The central bank’s decision to enact its ninth-straight rate cut brings its key rate, the one-week repo rate, from 8.75% to 8.25%. It comes despite investor worries over Turkey’s rapidly shrinking foreign currency reserves.
The lira was trading at 6.789 to the dollar at 12:30 p.m. London time, little changed from the previous day. Thursday’s rate cut is the latest in a long easing cycle that began when the bank’s interest rate was a whopping 24% in July of 2019.
Turkey’s economy may have bottomed out earlier this month under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, the bank’s monetary policy committee said in a statement. They described a “pronounced” weakening in April, but said the first two weeks of May had showed signs of “bottoming-out following the steps taken towards partial normalization.”
Turkey has recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East region, with nearly 150,000 cases, having surpassed Iran in mid-April. But its economy was already under pressure before the coronavirus hit, with two years of a weakening currency, a high fiscal deficit and unemployment near 14% in January. The country’s government in late March unveiled a $15.4 billion stimulus plan to aid businesses being hit hard by the pandemic, particularly those in the tourism sector, which is expected to see devastating losses this year.
The Turkish central bank has drawn down millions of dollars from its foreign currency reserves in recent months in order to prop up the lira, now paving the way for lower borrowing costs which the government hopes will aid economic recovery. Borrowing costs, when adjusted for inflation, are already below zero.
Inflation in April was 10.94%, the country’s lowest level since November. The central bank on Thursday lowered its year-end inflation projection from 8.2% to 7.4%, indicating that further rate cuts could be on the horizon.