Asia shares, euro trampled as Turkish rout spread

Tokyo stocks slid on Aug 13 as investors watched tension between the US and Turkey that has driven down the lira, fanning fears of possible wider financial instability.
Tokyo stocks slid on Aug 13 as investors watched tension between the US and Turkey that has driven down the lira, fanning fears of possible wider financial instability. PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Turkey's lira recouped some of its losses as the country's central bank took steps to stem the currency's freefall on Monday (Aug 13) while Asian shares were a sea of red as investors fled to safer assets such as the US dollar, Swiss franc and yen.

The run from risk dragged MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down 1.6 per cent to a near one-year low. Japan's Nikkei lost 1.7 per cent with every bourse in the region in the red.

EMini futures for the S&P 500 were off 0.4 per cent, while 10-year Treasury yields dipped further to 2.85 per cent .

China's blue chip index shed 1.5 per cent, while Hong Kong stocks lost 1.6 per cent as the local dollar fell to the limits of its trading band.

Much of the action was in currencies with the euro gapping lower as the Turkish lira took another slide to all-time lows around 7.2400.

The lira did find a sliver of support when Turkey's central bank said it had lowered reserve requirement ratios for banks. It also said it would take all necessary measures to maintain financial stability.

Also helping was Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak's comments the country had drafted an action plan to ease investor concerns while the banking watchdog said it limited swap transactions.

Yet the dollar was still up more than nine per cent on the day at 6.9743 lira. This time last month it was at 4.8450.

The currency has tumbled on worries over Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's increasing control over the economy and deteriorating relations with the United States.

"The plunge in the lira, which began in May, now looks certain to push the Turkish economy into recession and it may well trigger a banking crisis," said Andrew Kenningham, chief global economist at Capital Economics.

"This would be another blow for EMs as an asset class, but the wider economic spillovers should be fairly modest, even for the euro zone," he added.

Kenningham noted Turkey's annual gross domestic product of around US$900 billion was just 1 per cent of the global economy and slightly smaller than the Netherlands.

The Turkish equity market was less than 2 per cent of the size of the UK market, and only 20 per cent was held by non-residents, he added.

"Nonetheless, Turkey's troubles are a further headwind for the euro and are not good news for EM assets either." BANKS EXPOSED

Indeed, the single currency sank to a one-year trough against the Swiss franc around 1.1300 francs, while hitting a 10-week low on the yen around 125.45.

Against the US dollar, the euro touched its lowest since July 2017 at US$1.13700. It was last at US$1.1382 and still a long way from last week's top at US$1.1628.

The dollar eased against the safe haven yen to 110.23, but was a shade firmer against a basket of currencies at 96.415.

The Argentine peso and South African rand were also caught in the crossfire, with the dollar adding 4 per cent on the rand. Dealers said Japanese retail investors had been squeezed out of long positions in the rand sending the yen steaming higher.

"Contagion risks centre on Spanish, Italian and French banks exposed to Turkish foreign currency debt, as well as Argentina and South Africa," warned analysts at ANZ.

"Turkey's massive pile of corporate debt denominated in foreign currencies, but a rapidly sliding currency - and inflation that's threatening to go exponential - is a toxic combination."

In commodity markets, gold found little in the way of safety flows and was last down at US$1,207.36 an ounce.

Oil prices were mixed with Brent off 23 cents at US$72.58 a barrel, while US crude dipped 11 cents to US$67.52 .