Erdogan under pressure as Turkish lira plunges to record low

President Erdogan has defied market calls for an interest rate increase. (AFP/ Turkish presidential press service)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Erdogan under pressure as Turkish lira plunges to record low

  • The lira dived to record lows of 7.24 to the dollar and 8.12 against the euro very early on Monday
  • The lira had tumbled about 16 percent against the dollar on Friday

NEW YORK: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under renewed pressure on Monday to reverse his economic policies as the troubled lira tumbled to record lows against the euro and dollar.

The US dollar, Japanese yen and the Swiss franc have been the preferred safe havens for scared investors.

The lira dived to record lows of 7.24 to the dollar and 8.12 against the euro very early in the day, then recovered somewhat after Turkey’s central bank announced a raft of measures aimed at calming markets, only to slip back again late in the session.

“The attempts by Turkey to halt the demise of the lira and the country’s soaring bond yields have proven inadequate thus far,” said David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB.

“Investors remained fearful on Monday over the Turkish lira’s precipitous plunge — and the concerns that a financial crisis in the country would ripple through the rest of Europe,” Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said.

Sharp depreciation

“So far the impact of the lira crash has been limited in Europe and the rest of the world,” said Agathe Demarais, Turkey analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“However, within a few months Western banks that have strong ties with Turkey will feel the impact of the crisis as Turkish corporates will struggle to repay debt in foreign currency.

“The sharp depreciation of the lira has almost doubled the local currency value of external debt repayments since the start of the year.” 

The lira had tumbled about 16 percent against the dollar on Friday, after US President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey.

The crisis has been sparked by a series of issues including a faltering economy — Erdogan has defied market calls for an interest rate increase — and tensions with the United States, which has hit Turkey with sanctions over its detention of an American pastor.

‘Black Friday’

In its first statement since what was dubbed “Black Friday” in Turkey, the nation’s central bank said on Monday it was ready to take “all necessary measures” to ensure financial stability, promising to provide banks with “all the liquidity” they need.

The central bank also lowered reserve requirement ratios for banks, in a move also aimed at staving off any liquidity issues.

But the statement gave no clear promise of rate increases, which is what most economists say is needed.


Asia’s refining profits slump as Mideast exports surge

Updated 23 February 2019
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Asia’s refining profits slump as Mideast exports surge

  • Since 2006, the Asia-Pacific has been the world’s biggest oil-consuming region, led by industrial users South Korea and Japan along with rising powerhouses China and India
  • However, overbuilding of refineries and sluggish demand growth have caused a jump in fuel exports from these demand hubs

SINGAPORE: Asia’s biggest oil consumers are flooding the region with fuel as refining output is exceeding consumption amid a slowdown in demand growth, pressuring industry profits.
Since 2006, the Asia-Pacific has been the world’s biggest oil-consuming region, led by industrial users South Korea and Japan along with rising powerhouses China and India.
Yet overbuilding of refineries and sluggish demand growth have caused a jump in fuel exports from these demand hubs.
Compounding the supply overhang, fuel exports from the Middle East, which BP data shows added more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of refining capacity from 2013 to 2017, have doubled since 2014 to around 55 million tons, according to Refinitiv.
Car sales in China, the world’s second-biggest oil user, fell for the first time on record last year, and early 2019 sales also remain weak, suggesting a slowdown in gasoline demand.
For diesel, China National Petroleum Corp. in January said that it expected demand to fall by 1.1 percent in 2019. That would be China’s first annual demand decline for a major fuel since its industrial ascent started in 1990.
The surge in fuel exports combined with a 25 percent jump in crude oil prices so far this year has collapsed Singapore refinery margins, the Asian benchmark, from more than $11 per barrel in mid-2017 to just over $2.
Combine the slumping margins with labor costs and taxes and many Asian refineries now struggle to make money.
The squeezed margins have pummelled the stocks of most major Asian petroleum companies, such as Japan’s refiners JXTG Holdings Inc. or Idemitsu Kosan, South Korea’s top oil processor SK Innovation, Asia’s top oil refiner China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and Indian Oil Corp., with some companies dropping by about 40 percent over the past year. Jeff Brown, president of energy consultancy FGE, said the surge in exports and resulting oversupply were a “big problem” for the industry.
“The pressure on refinery margins is a case of death by a thousand cuts ... Refinery upgrades throughout the region are bumping up against softening demand growth,” he said.
The profit slump follows a surge in fuel exports from China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Refinitiv shipping data shows fuel exports from those countries have risen threefold since 2014, to a record of around 15 million tons in January.
The biggest jump in exports has come from China, where refiners are selling off record amounts of excess fuel into Asia.
“There is a risk for Asian market turmoil if (China’s fuel) export capacity remains at the current level or grows further,” said Noriaki Sakai, chief executive officer at Idemitsu Kosan during a news conference last week.
But Japanese and South Korean fuel exports have also risen as demand at home falls amid mature industry and a shrinking population. Japan’s 2019 oil demand will drop by 0.1 percent from 2018, while South Korea’s will remain flat, according to forecasts from Energy Aspects.
In Japan, oil imports have been falling steadily for years, yet its refiners produce more fuel than its industry can absorb. The situation is similar in South Korea, the world’s fifth-biggest refiner by capacity, according to data from BP.
Cho Sang-bum, an official at the Korea Petroleum Association, which represents South Korean refiners, said the surging exports had “triggered a gasoline glut.”
That glut caused negative gasoline margins in January.