United States threatens more sanctions, keeping alive Turkish crisis

Christian Charisius  Reuters

Further sanctions or tariffs could exacerbate the already fragile economic situation in Turkey, and broader emerging markets.

Ebbing concerns over the fallout from the Turkish lira's recent slide also helped strengthen the euro against the dollar.

Also Friday, in more verbal sparring, Turkey's trade minister said her government would respond in kind to any new trade duties from the United States after U.S. Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin said the U.S. could put more sanctions on Turkey if the pastor is not released soon.

"Diplomatic negotiations hit speed-bumps and that's not unusual in these kinds of situations", said Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump who is also representing Brunson's family.

The fate of Andrew Brunson, charged with terror offenses by a Turkish court, also overshadows the predicament of a Turkish-American scientist from NASA and several Turkish workers for the US diplomatic mission who were arrested in Turkey.

He has been was accused by Turkey of being part of the 2016 attempted coup which aimed to overthrown the government of Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan.

Trump prefaced Mnuchin's remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend to America.

U.S. and European stocks wobbled today on investor concerns over Turkey and the ongoing trade war between China and the United States.

On Thursday, Trump said Turkey had "taken advantage of the United States for many years" and referred to Brunson as a "great patriot" who was being held "hostage".

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Trump added: "We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!"

The Turkish lira, which had stabilised against the dollar on Thursday, is falling again on Friday.

Elsewhere, the dollar dipped against a basket of six major currencies, moving further away from its highest levels since June 2017 hit earlier in the week as investors bought the US currency in a flight to safety.

The US doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports and Turkey hit back with $533 million of tariffs on some US imports that include cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks, with the additional warning it would boycott US electronics.

One currency trader said Friday's lira weakness was driven by "the new USA sanctions threat and the S&P decision, with position-closing in markets ahead of the public holiday".

The lira's collapse has plunged the entirety of the emerging market space into chaos, with contagion causing the likes of the South African rand, the Argentine peso, and the Indonesian rupiah, to slump in response.

Turkish officials said Erdogan spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, during which the French president said Turkey's economic stability is important for France. Erdogan has been criticized for not allowing the central bank adequate independence to raise interest rates despite an overheating economy and inflation now exceeding 15 percent - far above the central bank's target of 5 percent.

Tilmann Kolb of UBS wrote in a note last week that Turkey could be headed into "a full-fledged balance-of-payments crisis".

Whatever action the United States takes looks likely to cause more pain for Turkish assets.

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