| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

Turkish Cenbank slashes rates more than expected, lira hits record low

Türkiye’s central bank slashed its policy rate by a more-than-expected 150 basis points to 10.5% on Thursday, and promised to halt the easing cycle urged by President Tayyip Erdogan after another similarly-hefty cut next month.


The move pushed the lira to a record low near 19 to the dollar and comes after Erdogan repeatedly advocated for the unorthodox easing cycle and specifically called for single-digit rates by year-end.


“Going forward, we now expect another 150 (basis point) cut in November, which will bring down the policy rate to 9.00% and end the cutting cycle,” Goldman Sachs research analysts said in a note.


Annual inflation rose above 83% in September and central banks globally are racing in the other direction to tighten policy, setting Türkiye well apart with a deeply negative real rate.


The Turkish central bank said it cut the one-week repo rate because financial conditions need to support the growth momentum in industrial production and the positive trend in employment.


“The Committee evaluated taking a similar step in the following meeting and ending the rate cut cycle,” it said.


The Turkish lira weakened to an all-time low of 18.6150 versus the dollar after the announcement. It has weakened 29% this year, on top of a 44% slide in 2021.


“The Turkish policy mix remains unsustainable and will eventually either lead to a policy reversal or to an economic downturn,” said JPMorgan in a client note, forecasting a 2023 move to 25% that could take the real rate to positive territory late next year.


“We think that it is reasonable to expect that policymakers will choose to avoid an economic downturn and will therefore sharply increase interest rates to address the (current account) deficit funding issues and stabilize the exchange rate.”


Thirteen of 20 economists in a Reuters poll had predicted the central bank would on Thursday cut rates to 11%. Six said it would hold steady at 12%, while one forecast a cut to 11.50%.


The bank shocked markets in August and September by slashing its interest rate by 100 basis points each time to revive a cooling economy. Easing became the consensus expectation after Erdogan earlier this month said the bank would continue rate cuts every month “as long as I am in power”.


Argentina, another large economy with an over 80% inflation rate, is set to keep its benchmark rate at 75%.


The rate cuts that began last year in Türkiye caused a historic currency crash in December and sent inflation soaring.


Erdogan has prioritized exports, production and investments as part of an economic program that aims to lower inflation by flipping Türkiye’s chronic current account deficits to a surplus.


That target is all but unattainable this year due to the surge in energy prices and a global economic slowdown that is likely to hit Türkiye’s exports.


The government does not a see a surplus in the next three years. It sees inflation falling to 65% by the end of this year and to 24.9% at the end of 2023.


Since the cuts in the last two months the central bank has taken steps to lessen the gap between the policy rate and banks’ lending rates and to boost lira deposits.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat