Turkish lira hit by sacking of central bank chief; yen and dollar gain

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on March 22, 2021

Turkish lira stood at 8.0990 per dollar in Asia, down 11 per cent from its close last week

The Turkish lira slumped toward a record low versus the dollar after President Tayyip Erdogan stunned investors over the weekend by replacing the hawkish central bank governor with a critic of high interest rates.

The yen rose against the euro and the antipodean currencies on speculation that Japanese investors who have been buying the lira recently for its high rates will cut losses and close out their positions. Worries that events in Turkey will cause disruptions in other financial markets also supported the dollar because of its status as a safe-harbour currency.

"Other emerging market countries are not in the same position as Turkey, but there still could be some contagion," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

"There are concerns that people will start taking profits in other markets. This looks like a time to re-think your investment strategy, because the rotation into higher-yielding emerging market currencies will be put on hold."

The Turkish lira stood at 8.0990 per dollar in Asia, down 11 per cent from its close on Friday. At one point the lira fell by as much as 14.9 per cent to 8.4850, which is close to a record low of 8.5800. Liquidity for the lira tends to be low during Asian trading, but analysts said they are braced for bigger moves as more investors enter markets later in the day. The yen edged up against the euro, the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar, boosted by expectations that Japanese retail investors who lost money on the lira will unwind other popular cross yen trades.

The dollar was little changed at 108.87 yen but edged up against the British pound to $1.3828. The euro fell slightly to $1.1887. Erdogan fired the central bank governor only two days after a sharp rate increase that was meant to head off inflation of nearly 16 per cent and support the lira. The new central bank governor will most likely lead to a reversal of the hawkish and orthodox steps taken to battle inflation, which could lead to prolonged market volatility, analysts said. "

After regaining investor confidence with a series of aggressive rate hikes, Turkey has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory," analysts at Brown, Brothers and Harriman wrote in a memo. Worries that turmoil will spread to other emerging markets helped the dollar rise against the Thai baht, the Malaysian ringgit, and the Philippine peso. The onshore yuan held steady at 6.5108 against the greenback after China kept its benchmark lending rate for corporate and household loans unchanged for an 11th straight month.

A decline in risk appetite weighed on the Australian dollar, which fell to $0.7718. The New Zealand dollar also fell slightly to $0.7148. Further declines in the Aussie and the kiwi are likely to be limited because both currencies will still benefit from rising commodity prices and an acceleration in global trade, Mizuho's Yamamoto said.

Published on March 22, 2021

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