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Turkish lira slides nearly 5 percent as U.S. stand-off back in focus

ForexAug 27, 2018 08:01AM ET
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© Reuters. People change money at a currency exchange office in Istanbul

By Daren Butler and Behiye Selin Taner

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish lira tumbled nearly 5 percent against the dollar on Monday after a week-long holiday, hit by persistent concern about a diplomatic rift with Washington over a U.S. pastor on trial in Turkey.

The slide left the lira down about 40 percent this year, driven by worries over President Tayyip Erdogan's grip on monetary policy and the stand-off with the United States over the fate of evangelical Christian Andrew Brunson. He is being tried in Turkey on terrorism charges that he denies.

With the dollar stronger globally, the lira weakened as far as 6.2960 from 6.00 on Friday, when a holiday to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha came to an end. It stood at 6.2100 at 1156 GMT.

"The exchange rate sensitivity created by the tension between us and the United States continues," said Seda Yalcinkaya Ozer, an analyst at brokerage Integral, adding that emerging market currencies were generally weaker against the dollar.

The United States and Turkey have exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs on each other's exports over the Brunson dispute. The NATO allies are also at odds over diverging interests in Syria and U.S. objections to Ankara’s ambition to buy Russian defense systems.

Investors are set to turn their attention to a meeting between Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and his French counterpart in Paris, after which they are scheduled to make a statement at 1330 GMT.

In a conference call before the holiday, Albayrak told investors that Turkey would emerge stronger from the crisis, insisting its banks were healthy but that the authorities were ready to provide support to the sector if needed.

Turkey's central bank and banking watchdog have taken steps to underpin the lira in recent weeks, including cutting limits for Turkish banks' swap transactions. On Monday, the Istanbul stock exchange said it had started work on setting up a swap market as part of efforts to make the city an international finance center.

Investors remain concerned about the lira given Erdogan's opposition to high interest rates and with inflation near 16 percent in July, its highest in more than 14 years.

August inflation data will be released next Monday and the central bank will hold a policy-setting meeting on Sept. 13, having left rates on hold at its last meeting, contrary to expectations.

Erdogan has cast the lira slide as the result of an "economic war" against Turkey, a comment echoed by his spokesman last week when U.S. President Donald Trump ruled out concessions to Ankara in return for Brunson's release.

Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, had said Ankara had made a "big mistake" by not freeing Brunson and expressed scepticism about Qatar's offer of $15 billion in investment support for Turkey.

The main BIST 100 share index (XU100) was up 0.7 percent at 1155 GMT. The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond (TR10YT=RR) dipped to 21.91 percent from 21.98 percent a week earlier.

Turkish lira slides nearly 5 percent as U.S. stand-off back in focus
 

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