July 9, 2020 / 6:40 PM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 1-Nigeria's excess crude account held $72.41 million as of July 7 -finance minister

(Adds details on Nigerian economy, other background)

ABUJA, July 9 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s excess crude account held $72.41 million as of July 7, the country’s finance minister said on Thursday.

Zainab Ahmed gave the figure during a meeting of the country’s National Economic Council. The oil savings account, which holds dollar reserves from sales of crude above the assumed benchmark price, contained $324.54 million as of Nov. 20 last year.

Nigeria, Africa’s top crude oil exporter, has been running down its rainy day savings fund to support the economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic amid lower oil prices. Crude oil sales make up around 90% of foreign exchange earnings.

The country, which also has the continent’s largest economy, has seen low growth since emerging from a recession in 2017 and has rationed foreign currency amid shortages and currency weakness.

The World Bank forecasts Nigeria’s economy will shrink 3.2-7.4% this year, depending on the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak. The lender is considering a $3 billion budget support loan for Nigeria, which would cover around half of the country’s external financing shortfall.

Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis

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