Turkish lira at new low after Ankara’s tensions with West

October 26, 2021 - 18:14

TEHRAN - Turkey's national currency lira has plunged to a new record low following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments amid rising tensions between Ankara and the West.

Erdogan said on Saturday he had told his foreign ministry to expel the envoys of 10 Western countries, including the U.S.

The currency had already hit record lows last week after the Turkish central bank (CBRT) cut its policy rate by 200 basis points, despite rising inflation, in a shock move derided as reckless by economists and opposition legislators.

Media reports said on Monday that the lira, one of the worst performing emerging market currencies in recent years, was closing in on 10 to the US Dollar, a rate it has never reached in the past.

The lira hit an all-time low of 9.75 by 18:40 GMT on Sunday, weakening from Friday’s close of 9.5950. Two bankers attributed the early weakness to Erdogan’s comments on Saturday. It has fallen nearly 24 percent so far this year, the worst performer in emerging markets. The lira’s one-month implied volatility rose to the highest since May on Friday.

“I worry … for Turkish financial markets on Monday. The lira will inevitably come under extreme selling pressure,” said veteran emerging market watcher Tim Ash at BlueBay.

“And we all know that (Central Bank Governor Sahap) Kavcioglu has no mandate to hike rates, so the only defence will be spending foreign exchange reserves the CBRT does not have.”

The foreign powers triggered Erdogan's ire after demanding that Ankara release a Parisian-born Turkish political activist who has been in jail for years.

In a joint statement on October 18, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US accused Ankara of delaying the legal cases lodged against Osman Kavala.

The dramatic developments triggered the fall of the lira against other currencies.

Meanwhile, financial experts have attributed weakening of the Turkish currency to other factors as well.

The lira had already suffered a terrible week after Turkey was placed under surveillance for allegedly failing to properly address issues related to money laundering and terrorism financing.

There were also growing concerns over Ankara's monetary policy and alleged Central Bank interference by President Erdogan.

The Central Bank cut the policy rate from 18 percent to 16 percent on Thursday even as inflation surged to nearly 20 percent in September.

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