Turkey inflation sees biggest monthly jump since August

A tram passes shoppers as it travels along Istiklal Street in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023.

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In January, Turkish inflation logged its biggest monthly jump since August with a 6.7% rise from December, while year-on-year inflation hit nearly 65%, according to the Turkish Central Bank’s figures released Monday.

The consumer price index (CPI) for the country of 85 million people increased by 64.86% annually, up slightly from the 64.77% of December. Sectors with the largest monthly price rises were health at 17.7%, hotels, cafes and restaurants at 12%, and miscellaneous goods and services at just over 10%. Clothing and footwear was the only sector showing a monthly price decrease, with -1.61%.

Food, beverages and tobacco, as well as transportation, all increased between roughly 5% and 7% month-on-month, while housing was up 7.4% since December.

The monthly rises, economists say, stem from a significant increase to the minimum wage that Turkey’s government mandated for 2024. The minimum wage for the year has increased to 17,002 Turkish lira ($556.50) per month, a 100% hike from January 2023.

Turkey’s central bank has been on a prolonged mission to bring down inflation, implementing eight consecutive interest rate hikes since May 2023, for a cumulative 3,650 basis points. The bank’s latest hike, on Jan. 25, raised the key interest rate by 250 basis points to 45%.

The more conventional approach follows several years of unorthodox policy during which Ankara refused to tighten rates despite ballooning inflation. The lira is down 38% against the dollar year to date and has lost more than 80% of its value against the greenback over the last five years. 

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The latest inflation print comes just days after Turkey’s Central Bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan announced her resignation, saying on Friday that the decision was due to a “reputation assassination” campaign and the need to protect her family.

Erkan became the bank’s central governor by presidential decree in June of 2023, and led — along with Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simek — the turnaround in Turkey’s monetary policy and subsequent series of interest rate rises.

Turkish Central Bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan answers questions during a news conference for the Inflation Report 2023-III in Ankara, Turkey on July 27, 2023.

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She was replaced on Saturday by the central bank’s deputy governor, Fatih Karahan, who spent nearly a decade as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

January’s inflation figures “highlight the continued strength of services inflation and may put pressure on new central bank governor Karaham to restart the central bank’s tightening cycle,” Liam Peach, senior emerging markets economist at London-based Capital Economics, wrote in a research note.

“The fact that inflation didn’t rise significantly more than expected in January is positive given the uncertainty about the impact of the minimum wage hike,” Peach wrote. “But the figures present a small setback to the disinflation process and highlight the continued strength of services inflation. For now, the central bank’s end-year inflation forecast of 36% remains intact.”  

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