Turkish lira hits fresh 18-month low as virus infections surge

Turkish President Erdogan has announced a 100-billion-lira ($15 billion) package of measures to support the economy

Turkey’s lira extended its lowest levels since September 2018 on Monday as confirmed infections from the coronavirus rose by nearly one-third in a day, weighing on market sentiment.

The lira fell to as low as 6.602 per dollar in Istanbul trading. It was down 0.8 percent at 6.601 against the U.S. currency at 2:06 p.m. local time. The main BIST 100 share index dropped 2.4 percent 83,734 points.

Infections in the country climbed by 289 to 1,236 cases, the Health Ministry said late on Sunday. Deaths increased to 30 from 21, it said.

The Turkish lira has dropped almost 10 percent this year, nearly equaling the 11 percent it lost in the whole of 2019. Turkey’s central bank has slashed interest rates to 9.75 percent from 24 percent last July – inflation stands at 12.4 percent – raising concern that the authorities are leaving the lira exposed to potential economic turmoil by rendering it less attractive to investors.

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Turkey’s shops are closing for business and tourism income, a vital source of foreign currency, is set to plummet after European countries imposed lockdowns. Turkey’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure announced on Saturday that flights to 46 more countries will be suspended, bringing the total number to 68. Companies producing medical masks may be seized if they are found to stockpile products, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said.

Read more: ahval