The worsening of political tensions between the US and Turkey has been the final blow to an already dire economic situation, with the collapse of the lira now rapidly fuelling concern of a full-blown currency and debt crisis given the amount of USD-denominated debt in the private sector. Meetings between the banking regulator and the central bank over the weekend haven’t yielded the results the market was expecting. Although the recent measures announced by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) will aim to ease onshore liquidity, they will fall short of restoring investors’ confidence. At this stage, the lack of credible policy response is pushing Turkish asset prices into a tailspin. Local rates are now pricing in close to 900 basis points of rate hikes to stem the currency depreciation. However, given the reluctance of the CBRT to hike rates at its previous meeting and President Erdogan’s recent comments blaming an international conspiracy rather than acknowledging the real economic crisis resulting from an overheating economy faced with tighter global financial conditions, there is little hope for a return to orthodox policies at this stage.
Other options could include capital controls, which seem more likely than an appeal to the IMF, but that would certainly not be the least painful and would most likely precipitate a recession while postponing the return of portfolio inflows. Hence a sizable rate hike followed by drastic measures of fiscal consolidation still appear as the most viable option to re-anchor the lira and pull the Turkish economy from the brink. This is very much like what Argentina had to deliver. We doubt the political will is there in Turkey and so more pain might be needed to force policy action. Some resolution of the political spat with the US could lead to some near-term relief in the currency, but this is unlikely to be sustainable if not accompanied by credible economic actions.