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Cablegate: Turkey's Economy March 12: Markets Ignore Moody's

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001565

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE


STATE FOR E, P, EUR/SE AND EB
TREASURY FOR U/S TAYLOR AND OASIA - MILLS
NSC FOR QUANRUD AND BRYZA


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY'S ECONOMY MARCH 12: MARKETS IGNORE MOODY'S
AND WORLD BANK WARNINGS

Sensitive but unclassified, and not for internet
distribution.


Local Debt Market Sticks with Moral Hazard
------------------------------------------


1. (U) In the morning of March 12, yields on lira T-bills
inched upwards to close at 57.5 percent (yesterday's close
was 56.8 percent). The lira remained unchanged at about TL
1,620,000 to the dollar. The Istanbul Stock Exchange was
down 1 percent in morning trading, after dropping about 1
percent on March 11.


2. (SBU) Comment: The local debt market is controlled by
several big players (e.g., AK and Garanti Banks), and they
are betting on the U.S. financial package regardless of what
anyone else says (e.g., Moody's see below), partly because
they can't sell significant chunks of their already large
T-bill holdings. However, investors in the Istanbul Stock
Exchange, including foreigners and smaller Turkish investors,
are feeling the stress of the moral hazard and some are
getting out. Thus, the ISE may be the more accurate
barometer of market sentiment at the moment. End Comment.


Warning from Moody's
--------------------


3. (U) In a March 11 interview with Reuters, Moody's analyst
for Turkey Kristin Lindow said the rating agency was
concerned that the U.S. package "would be off the table if
they wait another week or so." Lindow added that "if the
situation deteriorates for the debt costs, then we would
perhaps initiate a review for a downgrade." Moody's
currently rates Turkey's foreign-currency long-term debt at
B1 with a negative outlook, and lira-denominated debt at B3.
Comment: Turkish bond analysts traders disagree with Moody's
that the Erdogan government will miss the boat on U.S.
package. End Comment.


World Bank Criticism May Slow Down
Budget Process
-----------------------------------


4. (U) World Bank Country Director Chhibber, as we reported
earlier in week, called in a Reuters reporter March 10 to
say, "This is not a budget that the World Bank will support,"
adding "We think this budget is really quite anti-poor, it
hurts the farmers...It's a budget that supports people who
don't pay taxes because it gives them a tax amnesty...This
budget is also harmful to growth."


5. (U) Chhibber's Reuters interview had only a minor impact
on the markets, but it did anger the GOT and lead to lots of
press play, including the speculation (in mainstream daily
Hurriyet March 11) that the USG was behind this World Bank
criticism as part of its bargaining over the U.S. troop
deployment. Babacan, asked by a TV journalist whether this
was the case, strongly denied any U.S. role in the
"technical" differences between the GOT and the World Bank.


6. (U) On March 11, the World Bank office in Ankara issued a
clarifying statement that reads in part as follows:


-- "The World Bank has been unwavering in its support for
Turkey, esepcially over the past five years."


-- "For the future, the Bank is in broad agreement with the
Government's overall program of macroeconomic stabilization
and continued structural and social reforms. The Bank is
currently discussing with the Government certain issues
related to sustaining agricultural reofrm and social
assistance."


7. (SBU) Comment: Chhibber is not the only critic of this
draft budget - quite a few analysts agree that it strips
social spending, which will not be politically palatable for
long, and will likely depress growth this year. As World
Bank resrep Sally Zeillon admitted to us, this harsh public
criticism is not a usual Bank tactic. But it may pay off, if
the GOT agrees to add back into the budget at least TL 1
quadrillion of direct income support for farmers, to be
disbursed in November and December. WB/GOT talks are
continuing on the budget. THis may be used by the GOT later
as an excuse for not moving forward on passing the budget.
PEARSON

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