Turkey Holds Rates as Central Banker Bets Inflation Peaked

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Turkey’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged for a second meeting on Thursday, pledging to maintain its “current” policy stance until there’s a significant drop in inflation.

The Monetary Policy Committee left its key rate at 19% as forecast by all analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Inflation accelerated for a seventh month in April to 17.1%, spurred on by a weak lira and rising global energy prices. But new bank Governor Sahap Kavcioglu predicted the pace of price gains had peaked and would now start dropping to 12.2% by the end of 2021.

“Taking into account the high levels of inflation and inflation expectations, the current monetary policy stance will be maintained until the significant fall in the April Inflation Report’s forecast path is achieved,” the bank said in the statement accompanying the decision.

While Thursday’s statement includes “hawkish” elements, it “repeated the line that nominal interest rates would be kept above inflation, which already offers scope for interest rates to be lowered,” Jason Tuvey, a senior emerging-markets economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note.

The lira retained its gains against the dollar after the statement and was trading 0.3% higher at 8.3038 at 2:38 p.m. local time.

Inflation’s March

Inflation’s upward march has left Turkey’s real rates -- the difference between its inflation and policy rates -- at less than 2%. That means Kavcioglu has little room to pursue the lower borrowing costs sought by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who holds the unorthodox view that higher interest rates spur rather than curb prices.

Turkey Holds Rates as Central Banker Bets Inflation Peaked

Cutting now would have risked further turbulence for the lira which anyway has weakened more than 13% against the dollar since the governor took over at the bank on March 20. Kavcioglu has pledged to offer a positive real rate when adjusted for realized and expected inflation and maintain tight policy until the bank’s 5% inflation target is achieved.

The decision is “slightly positive” for the lira, according to Istanbul-based economist Haluk Burumcekci. The central bank is asking for “more patience” before interest rate cuts, he said.

Barclays economist Ercan Erguzel contested the central bank’s inflation forecasting, saying the upswing in April “is probably not a peak.” He doesn’t expect an interest-rate cut before the last quarter as inflation remains around 17% until October. Still, the central bank’s more optimistic inflation forecast path suggests it “could consider lowering rates in August or September,” he said before the decision.

Kavcioglu is Turkey’s fourth central bank chief since 2018, with his predecessor sacked by Erdogan after overseeing a 200-basis-point hike in the benchmark. He left interest rates unchanged in his first monetary policy meeting but removed a pledge to deliver additional tightening.

The rate-setting committee is scheduled to meet next in six weeks. May inflation data will be published June 3.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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