* Lira crashes 15% to approach November’s record low
* Turkish stock index sinks 9% to three-month low
* South African rand, Mexican peso pare declines
* Rouble rebounds after easing on looming sanctions (Adds analyst comments; updates prices)
By Sagarika Jaisinghani
March 22 (Reuters) – Turkey’s lira plunged to a near record low on Monday following a shock central bank shake up, while other emerging market currencies pared declines as the dollar gave up early gains on the back of a dip in bond yields.
The lira tumbled as much as 15% to 8.4850 versus the dollar – near November’s record low of 8.58 – after the appointment of Sahap Kavcioglu as central bank governor sparked fears of a reversal of recent rate hikes.
By 1130 GMT, the lira had recovered some of its losses to trade around 7.9176 as Finance Minister Lutfi Elvan said Turkey would stick to free market rules.
“It’s a risky business when you have no currency reserves,” said John Hardy, head of FX strategy at Saxo Bank.
“If they move rates (lower) again and if the lira moves again, then my chief concern would be that you get some form of capital controls.”
The lira had bounced 15% in the last few weeks of 2020 as the central bank hiked interest rates by 675 basis points, but the currency still ended the year down about 20% on worries around Turkey’s depleted forex reserves and negative real interest rates.
Another rate hike last week had lifted the lira about 3% and helped the MSCI emerging markets currency index snap a four-week losing streak. Central banks in Brazil and Russia also hiked interest rates last week, and all eyes will be on a central bank meeting in South Africa this week.
The developing world currency index was flat on Monday, with high-yielding currencies including the South African rand and the Mexican peso paring declines following a drop of about 1% earlier as the dollar index came off session highs.
“The currencies that are underperforming today are the high betas,” said Cristian Maggio, a strategist at TD Securities.
“When some event – extremely positive or extremely negative – occurs, these currencies do trade in tandem, but on a different scale. Now that the dollar is kind of flat on the euro, which means that the negative induction coming from the dollar is gone, other currencies are returning to normal trading ranges.”
The Russian rouble was up about 0.1% after easing to a more-than-two-week low as new sanctions against Moscow loomed.
Turkey’s longer-dated dollar-denominated sovereign bonds suffered their biggest daily drop on record, while a 9% plunge in the stock index wiped out about $4.5 billion from the market capitalisation of Turkish firms.
The iShares MSCI Turkey ETF sank 19% in U.S. premarket trading, while the London-listed HSBC MSCI Turkey ETF and Paris-listed Lyxor MSCI Turkey ETF were both set for their worst session on record.
Societe Generale said the dismissal of Naci Agbal had left Turkey “beyond the point of no return” and predicted the lira to weaken to 9.70 against the dollar by end of the second quarter.
A broader index of emerging market stocks was up about 0.2%.
For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2021, see http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2021, see https://tmsnrt.rs/2OusNdX
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(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru and Tom Arnold in London; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Shailesh Kuber)
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