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: Trump forces its hand, will retaliate against new US tariffs

Updated 49 min 5 sec ago
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China: Trump forces its hand, will retaliate against new US tariffs

  • The commerce ministry’s statement came hours after Trump said he was imposing 10 percent tariffs on about $200 billion worth of imports from China
  • The latest US duties spared smart watches from Apple and Fitbit and other consumer products such as baby car seats

BEIJING/WASHINGTON: China said on Tuesday that it has no choice but to retaliate against new US trade tariffs, raising the risk that President Donald Trump could soon impose duties on virtually all of the Chinese goods that America buys.
The commerce ministry’s statement came hours after Trump said he was imposing 10 percent tariffs on about $200 billion worth of imports from China, and threatened duties on about $267 billion more if China retaliated against the US action.
The brief statement gave no details on China’s plans, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing later that the US steps had brought “new uncertainty” to talks between the two countries.
“China has always emphasised that the only correct way to resolve the China-US trade issue is via talks and consultations held on an equal, sincere and mutually respectful basis. But at this time, everything the United States does does not give the impression of sincerity or goodwill,” he added.
Geng said he would not comment on “hypotheticals” such as what measures Beijing might consider apart from tariffs on US products, saying only that details would be released at the appropriate time.
Trump had warned on Monday that if China takes retaliatory action against US farmers or industries, “we will immediately pursue phase three, which is tariffs on approximately $267 billion of additional imports.”
The latest US duties spared smart watches from Apple and Fitbit and other consumer products such as baby car seats. But if the administration enacts the additional tariffs it would engulf all remaining US imports from China and Apple products like the iPhone and its competitors would not likely be spared.
Last month, China unveiled a proposed list of tariffs on $60 billion of US goods ranging from liquefied natural gas to certain types of aircraft — should Washington activate the tariffs on its $200 billion list.
China is reviewing plans to send a delegation to Washington for fresh talks in light of the US action, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday, citing a government source in Beijing.
Collection of tariffs on the long-anticipated US list will start on Sept. 24 but the rate will increase to 25 percent by the end of 2018, allowing US companies some time to adjust their supply chains to alternate countries.
So far, the United States has imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products to pressure Beijing to reduce its huge bilateral trade surplus and make sweeping changes to its trade, technology transfer and high-tech industrial subsidy policies.
Beijing has retaliated in kind, but some analysts and American businesses are concerned it could resort to other measures such as pressuring US companies operating in China.
A senior Chinese securities market official said US trade actions will not work as China has ample fiscal and monetary policy tools to cope with the impact. The government already has been ramping up spending on infrastructure.
“President Trump is a hard-hitting businessman, and he tries to put pressure on China so he can get concessions from our negotiations. I think that kind of tactic is not going to work with China,” Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of China’s securities regulator, said at a conference in the port city of Tianjin.
FURTHER TALKS IN DOUBT
Trump’s latest escalation of tariffs on China comes after several rounds of talks yielded no progress. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week invited top Chinese officials to fresh discussions, but thus far nothing has been scheduled.
“We have been very clear about the type of changes that need to be made, and we have given China every opportunity to treat us more fairly,” Trump said in a statement. “But, so far, China has been unwilling to change its practices.”
Fang told the Tianjin forum that he hopes the two sides can sit down and talk, but added that the latest US move has “poisoned” the atmosphere.
A senior Trump administration official told reporters that the United States was open to further talks with Beijing, but offered no immediate details on when they may occur.
“This is not an effort to constrain China, but this is an effort to work with China and say, ‘It’s time you address these unfair trade practices that we’ve identified that others have identified and that have harmed the entire trading system,’” the official said.
So far, China has either imposed or proposed tariffs on $110 billion of US goods, representing most of its imports of American products.
“Tensions in the global economic system have manifested themselves in the US-China trade war, which is now seriously disrupting global supply chains,” the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement on Tuesday.
China’s yuan currency slipped against the dollar on Tuesday after news of the US measures. It has weakened by about 6.0 percent since mid-June, offsetting the 10 percent tariff rate by a considerable margin.
CONSUMER TECH TRIMMED
The US Trade Representative’s office eliminated 297 product categories from the latest proposed tariff list, along with some subsets of other categories.
But the adjustments did little to appease technology and retail groups who argued US consumers would feel the pain.
“President Trump’s decision...is reckless and will create lasting harm to communities across the country,” said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents major tech firms.
Kenneth Jarrett, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said three quarters of its members will be hit by the tariffs, and they will not bring jobs back to the United States.
“Most of our member companies are ‘in China, for China’ — selling goods to Chinese companies and consumers, not to Americans — and thus ultimately boosting the US economy,” Jarrett said.