Erdogan tells Turks to buy crumbling lira as Trump turns the screws

 In U.S.
ISTANBUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan told Turks on Friday to sell their gold and U.S. dollars to support the country’s currency which plunged after U.S. President Donald Trump escalated a feud with NATO ally Turkey by doubling tariffs on metals imports.

The Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 has long been falling on worries about Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy and worsening relations with the United States.

On Friday the currency dropped as much as 18 percent at one point, the biggest one-day fall since a 2001 financial crisis in Turkey.

Reverberations spread through global financial markets, with European stock markets especially hit as investors took fright over banks’ exposure to Turkey. U.S. stocks were also rattled.

The lira has lost more than 40 percent this year. It hit a record low after Trump announced he had authorized higher tariffs on imports from Turkey, imposing duties of 20 percent on aluminium and 50 percent on steel.

The lira, Trump noted on Twitter, “slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!”

“Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” he wrote.

An important emerging market, Turkey borders Iran, Iraq and Syria and has been mostly pro-Western for decades. Financial upheaval there risks further destabilising an already volatile region.  

Without naming countries, Erdogan said supporters of a failed military coup two years ago, which Ankara says was organised by a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, were attacking Turkey in new ways since his re-election two months ago.

The new duties on Turkey are double the level that Trump imposed in March on steel and aluminium imports from a range of countries. The White House said he had authorized them under a section of U.S. trade law that allows for tariffs on national security grounds.

Turkey’s trade ministry said the tariffs were against World Trade Organization rules.

FOCUS ON PASTOR

While Turkey and the United States are at odds over a host of issues, the most pressing disagreement for Trump has been the fate of American Christian pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial on terrorism charges for allegedly supporting a group that Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016. He denies the charges.

Turkish officials held talks in Washington this week but there was no breakthrough.

The Turkish financial crisis set off a wave of selling across emerging markets, reviving the spectre of contagion that has been the sector’s Achilles heel for decades.

The lira sell-off deepened concern over whether over-indebted Turkish companies will be able to pay back loans taken out in euros and dollars after years of overseas borrowing to fund a construction boom under Erdogan.

The president, who says a shadowy “interest rate lobby” and Western credit ratings agencies are attempting to bring down Turkey’s economy, appealed to his countrymen’s patriotism.

“If there is anyone who has dollars or gold under their pillows, they should go exchange it for liras at our banks. This is a national, domestic battle,” he told a crowd in the northeastern city of Bayburt.

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