Political uncertainty gripped Turkey's neighbor Greece on Monday as that country's parliament was unable to elect a president. Greek Prime Minister Stavros Dimas indicated he would call for elections to be held in late January, as the sitting parliament was set to be dissolved. The benchmark Greek equity index, the ASE, fell over 11 percent on the news before recovering somewhat, down over 7 percent late on Monday. The Athens composite index is already down over 30 percent on the year while neighboring Turkey's benchmark equity index, the BIST-100, is up nearly 30 percent, making it one of the top best performing equity indexes globally.
With little data coming out of the Central Bank of Turkey in the last week, Turkish markets entered a relative quiet period, as the BIST-100 has traded within a 1 percent range. Bond markets continued to rally as markets digested the news out of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, which indicated a "patient" approach to raising rates in the coming year.
The BIST-100 traded lower by 0.7 percent late Monday, opening at 84,361 points at the start of the second session of the Turkish Bourse. The index is currently up over 27 percent for the year and is near the high for the year. This spectacular rise for the index is remarkable since Turkey borders countries that are experiencing armed conflict, political collapse and catastrophic economic crises. Greece's economic collapse is nothing compared to that of the Ukrainian and Russian economies, Turkey's neighbors across the Black Sea, whose armed conflict sunk their respective economies. The Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Central Government continue to battle ISIS militants with support from the U.S. and also Iran, a country marred by continued economic sanctions aimed at halting their nuclear research.
Bond markets continue to rally as investors have discounted previous statements that pointed to imminent policy rate hikes by the Fed. The benchmark two-year short-end government issue was up as its yield dropped 24 basis points in the last week, trading at 7.84 percent late Monday. The long-end 10-year government bond also continued to rally, trading at a yield of 7.81 percent, down over 7 basis points in the last week. Bond prices and yields are inversely proportional meaning as price increases yields decrease.
Foreign investors wanted to end the year investing in Turkey as the Central Registry Agency's (MKK) foreign participation in the Turkish equity markets index was higher by 10 basis points, closing out the year at 63.8 percent. The index had been as low as 61 percent and as high as 65 percent during the year.
Insurance against political and economic uncertainty, traded as Credit-Default Swaps (CDSs), were cheaper for Turkey on Monday. Turkish corporate CDSs traded at 1.7806 percent, down from 1.7980 percent where they had traded a week ago.
The Turkish lira was weaker against the U.S. dollar on Monday. One U.S. dollar bought 2.3214 Turkish Liras on Monday, whereas it had bought 2.3146 Turkish liras the previous Monday. The lira had traded above 2.41 Liras to the USD two weeks ago and has since largely recovered.
Brent crude oil also took a little bit of a breather this week as it teetered around its current price of $60 a barrel. Crude will most probably continue to fall from here, hitting $50 a barrel before winter is over and $40 a barrel by June 21.
In the last trading week of 2014, I would like to look forward to next year and describe where I think Turkey and the world will be in 2015. Turkey's strong demographic numbers will continue to serve it well and push consumer consumption up even as the government continues to promote greater savings rates. Barring an outright ground war, which I highly doubt Turkey will engage in, the region can only improve. Syria's civil war may find some resolution as the new Republican-dominated U.S. Congress begins in January, paving the way for a more interventionist approach to be adopted by the administration. A step-up in air strikes and implementation of a no-fly zone will be back on the table as the refugee crisis begins to effect European countries.
As the truth about ISIS continues to spread, the inflow of foreign fighters will soon dissipate and lower oil prices will squeeze the militants even more, forcing them to accept defeat sometime in 2015. This should help to begin the rebuilding process in northern Syria. The West will embrace the idea of a no fly-zone, which will spawn an autonomous region in the north of Syria such as the de facto one in place in Iraq. This region will begin to welcome Syrian refugees who will rebuild Aleppo and the greater north with the help of the Turkish government.
The Fed will step back from raising rates in 2015 and raise the policy rate at most 50 basis points for the entire year, much lower than current predictions of over 130 basis points. The eurozone economic crises will intensify with the U.S. dollar-to-euro trading at parity as major quantitative easing is executed by the ECB. A continued collapse in oil prices will lower producer prices for Turkish companies and economic turmoil globally will bode well for a relatively more attractive Turkey, especially as it attracts foreign investment following the reelection of the current government in the summer. The BIST-100 will trade above 100,000 points by the end of the year with bond yields below 5 percent.
Here's to health, well-being, peace and prosperity to all my readers and to all of humanity.