Turkish investors are starting to exit a tool designed to halt a selloff in the lira and are moving their money into regular dollar accounts, putting pressure on the central bank to meet increasing demand for foreign exchange.
(Bloomberg) — Turkish investors are starting to exit a tool designed to halt a selloff in the lira and are moving their money into regular dollar accounts, putting pressure on the central bank to meet increasing demand for foreign exchange.
Lira Lifeline Became $124 Billion Problem That Haunts Turkey
Depositors last week withdrew around $5 billion from the so-called KKM accounts, according to a person familiar with the matter. The accounts offer savers generous interest rates to hold liras while compensating them for any depreciation.
The shift came after the monetary authority announced a series of changes to encourage commercial banks to enable their clients’ exit from the KKMs, which had been introduced in the wake of a currency crisis in 2021 to halt the lira’s decline.
Most of the $5 billion outflow came from investors that originally had dollar savings and reverted to regular dollar accounts last week, the person said, asking not to be identified because the data isn’t public yet. A smaller amount of lira savings by retail investors entered the KKM program during the same five-day period, trimming the net weekly drop to below $5 billion, the first such change since January, the person said.
The central bank declined to comment.
The central bank’s measures are part of a change in monetary policy since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won reelection in May. His new team is trying to end unorthodox policies — including ultra-low borrowing costs — that were championed by Erdogan in recent years, but which caused inflation to surge and foreign investors to flee Turkish markets.
Official data scheduled for Friday will show how much money remained in the KKM program through last week. The outflows that took place during that period resulted in higher-than-usual foreign currency demand from commercial lenders, which the central bank met using its own reserves, the person said.
The monetary authority’s net reserves took a modest hit from the shift, while the change in gross foreign exchange holdings was minimal mainly due to increased swap transactions between the central bank and commercial lenders, according to the person.
Last month, central bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan said the central bank stopped using its reserves to support the currency, adding that the monetary authority still met banks’ dollar demand emanating from outflows from the KKM program.
Initially seen as a lifesaver for the lira, the foreign exchange-protected deposit tool has attracted more than $120 billion of inflows and become a costly tool for the government. Both Erkan and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek see it as an impediment to normalization of monetary policy.
The lira lost just over half of its value against the greenback since the program was announced around 20 months ago.
(Updates with charts on foreign-exchange protected deposits, details on recent monetary policy changes)
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