Turkish lira hammered again as crisis spills into Asian markets

Turkish lira hammered again as crisis spills into Asian markets

HONG KONG,. Asian markets tumbled and the Turkish lira dived almost eight per cent this morning on fears that the economic crisis gripping Turkey could spill over into the global economy.

With investors already on edge over the China-US trade war, the lira’s collapse sparked a sell-off in Europe and New York at the end of last week, with safe haven assets including the Japanese yen and Swiss franc rallying.

The lira dived to a record low of 7.2362 (RM4.22) to the dollar at one point overnight before recovering slightly after the country’s finance minister said Ankara was planning to roll out an “action plan” this morning in response to the crisis.

“Our institutions will take necessary action from Monday (this morning) in order to relieve the markets,” Berat Albayrak said, adding that the plan would centre on “the state of our banks and the small and medium size enterprises” most affected by the lira’s plunge.

The lira has been hammered this year, having started January at around 3.70 to the dollar, while it was also sharply down against the euro.

However, the European unit was taking a hit against the greenback on worries about the possible impact on some European banks, including Spain’s BBVA, Italy’s UniCredit and France’s BNP Paribas.

Despite the tumult, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in combative mood, calling the rout a “political, underhand plot” against Turkey.

The crisis has been sparked by a series of issues including a faltering economy — the central bank has defied market calls for rate hikes — and tensions with the United States, which has hit Turkey with sanctions over its detention of an American pastor.

Ankara has also hit out at Washington’s cooperation with Syrian Kurdish militia in the fight against Islamic State.

Vulnerabilities

“The decline in the lira is multifaceted, caused not only by a weak external position in terms of current account deficit and inadequate currency reserves, but also the challenging political environment which exacerbates the vulnerabilities in the lira,” said Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

“A mid-meeting rate hike and tightening of monetary policy may help to avert the lira’s decline, to some extent.”

As well as the lira, emerging market and other high-yielding currencies tumbled across the board.

The Russian ruble, already under pressure after the US hit Moscow with sanctions last week, lost two per cent, while the South African rand was battered seven per cent.

South Korea’s won and the Australian dollar retreated 0.5 per cent and the Indonesian rupiah lost 0.9 per cent.

The yen, a go-to unit in times of turmoil, rose against the dollar, while the Swiss franc was also higher.

“The dominating theme of this week is likely to be the Turkish situation,” Okasan Online Securities said in a note to clients.

“The ‘Turkey shock’ from last weekend, triggered by sharp plunges of the lira, has fuelled fears that it may impact financial institutions in Europe,” it said.

On equity markets Hong Kong shed 1.8 per cent and Shanghai was 1.4 per cent lower, while Tokyo dropped 1.6 per cent by the break with exporters hurt by the stronger yen.

The sharp losses come despite the fact Turkey accounts for just one per cent of the world economy, meaning there is little risk to the world economy, or even the eurozone.

Key figures at 0230 GMT:

Dollar/Turkish lira: UP at 6.99 lira from 6.43 lira late Friday

Euro/Turkish lira: UP at 7.93 lira from 7.34 lira

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.6 per cent at 21,942.23 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.8 per cent at 27,855.25

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.4 per cent at 2,755.77

Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1382 from US$1.1421 (RM4.65 from RM4.67)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.2754 from US$1.2789

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.44 yen from 110.58 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP eight cents at US$67.71

Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN five cents at US$72.76

New York – Dow Jones: DOWN 0.8 per cent at 25,313.14

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.0 per cent at 7,667.01 (close).

— AFP