Global financial markets sold-off last week in anticipation of the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) meeting this week and the implications of what the committee's decision would mean for international indices. The FOMC meets Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss when the Feds will begin to raise near-zero rates in the coming future. The sell-off began last Monday night as two economists at the San Francisco Fed published a paper that spooked global investors. Turkey was not immune from the global sell-off, and the broader Turkish financial markets have seen heavy profit taking in the wake of that paper and the questions it raised. President Obama's decision to form a broad coalition of Middle Eastern and global partners to take on ISIS was a welcome sign; however, the road to "victory" will be a difficult one and has already begun to worry investors.
Many investors regard economists Jens Christensen and Simon Kwan's article on the underestimation of the speed at which interest rates will rise by the public as an insider's look into how quickly the FOMC will actually raise interest rates. The paper argues that the public is more dovish than the FOMC members, mainly because the public does not believe the economy will rebound as quickly. This spooked global foreign exchange, equity and bond markets. European financial markets were down across the board as the Euro fell to multi-year lows of $1.29 versus the euro.
The Istanbul Stock Exchange's benchmark BIST- 100 was down over 4,000 points, trading at 77,815 points from 82,270 where it stood last Monday. The 5-percent drop, although significant, was far from the worst performing index. The Brazilian benchmark index, the IBOVESPA, was off over 10 percent during a similar time period, while the Ukrainian Equities Index was off over eight percent. The German, French, British, Swiss, Spanish and Portuguese stock exchanges were all down significantly this past week.
The Turkish bond market, although also in the red, fared better than the equities markets. The benchmark two-year bond traded at 9.04 percent, off 33 basis points from last week's level of 8.71 percent. The long-end 10-year issue also saw prices decrease as yields increased from 8.81 percent to 9.14 percent.
In the wake of last week's speech by President Obama explaining how the United States and its coalition partners intend to eliminate the ISIS threat, many emerging markets' currencies sold-off, as global investors piled into the "war-friendly" U.S. dollar. The dollar not only rose against the euro but also against the Turkish Lira, which traded at TL 2.2 to the U.S. dollar, down six kuruş from its level of last week, where it traded at 2.16. The Central Registry Agency's (MKK) "Foreign Participation in Turkish Equity Markets" index was off by 20 basis points from 64.23 percent to 64.03 percent at midday Monday, as some foreign investors questioned the breadth of Turkish involvement in the new "war on ISIS."
Insurance against political and economic instability measured by credit-default swaps, or CDS, saw a slight rise in its price, up 20 basis points for the week from 1.68 percent to 1.88 percent at midday Monday. The major news story last week revolved around the FOMC's meeting this week and whether or not the Fed would increase rates as feared by many emerging market investors. An increase in interest rates in the U.S. would make it more difficult for foreign borrowers to attract investors; thus, their interest rates would increase. Such an increase would be problematic for Turkey especially with interest rates already at multi-year highs. Last week's announcement of GDP numbers and balance of payments came in lower and higher than expected, both of which were bad news for investors. Quarterly unemployment numbers released Monday morning were also higher than expected.
The combination of less-than-stellar financial data coupled with what appears to be an escalation of the ISIS conflict could only be made worse by a rate increase by the FOMC this week. Although it is highly doubtful that this will be the case, even a hint of an increase would be disastrous for emerging markets, including Turkey.
Additionally, the Scots vote this week on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom, a developing story whose financial implications will be reviewed later on in the week.