Turkish central bank to hike rates 175 points to 12%: Reuters poll

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s central bank is expected to keep tightening policy in the face of a sliding lira and raise its key interest rate by 175 basis points to 12% this week, a Reuters poll showed on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A money changer counts Turkish lira bills at an currency exchange office in central Istanbul, Turkey, August 21, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The bank is seen raising its one-week repo rate TRINT=ECI a bit more by year end after it surprised last month with a 200-point hike meant to address double-digit inflation and a record-low lira.

The currency has since dipped another 4% against the dollar, adding more upward pressure on import prices. That has set the stage for more tightening despite a coronavirus pandemic that severely contracted Turkey’s economy in the second quarter.

The expectations of 17 economists polled by Reuters ranged between hikes of 100 basis points and 300 basis points at Thursday’s policy meeting. The median put the rate at 12%, just above annual inflation.

For year end, the median forecast of 15 economists was for a 12.25% interest rate, though views ranged to as high as 17%.

The central bank is also expected to continue so-called back door measures to tighten credit by raising the average cost of funding CBTWACF=, which was 12.26% on Friday, up from a low of 7.34% in mid-July just before the lira started tumbling.

Such funding costs would rise to 13% by the end of October, according to the median poll response of seven economists. They were seen rising to about 13.50% by year-end.

The tightening cycle that began in July should help “rebalance the economy,” said Blaise Antin, head of EM sovereign research at Los Angeles-based TCW.

“But Turkish economic policy credibility is very low (and) it’s not clear that there’s a commitment to doing this in a sustained way,” he said.

The formal rate hike in September reversed a nearly year-long easing cycle in which the policy rate fell rapidly from 24%, where it was set in the face of a 2018 currency crisis.

The latest lira selloff was prompted by negative real rates and high inflation, the central bank’s badly depleted FX reserves and concerns over sanctions amid tensions between Turkey and both the European Union and the United States.

The currency has lost 25% versus the dollar this year.

Uncertainty around potential EU sanctions and elevated domestic price pressure requires further tightening, Deutsche Bank said in a note, adding that the average funding rate should be at least 13.50% in the fourth quarter.

It added that the economic recovery would be pressured by increased geopolitical tensions and the coronavirus outbreak.

The central bank is scheduled to announce its rate decision on Oct. 22 at 1100 GMT.

Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jonathan Spicer