July 12, 2018 / 8:01 AM / 11 days ago

Turkish lira hits record low after Erdogan interest rate comments

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s lira weakened to a record low of 4.9767 against the dollar in overnight Asian trade before trimming losses on Thursday, hit by worries about economic management and monetary policy under Tayyip Erdogan’s stronger executive presidency.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Lira banknotes are seen in this October 10, 2017 picture illustration. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

The lira TRYTOM=D3 has shed about 22 percent of its value against the U.S. currency so far this year as investors fret over Erdogan's influence on monetary policy and his repeated calls for lower interest rates.

Hours after being sworn in with new powers as executive president on Monday, he appointed his son-in-law Berat Albayrak to the post of treasury and finance minister. This exacerbated concerns that Erdogan will look to exercise greater influence over monetary policy.

On Wednesday, local media quoted Erdogan as saying he believed interest rates would fall and that Albayrak will do what is necessary.

“We have many instruments. I believe we will see interest rates fall in the period ahead,” the Hurriyet newspaper cited the president as telling reporters after his first foreign trip following the inauguration.

“I am sure not just our state banks but our private banks will shoulder responsibility if necessary.”

The lira weakened as far as 4.9767 in Asian trade before rebounding to 4.8320 at 0744 GMT on Thursday.

“Erdogan said yesterday interest rates must fall,” said a treasury desk trader at one bank. “This has been interpreted as a desire for a Turkish central bank rate cut at a time when additional tightening is expected and inflation has exceeded 15 percent.”

The central bank’s monetary policy committee, which has raised rates by 500 basis points since April in an effort to put a floor under the currency, will next meet on July 24.

‘FATHER OF ALL EVIL’

Erdogan has described high interest rates as “the mother and father of all evil” and has repeatedly expressed a desire for lower borrowing costs to spur economic growth.

Investors believe the credit-fueled economy is overheating and want decisive interest rate hikes to tame double-digit inflation.

Ratings agency Moody’s on Thursday sounded concern about the outlook for the independence of the central bank, given changes this week that make the president solely responsible for appointing members of the bank’s monetary policy committee, and shortened the length of the central bank governor’s term.

Challenges to the effectiveness of the central bank are “most clearly credit negative at this point” Moody’s said in a note.

“The changes to the governance of the central bank suggest that its resolve to tighten monetary policy to take the heat out of Turkey’s economy, such as it is, may weaken rather than strengthen in the coming months.”

The main share index .XU100 was down 1 percent, adding to a 5 percent drop on Wednesday, and bringing its losses this year to more than 20 percent. Banking stocks .XBANK were little changed after shedding more than 9 percent on Wednesday - their worst day for five years.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond TR10YT=RR rose to 18.79 percent from 18.37 percent on Wednesday.

Reporting by Daren Butler, Editing by David Dolan and Janet Lawrence

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