Turkey’s CB trims inflation view, new head sees room for rate cuts - GulfToday

Turkey’s CB trims inflation view, new head sees room for rate cuts

Turkey’s CB trims inflation view, new head sees room for rate cuts

Murat Uysal (centre) presents the Inflation Report during a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

Turkey’s central bank cut its inflation forecasts on Wednesday and new governor Murat Uysal said it has “considerable” room for manoeuvre on interest rates in coming months, a week after it began an expected policy easing cycle with a big cut.

Uysal - appointed this month after President Tayyip Erdogan dismissed his predecessor - also said the bank had independence in its use of tools to reach its inflation target.

Periodic doubts about the bank’s freedom from political interference resurfaced after Murat Cetinkaya’s abrupt sacking. Erdogan said the former bank governor had failed to follow instructions.

The upbeat comments by Uysal, who was Cetinkaya’s deputy, set the scene for more rate cuts over the next months, especially if a spreading monetary easing trend among major central banks continues to stabilise the Turkish lira after its meltdown last year.

The lira was up 0.6% at 5.53 against the dollar at 1246 GMT, on track for a sixth straight day of gains.

“In the upcoming period we have a considerable room for manoeuvre on rates. Its application, timing and size will depend on the improvements on price and financial stability,” Uysal said. “We will make (the decision) based on data.” The central bank hiked its policy rate to 24% at the peak of last year’s currency crisis. High rates, along with companies burdened with large amounts of foreign currency debt, drove the economy into recession and cut nearly 30% from the value of the lira.

It also sent inflation soaring above 25%. It has since fallen to below 16%, paving the way for the bank to cut rates last week by 425 basis points to 19.75%.

On Wednesday, the bank cut its inflation forecast for 2019 to 13.9% from 14.6%, but left next year’s outlook unchanged at 8.2%. Uysal said policy would depend on the inflation outlook.

In a separate publication of the minutes of the bank’s policy meeting last week, it said there was a risk that inflation would not edge lower as expected.

“Although other central banks have generally been cutting, Turkish interest rates remain high and there’s room for more cuts,” said Nikolay Markov, senior economist at Pictet Asset Management, who expects the policy rate to fall to about 14% by mid-2020.

“People thought (Uysal) would be a lot more political and what he has said today makes sense and that provides some comfort to foreign investors.” Asked in a press conference about Cetinkaya’s sacking, Uysal said it had met legal requirements. He also said the central bank had a more optimistic outlook for the economy in 2020 as lira volatility ebbed.

“The delayed, cumulative effects of the exchange rate slowly being left behind is turning our expectations for 2020 to a positive trajectory,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Ministry said on Wednesday that comments by Finance Minister Berat Albayrak about falling interest rates were referring to the overall trend in Turkey, and were not directly referring to Central Bank policy.

Clarifying Albayrak’s remarks in a news conference on Tuesday, the ministry said he had stated that Turkey would see a declining trend in interest rates and that Central Bank decisions on rates “will be revealed as a result of the meetings it will hold”.

It said in a statement that Albayrak had not said that the bank was entering a period of interest rate cuts.

Last week the Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 425 basis points to 19.75%, where they had stood since last September at the height of Turkey’s currency crisis.

The rate cut was Turkey’s biggest since at least 2003, and it was the first policy decision under new bank governor Murat Uysal, who took the reins after Erdogan sacked former governor Murat Cetinkaya three weeks ago.

Albayrak said on Tuesday that with the recent loosening of interest rates “and based on the fact that the interest rate trend will come down more clearly and strongly in the coming period, we have entered a period of interest rate cuts.” He also said that the Central Bank “makes its monetary policy and interest rate decisions based on its data set.”

A recent poll of more than 40 economists showed the Turkish economy shrinking 1.5% this year, according to the median forecast. The government’s own sharply-lowered forecast for this year envisages an expansion of 2.3%.

There was a wide range of estimates in the July 4-16 Reuters poll, from growth of 1% to a contraction of 5%. The poll sees growth of 2.4% in 2020 and 3.4% in 2021.

“Early indicators for Q2 point to a renewed slowdown because of financial market volatility and elevated political uncertainty, which raise the risk of a double-dip recession,” economists at Nomura said.

In the second and third quarters of 2019 the economy is forecast to contract by 2.5% and 1.1%, respectively, before returning to growth of just 1.0% in the final three months of the year, the poll medians showed.

Reuters