Trump doubles tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, says relations 'not good'

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Investors are concerned with Erdogan's firm grip on Turkish monetary policy.

Turkey's lira sank as low as 20 percent against the US dollar Friday before settling at a 15 percent drop.

Waves from the crisis spread overseas, with investors selling off shares in European banks with large exposure to the Turkish economy. One U.S. dollar traded at 5.96 lira by 2:15 p.m.

United States sanctions and president Erdogan's tightening control over monetary policy are driving the fall, which sent the lira to an all-time low of above 6 to the dollar this morning.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he had authorised higher tariffs on imports from Turkey, imposing a 20 percent duty on aluminium and 50 percent one on steel, as tensions rose between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies over Ankara's detention of an evangelical pastor and other diplomatic issues. The lira, he noted on Twitter, "slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!"

Speaking to supporters in the Black Sea province of Rize late on Thursday, Erdogan brushed off concerns over the currency as campaigns against Turkey.

He railed against "those waging economic war" against Turkey.

The currency's drop - 40% so far this year - has become a gauge of fear over a country facing the fallout of years of debt-fuelled growth, worldwide concern over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's push to amass power, and a souring in relations with allies like the US.

Trump tweeted he had authorized a 20 percent duty on aluminum and 50 percent one on steel. The White House said he had authorized them under Section 232 of USA trade law, which allows for tariffs on national security grounds.

One of the triggers of the turmoil has been a standoff with the US over a detained American pastor that Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, has put on trial for espionage and terror-related charges linked to a failed coup attempt in the country two years ago. U.S. President Donald Trump introduced a round of sanctions on August 1, preventing the Turkish justice an interior ministries from doing business with U.S. businesses.

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The Turkish lira has lost 13 per cent of its value against the dollar since midnight, pushing the battered currency further into crisis.

The president's characteristic defiance in the face of a shaky economy has further unnerved investors.

UBS chief economist for EMEA emerging markets Gyorgy Kovacs said a giant rate hike of 350-400 basis points would be "consistent with real rate levels that in the past helped to stabilise the currency" but warned a deal to normalise ties with the USA may also be needed.

"Some countries have engaged in behavior that protects coup plotters and knows no laws or justice", Erdogan said. "Relations with countries who behave like this have reached a point beyond salvaging". Lindsay Graham of SC, said Trump's decision was retaliation against Turkey for not releasing Brunson.

The lira's relentless depreciation drives up the cost of imported goods from fuel to food for ordinary Turks.

Some economists were less impressed by the government's handling of the crisis.

"First of all, confidence needs to be regained". But now, the relationship appears to have gone sideways.

Overnight it had retreated to its lowest since November 2016 on threats of new US sanctions, weakening beyond the psychologically important 65-per-dollar threshold. Hard currency debt issued by Turkish banks suffered similar falls.

Berat Albayrak, the Treasury minister and Mr Erdogan's son-in-law, is due to announce a "new economic model" for Turkey...

This did nothing to revive the lira. Turkey has mostly done that to itself - until, that is, Trump started tweeting. "Albayrak's plan was uninspiring at best". "It won't stop unless the central bank steps in and hikes big time". He has urged the central bank to not raise interest rates.

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