A plunge in the Turkish lira rocked global equities and emerging markets yesterday and fears of more turmoil sent investors scurrying for safety in assets like the yen and US government bonds.

The lira fell as much as 14 per cent against the dollar, chalking up its worst day since Turkey’s financial crisis of 2001. It came on the back of a deepening rift with the United States, worries about its own economy and lack of action from policymakers.

The currency is now down more than 36 per cent this year, and 17 per cent this month alone, fanning worries about a full-blown economic crisis.

Bank shares across the continent fell and the euro slipped to its lowest since July 2017 as the Financial Times quoted sources as saying the European Central Bank was concerned about European lenders' exposure to Turkey.

“You have a number of Spanish banks which effectively have very large stakes in banks operating in Turkey. If Turkey is going through economic and political turmoil – which it is – we could see non-performing loans increase there,” said David Madden, markets analyst at CMC Markets in London.

“Many of these European banks have their own non-performing loans and liquidity issues to deal with themselves. Now all of a sudden a currency crisis in Turkey could trigger another dimension to their own financial problems.”

Shares in France’s BNP Paribas, Italy’s UniCredit and Spain’s BBVA, the banks seen as most exposed to Turkey, fell over four per cent. That took eurozone bank shares down three per cent while the pan-European STOXX 600 index fell one per cent.

The MSCI All-Country World index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was also down over 0.6 per cent on the day, having erased all its gains for the week.

As investors piled into “safe” bonds, German yields hit three-week lows and yields on US 10-year Treasuries fell to 2.8967 per cent.

Investors are now awaiting the release of US consumer price inflation data for July for clues on the interest rate outlook and to gauge if new import tariffs were starting to have an impact.

The Australian dollar, often viewed as a gauge of global risk appetite due to its reliance on commodities, was the biggest faller among developed currencies, at one point down one per cent on the day. Going in the opposite direction was the safe-haven Japanese yen, which hit a one-month high against the dollar.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a group of six major currencies, breached 96, taking it to its highest level since July 2017.

It was last up half a per cent at 95.986.

In commodities, United States crude oil rose half a per cent to $67.16 a barrel, while Brent crude was 0.6 per cent stronger at $72.47 per barrel.


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