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End Game: Lira Collapses Raising Specter Of Capital Controls, IMF Bailout

After weeks spent teetering on the brink, the Turkish lira collapsed on Friday.

After weeks spent teetering on the brink, the Turkish lira collapsed on Friday, falling more than 13.5% at one point to beyond 6.30.

Thursday’s losses were already accelerating amid what some traders described as stop-loss selling in TRYJPY (that’s a repeat of what happened several months ago during another particularly acute episode) and then, the Financial Times made things immeasurably worse.

According to two sources who spoke to FT, the Single Supervisory Mechanism is worried about some European banks’ exposure to Turkey. The banks include BBVA, UniCredit and BNP Paribas.

Late last month, Steve Eisman (of “The Big Short” fame), told Bloomberg Television that he’s shorting BBVA and UniCredit based on their “fairly large exposures to Turkey.”

“The ECB is concerned about the risk that Turkish borrowers might not be hedged against the lira’s weakness and begin to default on foreign currency loans, which make up about 40% of the Turkish banking sector’s assets”, FT continued.

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Predictably, Erdogan exacerbated the problem. Speaking to supporters in his hometown of Rize on Friday, the Turkish autocrat (whose unorthodox economic policies are one of the main issues for the lira), again raised the specter of international conspiracies, citing what he called “various campaigns” against Turkey. He went on to say the following about the currency crisis:

If they have dollars, we have our people, our righteousness and our God.

“If anything, that will only encourage more lira selling as it suggests they are not ready to commit to concrete measures”, Bloomberg’s Mark Cudmore dryly noted at the time (just after midnight in New York).

Shortly thereafter, the bottom fell out completely, with the lira plunging 10% and then 13% before settling back into a tedious range below 6.00.

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It’s over for Turkey now. There’s nothing they can do. Erdogan will either need to resort to a dramatic rate hike or else ask the IMF for help. Although those options seemed laughable just a week ago given Erdogan’s famously obstinate approach, it’s hard to see what other options they have.

“Even a recession and a debt crisis that would force Turkey to implement capital controls and ask for an IMF bailout cannot be ruled out anymore”, Carsten Hesse, European economist at Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. said in a Friday note, adding that Turkey “now has much less room to kick the can down the road than before.”

On Thursday, TD Securities strategist Cristian Maggio suggested CBT needs to hike to 30% from the current 17.75% to stem the rout. “Without rapid intervention, Turkey will head into a BoP crisis with unforeseeable but significant consequences,” Maggio wrote.

Earlier this week, a Turkish delegation to Washington failed to close a deal to end the diplomatic row over detained Christian Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson. You can read the full account of that “‘Don’t Be Afraid At All’: In Turkey, Desperation As Currency Crisis Spirals“.

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