February Inflation: Simply Backtracking

Having lived up to all the hype, Turkey’s February headline inflation printed a double-digit figure. Moreover, further upside movement should be expected as core indicators, the negative base effect of food prices, and most importantly, producer price index that is hanging around its record highs in a decade. Indeed, Turkey’s PPI hit 15.4% in February, which is the highest figure posted since July 2008, signaled some pressure to be felt arising out of cost channels.

Our long-term trend for the core indicator D-index suggests that it may already have reached at the end of upward trend, while we see it fit to add annotation due to above-mentioned factor that are able to lift the inflation unfavorably.

That said, Turkish central bank, at the peak of its well-known unorthodoxy, keeps the effective funding rate above the 12-month forward inflation expectations, as it is currently throwing money around with a cost almost 250 bps above its policy rate. We expect the bank to maintain its policy, and lift its marginal funding rate by another 100 bps in the upcoming monetary policy committee, which is scheduled to the day after the US Federal Reserve FOMC where another 25 bps could be added to the cost of global reserve currency.

Meanwhile Turkish lira’s performance has absolutely failed to paint a promising picture.

Inflation Risk Rises As Lira Falters

There is substantial uncertainty stemming from several factors pressuring the core indicators, both to the upside and downside. On one hand, we have slowing economic activity with faster than expected rise in unemployment is easing inflationary pressures. On the other hand, TRY depreciating trend which has steepened recently is expected to keep on fueling inflation.

turkey-core-inflation-lira-depreciation-fx-pass-throughBroader inflation expectations are, give or take, 100 basis points above the inflation level targeted by the Turkish central bank for 2017. This, in our view, signals that expectation are not anchored yet, which in itself poses risks to actual inflation. The weakening trends in the TRY depreciation picked up the pace in the last few weak weeks could increase pressure on inflation. We previously stated that we had expected TRY to reach 3.20 (versus the US dollar) by 2016-year end, which now seems to be overshot, thus leading us to raise our target to 3.30. Turkey’s historically high FX-pass through will eventually pose upside risks to inflation expectations. For instance, on the headline inflation front, the weaker TRY already has resulted in the need for gasoline price adjustments. Overall, we expect core inflation (I-index) to hit 8.5% in 1H 2017, taking us ahead of the curve.