Emerging market currencies saw another sell-off on Thursday and Turkey’s lira took a fresh beating due to a rise in US Treasury yields to near seven-year highs, oil prices close to $80 a barrel and concerns about geopolitics.
The dollar snapped its three day winning streak but it did little to cheer the lira, which weakened 0.8 per cent amid concerns about monetary policy that persisted even after the central bank said it would take action against a currency sell-off.
Worries about President Tayyip Erdogan — a self-styled enemy of high interest rates — and his influence over monetary policy have driven losses to the lira, which has tumbled some 15 per cent against the dollar this year against a backdrop of stubborn double digit inflation.
“They are not defending the currency and it is causing lots of concerns among investors because what is required is much higher interest rates, but because of the election it seems that the central bank won’t comply,” said Anders Faergemann at PineBridge Investments.
“And we know why, it’s really because of Erdogan ... there’s a lot of uncertainty ahead of the election.” Argentina’s peso suffered nearly the same decline as the lira overnight after the central bank let the currency float and did not intervene for the first time since May 9. The peso has lost nearly a quarter of its value this year.
Markets seem to have taken little solace from a statement by President Mauricio Macri that he considered the recent turbulence in the foreign exchange market to be over.
Macri called on his administration to quicken the pace of its deficit-cutting program as Buenos Aires seeks a programme with the International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile oil prices hit their highest level since November 2014 on tightening supplies. Strong demand added to pressure on emerging economies that rely on oil imports.
But losses spread beyond the two hot spots, with South Africa’s rand, Russia’s rouble and China’s yuan all booking losses.
“Emerging market currencies have moved a decent amount in the past month and as group they are stretched on simple technical indicators,” Societe Generale analysts told clients in a note, adding that seeing emerging currencies in such an oversold situation since 2015 had normally sparked a rally.
However, US Treasury yields might have to take a breather for this to happen, the analysts said, warning that “trading against the strong dollar trend is always challenging.” With currencies under pressure, signs were mounting that the rate cut cycle across emerging markets was grinding to a halt.
Brazil’s central bank, which had seen the real hit two year lows in the recent sell-off, surprised markets by keeping rates unchanged contradicting widespread forecasts of a cut.
Policymakers in Indonesia are expected later in the day to hike rates by 25 basis points as the currency flirts with its weakest level since December 2015. Central banks in Mexico and Egypt are expected to hold rates steady.
Meanwhile emerging market stocks were also under pressure, falling 0.3 per cent and set on track for lose more than 1 per cent over the week.