March 9, 2020 / 2:22 PM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 2-Lira dodges global pain with cheap oil a boon for Turkey

(Adds economist comment, updates prices)

ISTANBUL, March 9 (Reuters) - The Turkish lira bounced back on Monday from earlier losses, bucking a selloff in many other emerging market currencies which were clobbered by a plunge in oil prices that economists said would boost Turkey’s import-reliant economy.

The lira weakened to as far as 6.2 against the dollar in early trade, but it recovered and stood at 6.1210 at 1400 GMT, down about 0.4% on the day.

Turkey’s main share index however tumbled 5.94%, falling with global shares, as oil fell and coronavirus fears lingered.

Output hikes by Saudi Arabia and Russia slashed oil prices by as much as a third, a historic rout that hit energy-exporting emerging markets hard.

But since Turkey imports virtually all of its oil and natural gas, economists said the selloff could keep a lid on the country’s historically lofty inflation and current account deficit.

Sekerbank Chief Economist Gulay Elif Yildirim said every $10 drop in the price of a barrel of oil trims the deficit by as much as $3.5 billion.

Were oil to remain at current levels though year-end, Turkey’s current account deficit would be $10 billion lower than otherwise, she said, adding uncertainties around energy production and the effects of the coronavirus are big wild cards.

It will be a “lost year” for global growth, Yildirim said. Stimulus provided by larger economies “will benefit Turkey in the medium term ... but in the short term there is a market crash everywhere”.

The lira has weakened nearly 3% this year, having slid 36% in the previous two years following a 2018 currency crisis. (Reporting by Can Sezer and Nevzat Devranoglu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

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