(Adds more detail on MSCI, background)
LAGOS, May 3 (Reuters) - Nigerian stocks climbed to a five-week high on Tuesday after index provider MSCI said it would not change the status of Nigerian securities on its frontier index.
MSCI, which has invited investor feedback on the ease of access to Nigerian stock markets in the wake of currency controls imposed last year, put out a statement late on Friday saying the country would receive “special treatment” in its upcoming semi-annual index review in May.
Pavlo Taranenko from MSCI Index Management Research said on Tuesday the firm was not officially “considering” or “consulting on” a reclassification, but only “monitoring”. Any reclassification of Nigeria from the MSCI’s Frontier Markets index would have to be preceded by a consultation, like all index changes, he added.
Nigeria’s stock market, which has the second-biggest weighting behind Kuwait on MSCI’s frontier benchmark , gained 3.2 percent on Tuesday to levels last seen in March.
The index of Nigeria’s top 10 consumer goods rose 5 percent, with Nestle leading the charge to rise 10.25 percent, the maximum allowed.
Other gainers included Nigerian Breweries, United Bank for Africa and Dangote Cement, which accounts for third of total capitalisation, each up 5 percent.
However, share dealing by foreign investors in Nigeria has been declining. Foreign share dealing fell to 34.4 billion naira ($173 million) in March, down 66 percent from a year ago, the stock exchange said, adding that more than half of transactions were deals to sell shares.
Nigeria has also seen an exodus of foreign money from other assets. In September, JP Morgan announced it would eject the country from its influential emerging markets bond index due to the currency controls, which were imposed to prevent a collapse of the naira. Barclays followed suit shortly after.
Africa’s biggest economy is facing its worst crisis in decades as the fall in the price of oil has slashed government revenues, prompting the central bank to peg the currency and introduce curbs to protect foreign exchange reserves, which have fallen to an 11-year low.
For MSCI the ease of capital inflows and outflows is one of the key criteria in its market classification framework. Being excluded from MSCI’s Frontier Market index would create a higher hurdle for Nigeria to attract investments.
Renaissance Capital estimated in April that about $480 million of MSCI benchmarked money was in Nigeria, in both mutual funds and exchange traded funds.
$1 = 198.80 naira Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Additional reporting by Oludare Mayowa and Karin Strohecker in London; Editing by Mark Trevelyan
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