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Turkish lira hammered again as crisis spills into Asian markets

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    Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong, China | Mon, August 13, 2018 | 11:16 am
Turkish lira hammered again as crisis spills into Asian markets A pedestrian walks past an electronic board showing the share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (L) and the foreign exchange rate between the yen and the US dollar (R) in Tokyo on August 13, 2018. Tokyo stocks opened lower on August 13 as investors watched tension between the US and Turkey that has driven down the lira, fanning fears of possible wider financial instability. (AFP/Kazuhiro NOGI )

Asian markets tumbled and the Turkish lira dived almost eight percent Monday on fears that the economic crisis gripping Turkey could spill over into the global economy.

With investors already on edge over the China-US trade war, the lira's collapse sparked a sell-off in Europe and New York at the end of last week, with safe haven assets including the Japanese yen and Swiss franc rallying.

The lira dived to a record low of 7.2362 to the dollar at one point overnight before recovering slightly after the country's finance minister said Ankara was planning to roll out an "action plan" on Monday in response to the crisis. 

"Our institutions will take necessary action from Monday in order to relieve the markets," Berat Albayrak said, adding that the plan would centre on "the state of our banks and the small and medium size enterprises" most affected by the lira's plunge.

The lira has been hammered this year, having started January at around 3.70 to the dollar, while it was also sharply down against the euro.

However, the European unit was taking a hit against the greenback on worries about the possible impact on some European banks, including Spain's BBVA, Italy's UniCredit and France's BNP Paribas.

Despite the tumult, President Tayyip Erdogan remains in combative mood, calling the rout a "political, underhand plot" against Turkey.

The crisis has been sparked by a series of issues including a faltering economy -- the central bank has defied market calls for rate hikes -- and tensions with the United States, which has hit Turkey with sanctions over its detention of an American pastor.

Ankara has also hit out at Washington's cooperation with Syrian Kurdish militia in the fight against Islamic State. 

- Vulnerabilities -

"The decline in the lira is multifaceted, caused not only by a weak external position in terms of current account deficit and inadequate currency reserves, but also the challenging political environment which exacerbates the vulnerabilities in the lira," said Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"A mid-meeting rate hike and tightening of monetary policy may help to avert the lira's decline, to some extent."

As well as the lira, emerging market and other high-yielding currencies tumbled across the board.

The Russian ruble, already under pressure after the US hit Moscow with sanctions last week, lost two percent, while the South African rand was battered seven percent.

South Korea's won and the Australian dollar retreated 0.5 percent and the Indonesian rupiah lost 0.9 percent.

The yen, a go-to unit in times of turmoil, rose against the dollar, while the Swiss franc was also higher.

"The dominating theme of this week is likely to be the Turkish situation," Okasan Online Securities said in a note to clients.

"The 'Turkey shock' from last weekend, triggered by sharp plunges of the lira, has fuelled fears that it may impact financial institutions in Europe," it said.

On equity markets Hong Kong shed 1.8 percent and Shanghai was 1.4 percent lower, while Tokyo dropped 1.6 percent by the break with exporters hurt by the stronger yen.

The sharp losses come despite the fact Turkey accounts for just one percent of the world economy, meaning there is little risk to the world economy, or even the eurozone.

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