* Naira is down 4.1 pct so far this year
* Importers and firms hedge currency risk
* Naira trading outside official cenbank target (Adds details, analysts comments)
LAGOS, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s naira eased to an 8-month closing low of 165.55 against the dollar on Tuesday, due to strong dollar demand from importers and companies reducing their exposure to the local currency, dealers said.
The naira fell 0.16 percent from Monday’s close of 164.28 to the dollar, a level last seen on Feb. 21, a day after the president suspended the central bank governor, sending financial markets into a tailspin.
Concerns about the falling price of oil, Nigeria’s main source of foreign currency earnings, contributed to the drop. The local subsidiary of Chevron sold $45 million to Nigerian banks, dealers said, but that was not enough to support the naira.
“At the current level, we expect the central bank to step in or else the naira will fall further,” one dealer said
The currency has lost 4.1 percent against the dollar so far this year and is trading above the central bank’s target range of within 3 percent of 155 naira to the dollar.
Demand for hard currency was coming from local importers and companies worried about the risk of a devaluation, dealers said.
“We admit that prospects of a near-term devaluation have risen, thanks largely to the recent decline in oil prices,” economists at Morgan Stanley said in a note, adding that the authorities would be reluctant to devalue ahead of an election due in February.
Brent crude held gains around $86 a barrel on Tuesday as news of robust Chinese oil demand buoyed the market, although prices were capped by oversupply and concerns about the health of the rest of the global economy. (Reporting by Oludare Mayowa and Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)