Turkish Lira Plunges Over 2% To New Record Low, Yields Rise On Moody's Warning

The collapse in the Turkish Lira, which has been relentless since last summer's failed coup, has only accelerated in 2017, and especially this morning, when the Turkish currency tumbled more than 2% against the dollar - its single worst day since the July 19 military coup attempt - sliding as low as 3.73, down over 5% so far in 2017, and over 23% in the past 12 months.

While the broader catalyst are familiar, namely a slowing economy, seemignly daily terrorist attacks, a furious crackdown by Erdogan on government dissent and potential rating downgrades, this morning there have been two additional catalysts that have accelerated the selloff.

First Moody's, which has the country on junk rating as of last September, issued a warning on the country's banking system saying heightened security risks would weigh down on the economy and heap further pressure on domestic banks. The rating agency warned that Turkish banks’ bad loan ratio was set to rise to 4% this year from 3.24% “driven by the combination of high inflation, lira depreciation and the general worsening of the investment climate because of security issues and geopolitical tensions”. The caution comes as Turkey faces another downgrade to junk from Fitch later in January, which would see its last investment grade rating stripped away, promptly raising its costs of borrowing even more.

Only making matters worse, were comments from Turkey's deputy PM, Nurettin Canikli, who indicated that Turkey's head remains stuck deeply in the sand, when he blamed the plunge in the Lira on an unacceptable "campaign" to force interest rates higher.  He also told AHaber TV in an interview that institutions will take whatever measures are needed for economy, that Citizens have no demand for foreign currency (not quite if judging by the plunge in the lira), that the Turkish economy will continue to “resist” such moves as dollarization level very low compared to past, and ultimately blamed the U.S. for its support to Syrian Kurdish PYD/YPG calling it “unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, the market is already pricing in further downgrades, and as of this morning, Turkey's benchmark 10Y yields jumped another 15 bps near the highest over the past year.

So what is Turkey to do? One suggestion came from ING's chief EMEA FX and rates strategist Petr Krpata who writes that a "large one-off rate hike could unleash a 10% rally in the lira" adding that “in the absence of capital controls, a large emergency rate hike seems to be the only remedy. If the root cause is domestic, the solution must be domestic too.”

However, he admits that the bar for a large hike is high - especially with Erdogan having made it quite clear such a move is unacceptable - and expects the central bank to continue with its “piecemeal approach and only hike interest rates gradually.”

He concludes that such an approach is unlikely to halt the lira’s slide and suggests further downside; sees 3.90/USD being tested before the case for a large interest increase grows stronger.

At the current rate of collapse, the lira may be there by the end of the week.

 

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