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Turkey's lira hits new low after bank rules' rollback

Published 06/26/2023, 04:51 AM
Updated 06/26/2023, 06:45 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Woman holds Turkish Lira banknotes in this illustration taken May 30, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Orhan Coskun and Nevzat Devranoglu

ANKARA (Reuters) -The Turkish lira slid as much as 3% to a record low against the dollar on Monday, after the central bank took steps to simplify policy, while an official and bankers said the bank had stopped using its reserves to support the lira.

The lira weakened as far as 26.05 against the U.S. currency, surpassing last week's all-time low of 25.74. It trimmed its losses to 25.84 by 0945 GMT.

It is down 28% so far this year, largely after the re-election in late May of President Tayyip Erdogan who has since moved to backtrack on his years of unorthodox economic policy including slashing rates despite soaring inflation.

Two big steps were taken in recent days: the central bank under new Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan raised rates by 650 basis points to 15% on Thursday, a substantial tightening even though it fell short of market expectations.

Then on Sunday, the central bank began rolling back parts of the dozens of rules and regulations it had adopted since 2021 that left debt, credit and forex markets heavily state managed - and that were meant to encourage lira holdings.

With the use of central bank reserves to protect the lira’s value before the election, reserves fell to a historical low in early June, with net reserves at minus $5.7 billion. They recovered in the following two weeks.

The simplification steps at the weekend were meant to free up markets and ensure stability, the central bank said at the weekend, while a senior official said the bank had adjusted its foreign exchange policy.

"The central bank is not intervening in any way on the exchange rate level by selling foreign currency after its interest rate decision last week," he said.

"The numbers are determined entirely by the free market. Hence, there is no use of foreign exchange reserves and a period of increasing reserves has started," he added.

His comments echoed the view of bankers that the central bank had "completely stopped" using its reserves. "The value of the lira is no longer being defended by reserves," said one trader.

"It seems the CBRT (Turkish central bank) seems to have completely abandoned the use of reserves in the forex market," said a senior banker, adding that its foreign exchange position showed increases of $1-2 billion a day.

CENTRAL BANK MEASURES

Under new central bank steps announced at the weekend, the securities maintenance ratio that banks are required to allocate to their foreign currency deposit was reduced to 5% from 10%.

Securities that banks must maintain ranged between 3% and 12% of their lira deposits, under the new standard, compared to between 3% and 17% previously.

The new regulation said banks whose lira deposits are less than 57% of total deposits will have to hold an additional seven percentage points of securities, compared to the previous seven additional points applied to banks that held less than 60% lira deposits.

"Ratios were slowly lowered, allowing banks to adjust their positions slowly and not triggering a rapid rise in interest rates, a slight relaxation of the rules would give banks room and time to manoeuvre about their bond portfolios," said Enver Erkan, Chief economist at Dinamik Yatirim.

"It is a comforting and positive development for the sector."

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Turkish lira banknotes are seen in this illustration taken in Istanbul, Turkey November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/Illustration/File Photo

The banking stocks index on the Istanbul exchange rose about 4% after the latest moves, with the main index up more than 2%.

Bankers said that after the easing of the measures, which had pushed banks towards lira deposits, deposit rates at some banks had started to fall from the 40-45% band in a move that was expected to continue.

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