Turkish interest rate standoff

March 3, 2015

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan gestures during a conference at the Foreign Affairs building  in Mexico City

Turkey’s central bank releases minutes of its last meeting at which it cut interest rates by a quarter point.

That was nowhere near enough for President Tayyip Erdogan who has heaped pressure on for much lower rates and asserted that would help cut inflation. He stepped up his rhetoric dramatically over the weekend, saying anyone opposing interest rates cuts was guilty of treason.

Rumours were rife last week that central bank governor Erdem Basci had quit, which he had not. But his future, and that of Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who is in charge of the economy and has been a staunch defender of central bank independence, is in doubt. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said late on Monday their resignations were “out of the question”.

International investors are watching with some alarm. Turkish inflation data for February are also due this morning.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address U.S. Congress two weeks before he faces elections, having pushed relations with Washington to a low ebb by accusing world powers of abandoning a pledge to prevent Tehran getting a nuclear bomb.

He has been cold-shouldered by the U.S. government during his visit after accepting an invitation to address U.S. lawmakers orchestrated by opposition Republicans.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Netanyahu’s assessment last week and Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, went further, saying Netanyahu’s speech would inject a “destructive” partisanship into U.S.-Israeli ties.

U.S. officials fear he will divulge details of behind-the-scenes talks with Tehran, on which Jerusalem is briefed. Kerry will hold talks with his Iranian counterpart in Switzerland today.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Barack Obama said Iran should commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on its nuclear activity for a landmark atomic deal to be reached and said the odds were still against sealing a final agreement.

He said a rift over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress would not be “permanently destructive” to U.S./Israeli ties but admitted to a “substantial disagreement” over how to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons and said history had proved Netanyahu wrong on this issue in the past.

After four-way telephone talks between Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko overnight, Ukraine is pressing ahead with planning to bring in peacekeepers to oversee the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

Teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, Ukraine’s parliament approved a raft of International Monetary Fund-backed amendments to its 2015 draft budget that Kiev hopes will help it clinch a $17.5 billion bailout package.

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, assassinated on a Moscow bridge late on Friday, will be buried at a cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow.

There are mixed messages about talks on a third Greek bailout. Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said a sum of up to 50 billion euros was under discussion but senior euro zone officials said there were no such talks.

Despite pleas from Athens to be able to sell more T-bills and/or take the profits the European Central Bank has accrued by buying Greek bonds falling on deaf ears, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the country would not run out of money in March as some fear, would be able to repay an IMF bill that is falling due and had enough liquidity to get through the four months by which Greece’s bailout has been extended.

Swiss GDP, just out, posted quarterly growth of 0.6 percent in the last three months of 2014, double the rate forecast, while German retail sales leapt by 2.9 percent month-on-month in January, way above what was expected. The theme of European data tending to exceed expectations since the turn of the year is becoming entrenched.

German growth was robust in Q4, with domestic demand leading the way and IG Metall, Germany’s biggest union, has negotiated an inflation-busting pay rise of 3.4 percent for its members which should further propel consumer spending.

Sweden’s central bank governor and deputy governor give their first speeches since they cut their interest rates into negative territory and launched QE.

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