Turkish lira slides to seven-month low after Ankara tightens controls on currency swaps

Turkey’s lra has dropped 11 percent in value in 2019 as the government struggles to stabilize the beleaguered currency in the face of Ankara’s worsening ties with Washington and a renewed threat of US sanctions. (AFP)
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Updated 20 December 2019

Turkish lira slides to seven-month low after Ankara tightens controls on currency swaps

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s lira slid to its weakest level in daily trade since May on Thursday after the government’s latest heavy-handed effort to curb market volatility exacerbated lingering concerns over Ankara’s deteriorating relationship with Washington.

The currency, still vulnerable after last year’s crisis in which it shed nearly 30 percent against the dollar, was on track for its fifth straight day of losses and was the worst performer among emerging market peers.

While authorities have taken several unorthodox steps to stabilize the lira, it is down 11 percent so far in 2019. Continued weakness, on the other hand, could help Turkey limit imports and achieve the government’s ambitious 5 percent economic growth forecast for 2020.

“Government authorities want a competitive lira,” an economy official who requested anonymity told Reuters.

The lira on Thursday weakened as far as 5.9425 against the dollar, which itself was sliding after President Donald Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives.

The lira hit 6.47 in a “flash crash” on Aug. 26 in Asian trade, when liquidity was very low. Excluding that, it was last at these levels during a selloff in May that had echoes of last year’s crisis, which tipped Turkey’s economy into recession.

Late on Wednesday, a regulator said it would rein in some derivatives trading by lowering the limit on banks’ currency swaps, forward and options with non-residents with a maturity of up to seven days, in which local banks receive forex at maturity.

The new limit will be 10 percent of the bank’s regulatory capital, down from 25 percent.

“This step will make it harder to sell the lira and take a short position,” said Tera Yatirim economist Enver Erkan, adding the intervention in swap markets could hurt investor sentiment. The “goal is to reduce exchange rate volatility,” he added.

The move followed a pattern of tightening control over financial markets. In late May, for example the BDDK banking watchdog imposed a settlement delay for FX purchases by individuals of more than $100,000.

The lira has been the worst performer among peers in December, a reflection on worsening ties with NATO ally Washington.

Trump and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan say they are close. But Trump, who has mostly resisted US congressional efforts to sanction Turkey this year, on Wednesday became only the third US president to be impeached.

Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 defenses and its military incursion in Syria have prompted Washington to move toward imposing sanctions. The Senate this week passed a bill that calls for sanctions and prohibits shipping F-35 jets to Turkey.

Strained US ties helped spark last year’s collapse in the lira, which many analysts saw as over-valued given the Turkish economy’s heavy reliance on imports and cheap foreign funding.

If the currency remains close to six versus the dollar, analysts say that the economy will be more likely to achieve the Treasury ministry’s goal of maintaining a current account deficit of 1.2 percent next year amid a strong growth rebound.

The authorities may be “using this supportive global backdrop to manage the Turkish lira weaker in order to help support growth/current account position,” Tim Ash of BlueBay Asset Management wrote in a note.

The lira’s main FX volatility gauge was at its highest since late October on Thursday.


Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

Updated 13 August 2020

Turkey on brink of recession as economy collapses

  • Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months

JEDDAH: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity is plunging in lockstep with Turkey’s collapsing economy and the country is on the verge of a potentially devastating recession, financial experts have told Arab News.
The value of the Turkish lira has fallen to 7.30 against the US dollar and the central bank has spent $65 billion to prop up the currency, according to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Consumer debt has increased by 25 percent to more than $100 billion in the past three months as the government moved to help families during the coronavirus pandemic, but the result has been a surge in inflation to 12 percent.
With the falling lira and increased price of imported goods, the living standards of many Turks who earn in lira but have dollar debts have fallen sharply.
The economy is expected to shrink by about 4 percent this year. The official unemployment rate remains at 12.8 percent because layoffs are banned, although many experts say the real figures are far higher.
To complete the perfect storm, tourism revenues and exports have been decimated by the pandemic, and foreign capital has fled amid fears over economic trends and the independence of the central bank.
Wolfango Piccoli, of Teneo Intelligence in London, said logic dictated an increase in interest rates but “this is unlikely to happen.”
Piccoli said central bank officials would strive to avoid an outright rate hike at their monetary policy meeting on Aug. 20. “A mix of controlled devaluation and backdoor policies, such as limiting Turkish lira’s liquidity, remains their preferred approach,” he said.
There is speculation of snap elections, and Erdogan’s view is that higher interest rates cause inflation, despite considerable economic evidence to the contrary.