Turkish Lira Slumps as Erdogan Names Son-in-Law as Economy Chief

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s lira plunged after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, as economic chief of his new administration, fueling investor unease that the government can calm financial markets.

Albayrak will be in charge of a new ministry of treasury and finance, replacing roles previously held by Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, a former Merrill Lynch banker, and Finance Minister Naci Agbal. Investors considered both to be market-friendly counterweights to a pro-growth bias under Erdogan that has weighed on sentiment.

The lira fell 3.8 percent to 4.7488 per dollar, extending one of the biggest slides across emerging markets this year. Albayrak served as energy minister since 2015.

Investors are concerned that authorities aren’t committed to unwinding months of stimulus that inflated the current account and budget deficits and left assets exposed as major central banks scale back years of loose monetary policy. Political pressure on the central bank not to raise rates in the face of accelerating inflation has also stoked worry about the policymaker’s independence.

Unless Simsek or Agbal are given another policymaking roles, such as in the economic coordination committee, “the likelihood of a July hike by central bank is now lower as key proponents of a hike are out of the picture,” said Inan Demir, an economist at Nomura Plc. in London. “This is the nearest-term policy implication. For longer-term implications we need to hear Mr Albayrak’s announcements/statements.”

Erdogan, who was sworn in as Turkey’s first executive president on Monday, told investors in May that he plans to take more control of economic policy in his new role. He has also pledged to lower interest rates, spooking investors who say the central bank needs to keep real policy rates high to support the nation’s assets and help the economy slow. Turkey grew faster than China last year and the central bank raised interest rates by 500 basis points since April.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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