Turkish central bank governor hints at rate cut, investors say

3 minute read

A logo of Turkey's Central Bank (TCMB) is pictured at the entrance of the bank's headquarters in Ankara, Turkey April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas///File Photo

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  • Governor did not repeat hawkish pledges on calls
  • Rate cuts seen in Q4 given pressure from Erdogan
  • Inflation rate near 19% monetary policy rate

ANKARA, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Turkey's central bank hinted on Wednesday it is nearing an interest rate cut during conference calls in which its governor did not repeat past pledges to keep policy tight relative to inflation, several investors who participated in them said.

Sahap Kavcioglu did not mention two promises made in past calls and policy statements: that the key rate would remain above inflation and that tight policy would be maintained decisively, the investors said.

Eight foreign and local investors told Reuters they interpreted the comments as a shift that could pave the way to a prompt cut to Turkey's 19% policy rate, which is among the world's highest, yet only slightly above the inflation rate.

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A central bank spokesperson declined to comment.

In recent weeks, analysts had expected easing to begin toward the end of the year. The lira shed earlier gains after Kavcioglu's calls, and was at 8.304 to the dollar at 1643 GMT.

"They definitely changed the language, they dropped that promise. They are expecting a significant drop (in inflation)," a foreign investor who was on one of the two calls said, adding that "there was no longer an explicit promise" to keep rates above inflation.

When questioned about it, the central bank "refused to confirm or deny it," the source, who requested anonymity, said.

Consumer prices shot up 18.95% in July and data on Friday is expected to show annual inflation remained flat in August - and well above the central bank's target of 5%.

Analysts are less confident than the central bank that inflation will cool in coming months, and some say rate hikes are needed. Yet most expect a cut in the fourth quarter given pressure for monetary stimulus from President Tayyip Erdogan.

"No more rate hikes are coming," another foreign investor on the call said.

The next policy meeting is due to take place on Sept. 23.

INFLATION RELIEF?

Kavcioglu - who Erdogan appointed in a surprise move in March - told investors the policy stance would ensure a fall in inflation that should begin in the fourth quarter, investors on the calls said.

The bank also said that other major central banks are allowing headline inflation to run well past their policy rates, given monetary policy alone cannot solve pandemic-related price pressures.

Nilufer Sezgin, deputy general manager at Is Portfoy in Istanbul, said the central bank stressed that some core inflation measures are lower than others, especially given high prices of food and other commodities.

"We can expect core indicators such as non-food prices to weigh more heavily on the central bank's policy decisions. This may bring forward the rate cut," she said.

Kavcioglu also said there is no need for credit growth to slow further, after a recent decrease, and that the bank was working on additional possible measures to address consumer loans, five sources said.

Turkey's economy grew 21.7% year-on-year in the second quarter, official data showed on Wednesday, rebounding powerfully after a sharp slowdown a year earlier driven by COVID-19 restrictions. read more

However, the boom in economic activity is feeding into - and in turn being eroded by - inflation that has remained in double digits for most of the last four years. read more

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Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker in London; Editing by Daren Butler, Hugh Lawson and Alexander Smith

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