Turkey tries to contain crisis but currency keeps falling


President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan reportedly met on the sidelines of July's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit to cut a deal on prisoner releases - which would later become an economic disaster for the lira, and potentially the world.

Not a lot, on the face of it.

"This may fuel volatility in EM assets and dampen investor sentiment in the near term, as markets are already skittish".

Turkey's central bank announced a series of measures on Monday to free up cash for banks as the country grapples with a currency crisis sparked by concerns over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's economic policies and a trade and diplomatic dispute with the United States.

Nothing to do with the likes of South Africa or Indonesia, you might think.

The Turkish currency lost nearly 20 per cent of its value against the USA dollar last week and is down 40 per cent since the start of the year.

The euro traded up 0.1 percent on Tuesday at $1.1420 EUR=EBS, having fallen to a 13-month low of $1.1365 on Monday. Oil prices rose after a report from OPEC confirmed that top exporter Saudi Arabia had cut production to avert looming oversupply.

"While the focus at present is on Turkey, where currency depreciation and rising rates has translated into a marked tightening of financial conditions, it could spread to Mexico, Brazil and India".

Hungary, for example, has seen its currency, the forint, fall by almost 4% against the U.S. dollar since last Wednesday.

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None of this looks remotely sufficient to deal with the scale of the crisis, particularly given the paucity of Turkey's foreign currency and gold reserves - which are often used by central banks to fight off currency speculators. The country has a debt in dollars and other foreign currencies accounting for a half of its gross domestic product. The Argentina Peso and Russian Ruble were also amongst the biggest decliners in Emerging Market currencies.

Yet both have avoided the shellacking meted out to the Turkish lira because their central banks have shown a willingness in recent months to respond to drops in their currency (a weaker currency means higher imported inflation) by raising interest rates.

It also pledged to provide "all the liquidity banks need".

Also caught up in the sell-off is Russia's ruble, which today hit its lowest level against the U.S. dollar since April 2016 and its lowest level against the euro since April this year, partly reflecting the high amount of borrowing in foreign currencies by Russian corporates, but also concern about the damage that the latest round of United States sanctions against Moscow - imposed in the wake of the Salisbury poisonings - will do to the country's economy. Nobody should give credit to speculative news.

A stronger dollar hurt exporters, whose goods will get more expensive overseas.

The contagion is also spreading via mechanisms other than the currency markets.

Aidan Yao, senior emerging Asia economist at AXA Investment Managers, said the chance that the Chinese government would extend aid to Turkey was not small, but would be based on political rather than economic calculations given the risks that would be associated with such a move.

Because of the currency storm and the possibility that access to materials, and to export markets will be disrupted at the Turkish plants, financial data for the performance of the companies in Turkey is now unbalanced and for the time being unreliable, reports LTN.