity of foreign exchange, double-digit inflation rate, and hike in the Monetary Policy Rate to 16.5 per cent.

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The market capitalisation of all listed stock on the Nigerian Exchange closed trading at N28.998tn on January 31, 2023, an increase of N1.08tn from N27.915tn it closed for trading in 2022.

Also, the NGX the All-Share Index rose by 3.88 per cent or 1,987.61 basis points to 53,238.67 basis points, 1,987.61bps or 3.88 per cent from 51,251.06 basis points it closed for trading in 2022.

This performance was boosted by NGX Banking Index appreciated by 7.5 per cent to 448.85basis points from 417.50 basis points it closed in 2022, while NGX Insurance rose by 5.4 per cent to 183.71basis points as of January 31, 2023, from 174.36 basis points it closed last year.

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As the NGX Consumer Goods Index close January 31, 2023 at 622.15 basis points, up by 5.64 per cent from 588.93basis points, NGX Oil & Gas Index rose by 5.4 per cent to 487.51 basis points from 462.48 basis points it closed in 2022.

Capital market analysts said the market so far in 2023, had witnessed sentiment trading by investors, stressing that anticipated dividend payment contributed to the 2.74 per cent growth in the month under review.

The Head, Capital Markets and Treasury at Dash, Ayotunde Alabi, said the anticipation for dividends payout and bargain hunting drove the market performance.

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He said, “The anticipation of dividend payouts by companies. Most investors are trying to partake in the dividends that the companies are going to payout during the first quarter.

“And some other investors believed the market has sold to that point where they can tap into supreme bargain hunting.

“They feel the right time to buy is when there are sellers in the market so that they can make more money when everything settles down.”

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On his part, the Vice president of Highcap Securities Limited, Mr David Adnori said the anticipation for end-of-the-year dividend distribution lifted the stock market in January 2023.

“The performance of the stock market in January is driven by shareholders’ expectation for the end of the year earnings and distribution of dividends,” he said.

Analysts at Investment One in a report titled, “2022 review and 2023 macro-economic and financial market outlook” said the direction of market performance would be largely determined by the trio impact of fixed income yields in tandem with monetary policy, corporate actions, and election turnouts.

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“Ditto to our outlook of tepid movement in yields in the fixed income space and expectations of a less aggressive hawkish tone from the CBN, negative real returns should remain relatively high in the fixed income space giving room for alpha-seeking investors diverting more funds to equities as it remains a solid channel for positive real returns.”

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