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Let’s talk Turkey!

So, how did a country that represents just about 1.4 percent of the world’s economy spark a global selloff?

Turkey was once a rising star. The country’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took office in 2003 and his “conservative, pro-business policies helped pull the country back from an economic crisis,” reported Financial Times.

As Turkey’s economy strengthened, investors saw opportunity. Investments from outside the country averaged about $13 billion a year, according to World Bank figures cited by Financial Times, although investment slowed after terror attacks in 2015.

Bloomberg reported Prime Minister Erdogan has become more authoritarian since being re-elected in 2018, giving himself power to name the head of Turkey’s central bank. Financial Times reported the Prime Minister’s “...unorthodox views on interest rates...has proved disruptive for monetary policy, leaving...Turkey’s central bank, struggling to contain inflation that is running at close to 16 percent.”

Lack of central bank autonomy concerned investors. The Turkish lira began to weaken against the U.S. dollar, making it costly for businesses to repay dollar-denominated debt.

Politics have factored into the situation, as well. During 2018, negotiations were underway to secure the release of an American pastor who was arrested on “farcical terrorism charges,” reported The Economist. However, talks collapsed early in August. Asset freezes and sanctions followed, along with promises of additional tariffs on Turkish goods imported by the United States.

The subsequent steep drop in the value of Turkish lira sparked concerns that rippled through global markets. Financial Times reported:

“Turkey’s deepening crisis punished emerging market currencies and sparked a global pullback from riskier assets on Friday...The S&P 500 fell 0.7 percent in New York on Friday. Treasury yields also moved lower, with the 10-year dipping below 2.9 percent for the first time this month, as investors sought safe assets...Investors’ shift from risky assets knocked equities across Europe, with Germany’s Dax, France’s CAC 40 and Spain’s Ibex all about 2 percent weaker.”

For quite some time, investors have appeared immune to geopolitical risks. Perhaps that is beginning to change.