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Turkish lira teeters near record low as Erdogan secures victory

daily life, following second round of the presidential election, in istanbul
The Turkish lira was at 20.05 to the dollar during Asian hours, just shy of the 20.06 record low hit on Friday REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Turkey’s lira wobbled near record lows against the dollar as President Tayyip Erdogan secured victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday, extending his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade.

The currency was at 20.05 to the dollar during Asian hours, just shy of the 20.06 record low hit on Friday. TRYTOM=D3

The lira, prone to sharp swings before regular trading hours, has weakened more than 6% since the start of the year and lost more than 90% of its value over the past decade with the economy in the grip of boom and bust cycles, rampant bouts of inflation and a currency crisis.

Since the 2021 crisis, the authorities have taken an increasingly hands-on role in foreign exchange markets with daily moves having become unnaturally small and mostly recording a weakening while FX and gold reserves have dwindled.

“The current setup is just not sustainable,” said Tim Ash at BlueBay Asset Management. “With limited FX reserves and massively negative real interest rates, the pressure on the lira is heavy.”

Erdogan prevailed despite years of economic turmoil which critics blame on unorthodox economic policies which the opposition had pledged to reverse.

“An Erdogan win offers no comfort for any foreign investor,” said Hasnain Malik, head of equity research at Tellimer.

“Only the most optimistic would hope that Erdogan now feels sufficiently secure politically to revert to orthodox economic policy.”

Erdogan’s surprisingly strong showing in the first round of the election two weeks ago had triggered a selloff in Turkey’s international bonds and a spike in costs to insure exposure to its debt amid fading hopes of a change in economic policy.

The nation’s dollar bonds slipped to their lowest in at least six months last week, while the cost of insuring exposure to Turkey’s debt via credit default swaps (CDS) rose to a seven-month high.

On Monday, the bond maturing in 2036 was stable, Tradeweb data showed. US900123AY60=TE CDS too was steady after closing at 666 basis points on Friday. TRGV5YUSAC=MG It was around 480 bps before the election.

In his victory speech, Erdogan acknowledged that inflation was the most urgent issue, but said it would also fall, following the central bank’s policy rate that was cut to 8.5% from 19% two years ago.

Analysts were cautious in how much economic change Erdogan’s new government would herald.

“Erdogan is unlikely to embrace an outright economic orthodox approach,” Wolfango Piccoli, co-president at advisory firm Teneo said in emailed comments.

“However, some adjustments to the current heterodox approach could be adopted with the aim of gaining time ahead of the March 2024 local elections.”

Trading is expected to be thin on Monday, with many markets in Europe, as well as the United States, closed for holidays.

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