Turkish central bank reaps what it sows

November 3, 2011

Turkey’s inflation spike is here. And it is looking worse than expected.

Data today shows October inflation jumping 3.27 percent,  well above forecast and the highest in nine years. Compare that to 1.8 percent at this time last year. Annual inflation is now running at 7.7 percent and makes the central bank’s end-year forecast of 8.3 percent look optimistic –most analysts reckon it will be closer to 10 percent. Inflation has in fact been rising steadily in recent months — a consequence of the runaway credit boom of the past year and a policy experiment which saw the central bank cutting interest rates in the face of an overheating economy and raising banks’ reserve ratios instead.  Add in the pass-through from the lira’s big depreciation since August and a jump in  inflation is hardly surprising. The central bank has of late expressed some concern about inflation and used this to justify its actions to prop up the lira.

“Critics though might still argue that it is more a case of ‘as you sow, so you will reap’ and inflation being felt now is a reflection of the inappropriate policy mix earlier in the year,” RBS analyst Tim Ash writes.

Turkey was lucky today though. Shenanigans in Greece held investors attention and a rate cut by the European Central Bank boosted risk appetite, allowing markets to shrug off the Turkish numbers. Bond yields have risen only 5-6 basis points and stocks have rallied.  The central bank meanwhile is expected to stick to its guns and not raise interest rates, relying instead on its liquidity tightening exercise to do the trick.

But that has the potential to pose problems in coming months. The Turkish Treasury aims to sell 12.2 billion lira worth of  bonds this month — three times October’s level. BNP Paribas analysts note the jump in banks’ funding costs engineered by the central bank and the absence of liquidity on bond markets.  All this “combined with an inflation rate close to double digits is bad news for the upcoming Treasury auctions in mid-November,” they say in a note.

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