Winners and losers from the Turkey crisis

Yen Nee Lee

Source: Winners and losers from the Turkey crisis

  • Turkey accounts for less than 1 percent of the world economy and global exposure to the Turkish banking sector is also small, but the recent dramatic decline in the Turkish lira still rattled markets worldwide.
  • Investors, fearing that other emerging markets could follow in Turkey’s footsteps, have pulled their money out of countries such as India and Argentina.
  • But the ongoing crisis in Turkey is an opportunity for the country to improve ties with the European Union, consultancy The Eurasia Group said.

The dramatic fall in the
Turkish lira
over the last few days has rattled global markets, even though experts don’t expect the troubles facing Turkey to trigger the next financial crisis.

Turkey accounts for less than 1 percent of the world economy and global exposure to the Turkish banking sector is also small, experts said.

Spain banks are the most exposed to the Turkish financial system, but they constitute just 4.5 percent of overall assets, according to data by the Bank for International Settlements and J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

“The numbers there don’t really worry me. I think it’s more about sentiment,” Sat Duhra, a portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Investors, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

He added that developments in Turkey have added “more fuel to the fire” at a time when investors are increasingly jittery over escalating trade disputes, rising interest rates in the United States and China softer economic outlook.

Losers: Emerging markets and banks

Against that backdrop, emerging markets — which Turkey is part of — have become the biggest casualty in the recent market rout.

The iShares MSCI Emerging MarketsEEM exchange-traded fund, a passive investment product that tracks the index, has fallen by more than 1 percent this week even though Turkey makes up only 0.6 percent of the underlying assets.

Investors have been pulling money out of the broader emerging markets for fear that other countries, especially those with poor financial positions, will follow in Turkey’s footsteps. Such withdrawals have hurt other currencies: The
Indian rupee
and
Argentine peso
touched their weakest levels against the U.S. dollar earlier this week.

But such fears may be unfounded, experts said.

“Turkey’s crisis raises concerns about more fragile emerging-market countries that similarly carry larger current account deficits like Brazil, South Africa, and Argentina,” Wells Fargo Investment Institute said in a Tuesday report.

“It is important to remember that emerging-market countries, on the whole, have much stronger financial positions than they did 20 years ago,” it added.

Despite the limited exposure to Turkey’s financial system, bank stocks in the U.S., Europe and Japan were also hit.

European banks such as Spain’s BBVABBVA-ES and Italy’s UniCreditUCG-IT, which have units in Turkey, this week saw their shares fall by 3.3 percent and 4.6 percent respectively.

Turkish banks are vulnerable in the current situation because companies have accumulated a high level of debt in foreign currencies, which they may find increasingly difficult to pay back given the weak lira. The country’s total borrowing denominated in currencies other than the lira has grown to more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product — and much of that debt is held by companies.

Investors are concerned that weakness within Turkish banks may spill over to foreign lenders that have assets in the country.

“The weak spot in this whole set up is the banking system. I think right now, we’re still in an okay place. If we’re still in the same situation in nine to 12 months, I think the banks here are the weakest link,” Nafez Zouk, lead emerging markets economist at Oxford Economics, told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday.

Winners: US dollar and EU-Turkey relations

As investors look for a safe haven to park their money, U.S. assets have emerged as their favorite on the back of a stronger American economy and higher interest rates.

Problems in Turkey coincided with the
Federal Reserve
selling a record number of U.S. Treasurys. Such demand from investors has helped lift the
U.S. dollar index
— which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies — by more than 4 percent this year.

The strengthening U.S. dollar will only add to the troubles facing Turkey and other emerging markets, said David Dietze, founder, president and chief investment strategist of Point View Wealth Management.

“Rising U.S. interest rates do two things: One is, it makes the dollar-denominated debt of these emerging market countries harder to service; and on top of that, it has the effect of people rushing to take advantage of U.S. rates, lifting the U.S. dollar and also making it that much more harder to repay U.S. dollar debt,” Dietze told CNBC’s “The Rundown” on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump have clashed over tariffs and the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson. That presents an opportunity for warming ties between Turkey and countries in the
European Union
, according to a Tuesday report by political risk consultancy Eurasia Group.

The EU and Ankara have had “longstanding issues” over the rule of law and press freedom, but the economic bloc has always been careful in its dealings with Erdogan unlike Trump’s “volatile and erratic stance,” Eurasia said.

“Trump’s unpopularity in Europe makes it highly unlikely EU leaders are going to rally behind his approach. If anything, senior EU officials point to the ‘commonalities’ that the EU and Turkey now both face vis-a-vis the US — on tariffs, threats and much besides,” the political risk consultancy said.

Berat Albayrak on Twitter: I appreciate Mr. @peteraltmaier’s remarks on the most recent U.S. actions against Turkey. Politicians who act in good faith and advocate diplomacy, will strengthen the Turkish people’s confidence in our relations with Germany and the EU.

Turkey is already seen supporting the EU in its criticisms of the U.S.

Turkish treasury and finance minister Berat Albayrak posted “a very positive response” on Twitter to a report that German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier’s had criticized Trump’s new tariffs on Turkey.

“This suggests EU-Turkey relations are likely to continue to thaw,” said Eurasia.

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