Turkey set to raise rates, balancing lira and growth concerns

The Turkish Central Bank is worried about economic slowdown. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Turkey set to raise rates, balancing lira and growth concerns

  • The lira has slumped 40 percent against the dollar this year, weakened partly by unease over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy
  • The central bank confounded expectations for a rate increase at its July meeting, fueling the belief it is under pressure from Erdogan

ISTANBUL: The Turkish Central Bank is expected to raise interest rates on Thursday to calm a currency crisis, but forecasts for the scale of the increase vary widely as the bank balances concerns over lira weakness with worries about an economic slowdown.
The lira has slumped 40 percent against the dollar this year, weakened by unease over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy and more recently a bitter row with the US that has unsettled investors.
The central bank confounded expectations for a rate increase at its July meeting, fueling the belief it is under pressure from Erdogan, who has called interest rates the “mother and father of all evil” and frequently urges they be kept low.
But after inflation surged in August to its highest in nearly 15 years, the central bank said that it would take action against “significant risks” to price stability — a rare move to soothe financial markets.
It said its monetary stance will be adjusted at Thursday’s policy committee meeting. Analysts saw this as pointing to an increase in the benchmark one-week repo rate, now 17.75 percent — less than the annual inflation rate of 17.9 percent.
Phoenix Kalen, strategist at Societe Generale, forecast the repo rate would be raised to 20.75 percent and would be restored as the main policy instrument after a period during which the effective funding rate has been 19.25 percent.
“Although this amount of monetary tightening may disappoint market expectations and spark renewed TRY weakness, the decision would reflect the prioritization of Turkish authorities’ concerns regarding a rapidly decelerating economy,” Kalen said.
Turkey’s economic growth slowed to 5.2 percent in the second quarter, data showed this week, and the economy is expected to slow again in the second half.
In a Reuters poll, all 11 economists predicted the benchmark one-week repo rate would be raised.
The average forecast was to 22 percent, but predictions ranged from an increase of 225 basis points to 725 basis points.


China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

Updated 1 min 30 sec ago
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China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

  • Xi says Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption”
  • High costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap”
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping has promised to set high standards for China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative, seeking to dispel complaints the many billion dollars in projects leave developing countries with too much debt.
Xi avoided mentioning debt complaints in a speech opening a forum attended by leaders from some three dozen countries to celebrate his signature foreign initiative. But he said Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption.”
Developing countries welcome the initiative to expand trade by building roads, ports and other facilities across Asia and Africa to Europe. But high costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap.”
The United States, Russia, Japan and India also worry Beijing is trying to build a trade and political network centered on China and expand its strategic influence at their expense.
Xi’s government is trying to revive the initiative’s momentum after the number of new projects plunged last year. That came after Chinese officials said state-owned banks would step up scrutiny of borrowers and some governments complained projects do too little for their economies and might give Beijing too much political sway.
Countries including Malaysia and Thailand have canceled or scaled back projects while Ethiopia and others have renegotiated debt repayment.
Xi noted China’s finance ministry on Thursday issued guidelines for assessing debt risks for borrowers. The ministry said those “debt sustainability guidelines” are based on the standards of the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions.
The president tried to allay complaints about lack of economic benefits and political influence, saying Belt and Road is “not an exclusive club” and promotes “common development and prosperity.”
“We need to pursue open, green and clean cooperation,” Xi said. “Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption.”
His audience at a Beijing conference center included Prime Ministers Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Lee Hsien-Loong of Singapore and Adiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and leaders or envoys from Greece, Serbia and Malaysia.
Xi said Beijing also wants to expand the scope of its initiative by encouraging cooperation among Belt and Road countries on health, water resources, agriculture and science and technology. He promised to fund scholarships for students from Belt and Road countries.