May 4, 2018 / 6:55 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 3-Turkish lira falls to new record low on nagging inflation fears

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By Daren Butler and Nevzat Devranoglu

ISTANBUL, May 4 (Reuters) - Turkey’s lira tumbled as much as 1.5 percent to a record low against the dollar on Friday on nagging worries about the central bank’s ability to rein in double-digit inflation and as the U.S. currency made broad gains.

Inflation climbed to almost 11 percent in April, data showed on Thursday, stoked by the lira’s fall against the dollar, now more than 11 percent this year.

Standard & Poor’s exacerbated the currency’s losses when it cut Turkey’s sovereign debt rating further into junk territory on Tuesday.

Accelerating prices are Turkey’s most pressing economic problem, and a growing worry for President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party as they head into elections on June 24.

Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates”, has repeatedly called for lower borrowing costs to fuel loan growth and boost the economy. The central bank’s reluctance to tighten has stoked concerns that it is under political pressure.

The lira fell as far as 4.2901 against the dollar, its lowest on record, but reined in its losses to trade at 4.2392 by 1612 GMT. It is one of the worst performing emerging market currencies this year.

Pressure on the lira reflected foreign selling of bonds and bank shares, as well as questions over the timing of the central bank’s steps to tame inflation, BNP Paribas/TEB Investment strategist Isik Okte said.

“I do not think the central bank can wait until its June meeting in terms of a rate hike and simplifying (policy) with funding through a single rate after the much higher than expected core inflation data,” he said.

The central bank could take steps to support foreign currency liquidity, Okte said, adding that some of these measures might even be announced over the weekend as the lira volatility increased.

Last week, the bank raised its top interest rate by a more-than-expected 75 basis points but analysts said it would need to do more to fight inflation and support the currency. Its next policy-setting meeting is on June 7.

While lira volatility is elevated, it still remains far off record highs in January 2017, one banker said, adding that he expects liquidity measures from the central bank before any emergency tightening.

“If we are going to see an additional step from the central bank, I would expect it to be a step which would provide some billions of dollar worth of liquidity to banks,” a senior banker said.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond rose to 13.84 percent, a rise of 90 basis points in the last two days. The benchmark 2-year bond rose to 15.3 percent from 15.00 percent on Thursday.

The main BIST 100 share index fell 0.3 percent to 102,599.22 points.

Writing by Daren Butler Editing by David Dolan and Gareth Jones

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