Turkey’s lira hit record lows against the US dollar as the president spoke out again against raising interest rates. But an action plan for the economy has now been promised.
The Turkish lira tumbled in early trading in Asia on Monday, beforing paring back some of the losses after Finance Minister Berat Albayrak pledged to implement an economic action plan.
“From Monday morning onwards our institutions will take the necessary steps and will share the announcements with the market,” Albayrak said in an interview late on Sunday night.
Echoing his father-in-law, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose policies and rhetoric have hurt confidence in the Turkish market, Albayrak called the lira’s weakness an “attack.” He specifically pointed to the lira being under pressure from US President Donald Trump.
Details and implementation of the plan remained vague.
Budget discipline would be the foundation of the new approach, Albayrak said. “Our precautions” would center on “our banks and the small and medium size enterprises” the treasury and finance minister added. “We will be taking the necessary steps with our banks and banking watchdog in a speedy manner.”
Tax rules would be implemented if necessary, he said, but the government had no plans to seize foreign currency deposits or convert deposits to the Turkish lira.
Lira’s rocky ride
Earlier in Asia on Monday, the lira had traded at a new low of 7.24 to the dollar. It then traded back to 7 to the dollar.
Since early January, the Turkish currency has lost about 45 percent of its value against the dollar, with a 15 percent nosedive on Friday spooking global markets.
Last week, Goldman Sachs said in a research note that a depreciation of the lira to 7.1 to the dollar would erode Turkish banks’ excess capital.
In Asian trading, the euro also skidded to a one year low of $1.13, the single currency’s lowest level against the US currency since July 2017.
ANZ bank analysts attributed the euro’s wilt in part to “contagion risks” centered on Spanish, Italian and French banks which are exposed to Turkish foreign currency debt.
Spanish banks have $83.3 billion in exposure to Turkish markets, while French banks are owed $38.4 billion and Italian banks owed $17 billion.
The fear is that Turkish firms that took out euro and dollar denominated loans will be unable to repay those debts as the lira collapses, triggering bankruptcies that hit Turkish banks. The currency crisis would then turn into a financial crisis impacting European banks.
Erdogan’s stand on interest rates
President Erdogan addressed ruling party members in Trabzon on Sunday and urged businesses not to pull out foreign currencies from banks.
“Otherwise we will set into motion our plan B and C,” he said, without elaborating.
Businesses should “know that keeping this nation alive and standing isn’t just our job, but also the job of industrialists, of merchants.”
“We are once again facing a political, underhand plot. With God’s permission we will overcome this,” Erdogan asserted while again rejecting pressure to raise interest rates to make the lira more attractive.
Raising interest rates was a “tool of exploitation” against business, he said.
Turkey would instead “shift to new markets, new partnerships and new alliances,” said Erdogan, who in recent years has sought closer ties with Latin America, Africa and Asia.
He alluded to multifaceted rows, including US sanctions and Turkey’s estrangement within NATO.