Turkey set to hold rate steady this week, but hike is coming – Reuters poll

By Thomson Reuters Mar 18, 2024 | 4:53 AM

By Ece Toksabay

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s central bank is expected to leave its key interest rate unchanged at 45% this week, holding steady for a second straight month, though most economists forecast another rate hike later this year, a Reuters poll showed on Monday.

The central bank has recently moved to tighten policy, including action on reserve requirements, prompting some banks to either reduce loan limits or even stop offering loans. On Saturday the bank raised the maximum interest rate on credit card cash withdrawals.

All but two of 22 respondents expected the bank to keep its policy rate steady in March, while two forecasted a 250 basis-point hike. The poll also showed that eight of 12 expected the bank would hike again later this year.

In a previous poll conducted in February, economists were expecting some 500-750 basis points of policy rate cuts by the end of year.

While the central bank held its key interest rate steady at 45% last month after an aggressive tightening cycle, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek last week promised tighter fiscal policy to help the bank reduce inflation.

Authorities are expected to take more policy steps to cool inflation after local elections on March 31, setting the stage for more pain for Turks already struggling after years of soaring prices.

In an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7 on Sunday, Simsek said he believed that with additional fiscal policy measures inflation would be within the central bank’s forecast range in the period ahead.

“If we believe that this will not be the case, we will take additional measures. This is an issue under the central bank’s responsibility,” Simsek said, adding that the central bank had a free hand and would do whatever is necessary to lower inflation.

After President Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election in May, Turkey abandoned a years-long unorthodox low rate policy supported by the president in favour of tightening, raising its key rate to 45% from 8.5% since June.

Capital Economics said in a research note to clients that the data released since February’s hold decision by the central bank suggest that the disinflation process has taken a step back and the risk of a restart to the hiking cycle is growing.

A rate hike “looks unlikely given how close it is to the local elections taking place on 31st March. But the statement will likely maintain a hawkish tone and the possibility of a 250-500bp hike in April is becoming more likely.”

Goldman Sachs, which expect the central bank to hike rates by 250 basis points this week given rising pressure on reserves and the lira, said it has already tightened policy via macroprudential measures and reserve requirements

“We think the purpose of the hike will mostly be to signal that the central bank will and can hike if needed in line with its own guidance and avoid the risk that the macro prudential measures taken in response are interpreted as a return towards a less orthodox policy framework,” Goldman Sachs said.

On Friday, the central bank’s monthly survey of market participants’ expectations showed that Turkey’s year-end annual inflation was seen at 44.19%, higher than the bank’s own forecast of 36%.

The bank will announce its rate decision at 1100 GMT on March 21.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Vijayalakshmi Srinivasan; Editing by Daren Butler)