Turkey is the Epicenter of Emerging Market Concerns
Right now, the epicenter of the concerns about the emerging markets is coming from Turkey. What is the problem with the Turkish lira? Turkish President Erdogan is veering off into some very dangerous territory with his stance with the Central Bank of Turkey and now the political battle of egos that he is having with President Trump over the release of an American pastor who is imprisoned in Turkey. As a result of this, the President is now turning up the heat on Turkey with sanctions, which is compounding Turkey’s problems. Today was probably the biggest one day drop in the Turkish lira. Today, the Turkish lira might have been down about 20% intra day.
Trump Doubling Down on Tariffs with Turkey
Throwing fuel on the fire, early in the morning, when the lira was already down 12%, Trump announced that he would be doubling the existing tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. Turkey has a trade surplus with the U.S. like just about everybody else. Is this going to hurt Turkey? A little bit. Obviously it hurts Americans more because now Turkish steel is that much more expensive.
Speculative Frenzy Shorting the Turkish Lira
All of this is adding fuel to the speculative frenzy to short the Turkish lira. I think you have a lot of hot speculative money that has been leaning down on that currency. It is basically fueling an even bigger problem. They have high inflation, they have very high bond yields. The yields in Turkey up until recently, even though inflation was high, you had 400-500 basis points of positive bond yields.
Turkish Economy Essentially Strong
The Turkish economy has actually been quite strong over the years. As a result of that a lot of international money has been invested in Turkey. Foreign direct investment has been going into the Turkish economy, participating in the Turkish equity market, lenders have been loaning money. Some of that debt of course, is dollar denominated and euro denominated which is the problem now, because if you are a company generating revenue in Turkish lira, if you have dollar or euro debt. Now a lot of people hedge; if your obligations are in a different currency, you would hedge that currency to the lira. But the weakness in the lira drives inflation even higher, because as the lira loses value, you need more lira to buy stuff and as inflation goes higher, there is more pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates to try to fight that inflation. But higher rates also feed into inflation by increasing costs.
Turkish Debt to GDP Much Lower than in the U.S.
President Erdogan is putting pressure on the central bank not to raise interest rates high enough to crush all the speculators who are shorting the Turkish lira. What also should be done is they should dramatically reduce government spending in Turkey. Not that it was out of control to begin with, but they want to make sure they don’t have deficits. If you look at the debt to GDP in Turkey it is considerably lower than in the U.S.
The U.S. Dollar is Not the Subject of a Run – Yet
The U.S. is in far worse shape than in Turkey, in fact it’s not even close. But the difference is the U.S. dollar is not the subject of a run right now. But if you think about the predicament that Turkey is in, this is the same predicament that the U.S. is going to be in – we’re just not there yet.