Turkey’s lira grabbed the attention of currency traders Friday, skidding more than 16% against the U.S. dollar to a new historic low as fears grow that the country’s financial problems could infect Europe.
Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar strengthened to its firmest level in more than a year against major rivals.
The Turkish lira /zigman2/quotes/210561895/realtime/sampled USDTRY +0.4349% slumped 16.8% versus the U.S. dollar, with the buck fetching 6.4873, compared with 5.5426 late Thursday in New York. The lira has consistently hovered around historic lows throughout the summer but has fallen more than 28% this week alone, according to FactSet. The lira’s second-most important cross against the euro /zigman2/quotes/210561230/realtime/sampled EURTRY +0.2530% saw similar price action, and one euro bought 7.3912 lira, up 15.5%, according to FactSet.
The steep decline in the Turkish currency came after the European Central Bank expressed concerns about potential contagion from Turkey's problems, especially in the banking sector, according to a report from the Financial Times (paywall).
The country—where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected in a snap vote in June and whose growing power has raised questions about the independence of the country’s central bank—is struggling with double-digit inflation and its reliance on foreign funding. With much of its debt denominated in U.S. dollars, the stronger buck has added weight to its debt burden.
Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak later on in a speech said that monetary policy should be independent and that Turkey’s central bank’s independence was of utmost importance. In the near term, Albaryak said Turkey needed to focus on rebalancing, including tight fiscal policy and a narrowing current-account deficit.
Analysts and investors have also attributed the relentless pressure on the Turkish currency to a growing diplomatic spat between Washington and Ankara over the detention of a U.S. pastor in Turkey.
“For some days, global markets have noted the Turkish lira’s plunge with more curiosity than concern, seemingly viewing it as Turkey’s problem and no one else’s,” said Sean Callow, currency strategist at Westpac. “That seems to have changed.”
Turkey’s limited stash of currency reserves could prompt it to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, said Paul McNamara, investment director for emerging market debt at GAM International Management.
Other emerging market currencies also suffered on Friday, dragging down by the overall market sentiment. Argentina’s peso /zigman2/quotes/210561956/realtime/sampled USDARS +0.2447% , for example, dived 4.2% against the buck and hit a fresh historic low. One dollar last bought 29.2380 pesos.
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index /zigman2/quotes/210598269/delayed DXY -0.02% , which gauges the dollar against a half-dozen monetary units, surged amid the turmoil, and recently was up 0.9% at 96.348, its highest level since June 2017.
The euro /zigman2/quotes/210561242/realtime/sampled EURUSD -0.1566% , the most significant component of the dollar gauge, fell sharply against the greenback, highlighting the spillover effect of Turkey’s dilemma on European markets. One dollar bought $1.1404 compared with $1.1526 late Thursday in New York, hitting a 13-month low.
The dollar held its gain as U.S. economic data backed expectations for additional moderate interest-rate tightening this year at the Federal Reserve. The consumer-price index rose 0.2% in July, as rising shelter costs offset a decline in energy prices, a reading in line with expectations.
Declines continued for other big losers this week, such as the New Zealand dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561822/realtime/sampled USDNZD +0.1897% which fell to its weakest level since March 2016 on Thursday on the back of its dovish-sounding central bank, and the Russian ruble /zigman2/quotes/210561862/realtime/sampled USDRUB +0.0352% , which dropped on sanction worries.