Turkey’s Policy Shift Ends Turbulent Week for Its Currency

(Bloomberg) — Turkish authorities capped a tumultuous week in the financial markets by tightening monetary policy, helping to pull the lira back from a record low.

The central bank on Friday stopped funding local lenders from its one-week repurchase rate, forcing the banks to borrow from a more expensive overnight window. If sustained, the move will amount to a 150 basis-point interest rate hike.

Turkish inflation-adjusted interest rates have stayed negative for months

© Bloomberg
Turkish inflation-adjusted interest rates have stayed negative for months

While the measures eased some pressures on the currency, “the central bank still has more work to do,” analysts including Ned Rumpeltin at TD Securities in London, wrote in a note to clients. “Turkey’s monetary policy is too loose and we expect the central bank will be forced to hike rates dramatically — and possibly take other measures.”


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Regulators are also preparing to roll back rules that compelled lenders to boost credit, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. The decision followed a Thursday night meeting of the banking regulator, central bank and top executives from the financial institutions, convened after the currency and stocks tumbled.

Signs that Turkey is scaling back a campaign to support the economy by fanning credit demand helped the lira trim its worst week since April. A series of interest rate cuts since last year has helped pushed the nation’s current account into a deficit, risking a fresh bout of inflation, while also fueling demand for foreign currency.

Amid the shift in policy, retail investors sold dollars and bought liras, paring bets against the local currency, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Turkey’s Perilous Game With Financial Markets Reaches Crossroads

The lira jumped as much as 1.6% to 7.1357 per dollar after earlier sliding to an all-time low of 7.3662. It was trading 0.7% stronger at 7.1998 as of 3:21 p.m. in London.

The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index erased losses to trade up 0.2%. The yield on two-year government bonds jumped 73 basis points to 12.99%. The cost of insuring government debt against default dipped for the first time in four days, falling below 600 basis points.

Window Dressing

Still, for some, the measures are an effort to avoid the harsh medicine of interest-rate increases, which would counter against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wishes.

“The danger is that all of this is just window dressing,” said Timothy Ash, a strategist at BlueBay Asset Management LLP in London. “Ultimately, only proper rate hikes will reassure markets.”

Options Signal More Pain for Turkey’s Lira at Record Low: Chart

The banking regulator agreed to meet requests from lenders to lower the asset-ratio rule, the people familiar with Thursday’s meeting said. The asset ratio was introduced earlier this year to push financial institutions to step up lending, purchase government bonds and engage in swap transactions with the central bank.

The regulator and the central bank declined to comment.

Turkey Announces New Regulation To Boost Lending, Bond Purchase

In response to this week’s financial-market upheaval, Turkey’s central bank said it will move gradually to withdraw the liquidity measures taken to support the economy during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The government prioritizes an export-driven model and therefore doesn’t see a weaker lira as a source of risk unless the moves are excessive or too fast, according to a senior Turkish official familiar with the government’s thinking.

Turkey Redraws Currency Defenses With Lira Hitting a Record Low

In a country where savings are disproportionately held in foreign currency, sharp moves in the U.S. dollar usually fuel criticism of economic management. Thursday was no exception with tens of thousands of Twitter users calling for resignation of Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law and the Minister of Treasury and Finance since July 2018.

‘Hot Money’

In response, government members and ruling AK Party supporters started a competing social-media campaign to support for the minister. Albayrak, who blamed turmoil in the lira in 2018 on foreign speculators, has repeatedly said he doesn’t want “hot money” and wants investors to park their money in local assets for longer.

In the past two years, Turkey witnessed an almost steady outflow of foreign cash from stocks and bonds as regulators made it increasingly difficult for foreign banks to borrow liras. Thursday’s announcement to exempt global banks from such restrictions — despite the strict conditions attached — are a sign that authorities may have exhausted all their avenues.

“Turkey may be recognizing that its pre-existing strategy was unsustainable,” said Phoenix Kalen, a strategist at Societe Generale SA in London. ‘We don’t believe that we’re likely to see an emergency rate hike enacted soon, as this would be an indefensible admission of failure in markets strategy,” or that the government will stop interventions, she said.

(Updates with details, pricing throughout)

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