Turkey Bonds at Risk Over Mideast Tensions

Yield up, value down as rising oil costs hit nation hard

Oil-importing nation Turkey has seen the value of its debt fall, and the cost of maintaining it rise, as worries about Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) unrest escalate. Already suffering, the country’s currency has fallen 11% since October, and the escalating price of oil has done nothing to stem the tide.

According to a Bloomberg report, a burgeoning trade gap, 78% wider than the median estimate in a survey that Bloomberg conducted with economists, has added to the country’s woes at a time when demand from its neighbors for its products are falling. The double whammy of slower exports and more expensive import costs for oil—Turkey imports 93% of its oil needs—have made investors wary of holding the nation’s debt.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had bailed Turkey out to the tune of $53 billion from 1999 to 2008 to manage debt that reached more than 20% of its GDP, but wild expansion of 102% since October of 2008 put the country on the high road, with the scale of its growth rate rivaling that of China and its credit ratings being bumped up by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

But the economic crisis has hit Turkey as hard as prosperity once had, and now the nation is looking at higher costs to finance its deficit and a rate of inflation tied strongly to oil. Yarkin Cebeci, the Istanbul-based economist for JPMorgan, wrote in a report on Feb. 25 that the current 4.7% inflation rate could rise as high as 7.5% by midyear.

David Spegel, global head of emerging-market strategy at ING Financial Markets in New York, said in the report, “Regional political tensions and their upward influence on oil prices are only going to add to pressure on the country’s deficit. We look for better opportunities elsewhere among emerging markets.”

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