Turkey names US-convicted banker to head Istanbul stock exchange

was found guilty by a New York court in January 2018 of plotting to help Tehran evade American sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds. (AP)
Updated 22 October 2019

Turkey names US-convicted banker to head Istanbul stock exchange

  • Mehmet Hakan Atilla was found guilty by a New York court in January 2018 of plotting to help Tehran evade American sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds

ISTANBUL: Turkey has named a banker convicted of sanctions busting in the US as the new chief executive of the Istanbul stock exchange, the finance minister has said.
The appointment of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the former deputy director general of Halkbank, comes almost a week after US federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Turkish state-run bank.
Halkbank is accused of participating in a multi-billion-dollar scheme to evade economic sanctions on Iran.
Atilla was found guilty by a New York court in January 2018 of plotting to help Tehran evade American sanctions on Iranian oil proceeds.
He was released from prison in July 2019.
“After returning to his family and country following his wrongful conviction, Hakan Atilla’s period of relaxation has come to an end,” Finance Minister Berat Albayrak — also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law — said on Monday.
“He will start work as the new Istanbul Stock Exchange managing director. I wish him and the stock exchange good luck,” Albayrak added.
“Mehmet Hakan Atilla was elected as CEO at the Borsa Istanbul board meeting dated October 21, 2019. Atilla will act as CEO and board member,” the stock exchange said in a statement.
The decision to give such an important role to Atilla appears to be intended as a defiant message to US authorities during a moment of acute tension between Ankara and Washington.
Relations between Turkey and the US have been particularly strained since Ankara launched a cross-border offensive this month against a US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia viewed by Turkish officials as “terrorists.”
But there have been multiple sources of tension between the NATO allies, including the US failure to extradite a Muslim preacher accused of ordering the failed coup in Turkey in 2016 and American military support for the Syrian Kurdish militia.
In response to the legal investigation, Halkbank accused American authorities of targeting Turkey because of the Turkish military operation launched on October 9.
Atilla replaces Murat Cetinkaya, who became a deputy governor of the central bank in August.
Cetinkaya is not to be confused with the former central bank governor of the same name.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.