Turkey’s currency is tanking and President Erdogan is keeping it down

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Fake US Dollar and Turkish Lira currency often used as a novelty gift is seen for sale at a tobacco shop in a market on December 5, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images

Fake US Dollar and Turkish Lira currency often used as a novelty gift is seen for sale at a tobacco shop in a market on December 5, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Turkey’s lira has hit record lows for the past week, thanks to what analysts say is the Turkish government’s unwillingness to balance monetary policy to counter double-digit inflation.

And the fall has been accelerated by geopolitical uncertainty over U.S. and Russian military actions in neighboring Syria.

The currency made a sharp rebound on Friday, however, as top Turkish officials hinted at possible government action with regard to the exchange rate, although without offering specifics. The key question now is how effective those actions will be.

A policy of prioritizing growth over inflation control, led by Turkey’s powerful President Recep Erdogan, has unnerved emerging market investors for some time now. The president, who has called himself an “enemy of interest rates,” has effectively prevented any recent central bank tightening, despite inflation sitting at a lofty 10.23 percent.

Erdogan has called the recent currency sell-off an economic attack by Turkey’s enemies, describing it as “games being played on our economy.”

But investors say that markets have been desperate to see interest rate hikes by the central bank; its last two sessions saw no change in policy, following Erdogan’s calls to keep rates low in order to boost growth numbers.

The lira, which had depreciated 13.9 percent since August to reach an all-time low last week of 4.1944 against the dollar, currently ranks as one of the worst-performing emerging market currencies this year. On Friday, it climbed back 0.74 percent, reaching 4.08 lira to the dollar.

Turkey’s treasury bond yields, meanwhile, have hit multi-month highs and its February current account deficit increased by more than 60 percent on the same period in 2017 to $4.152 billion.



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