Euro on defensive as Turkish crisis sparks rush to safety

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The euro was under pressure in Asia on Monday as fears about the exposure of European banks to crisis-hit Turkey sent investors scurrying to safe havens including the U.S. dollar, Swiss franc and yen.

Turkish Lira and Euro banknotes are seen in this picture illustration taken June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Regional stocks also looked likely to suffer as Turkey’s troubles tainted emerging markets in general, while boosting highly rated sovereign bonds.

Nikkei futures NKc1 were pointing to an opening loss of around 200 points, while EMini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 were off 0.25 percent. Treasury futures TYc1 were up a tick.

Much of the early action was in currencies with the euro gapping lower as the Turkish lira TRYTOM=D3 took another slide to all-time lows around 7.2400.

It was last at 6.7900, having found a sliver of support when Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said the country had drafted an action plan to ease investor concerns and the banking watchdog said it limited swap transactions.

The currency tumbled more than 40 percent this year on worries over Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing control over the economy and deteriorating relations with the United States.

“The plunge in the lira which began in May now looks certain to push the Turkish economy into recession and it may well trigger a banking crisis,” said Andrew Kenningham, chief global economist at Capital Economics.

“This would be another blow for EMs as an asset class, but the wider economic spillovers should be fairly modest, even for the euro zone,” he added.

Turkish Lira and Euro banknotes are seen in this picture illustration taken June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Kenningham noted Turkey’s annual gross domestic product of around $900 billion was just 1 percent of the global economy and slightly smaller than the Netherlands.

The Turkish equity market was less than 2 percent of the size of the UK market, and only 20 percent was held by non-residents, he added.

“Nonetheless, Turkey’s troubles are a further headwind for the euro and are not good news for EM assets either.”

Indeed, the single currency sank to a one-year trough against the Swiss franc EURCHF= in early trade around 1.1300 francs, while hitting a 10-week low on the yen around 125.45 EURJPY=.

Against the U.S. dollar, the euro touched its lowest since July 2017 at $1.13715 EUR=D3. It was last at $1.1392 and still a long way from last week’s top at $1.1628. The dollar eased against the safe haven yen to 110.69 JPY=.

The Argentine peso and South African rand were also caught in the crossfire.

“Contagion risks center on Spanish, Italian and French banks exposed to Turkish foreign currency debt, as well as Argentina and South Africa,” warned analysts at ANZ.

“Turkey’s massive pile of corporate debt denominated in foreign currencies, but a rapidly sliding currency – and inflation that’s threatening to go exponential – is a toxic combination.”

In commodity markets, gold had found little in the way of safety flows and was last a shade firmer at $1,212.52 an ounce XAU=.

Oil prices were mixed with Brent off 11 cents at $72.70 a barrel LCc1, while U.S. crude was flat at $67.63 CLc1.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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