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01/19DJTurkey's Central Bank Leaves Rates Unchanged
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Turkey's Central Bank Leaves Rates Unchanged

01/19/2016 | 01:02am US/Eastern

ISTANBUL?Turkey's central bank kept interest rates steady on Tuesday, delaying a long-promised policy shift for a second consecutive month as the lira flirts with record lows and runaway inflation expectations cloud the economic outlook.

The bank's Monetary Policy Committee said in a statement it kept the benchmark one-week repo rate at 7.5%, and left unchanged its interest-rate corridor, ranging from the overnight borrowing rate of 7.25% to the 10.75% overnight lending rate. Policy makers haven't changed their stance since a round of cuts in February.

The decision is in line with the forecasts of 13 economists in a Wall Street Journal survey, in which all but two participants expected the central bank to stand pat. One economist had expected policy makers to raise the one-week repo rate to 9%, while another said it would rise to 7.75% and the overnight-borrowing rate would inch up to 7.5%.

With Tuesday's decision, Gov. Erdem Basci once again didn't fulfill a pledge to normalize the central bank's unorthodox monetary policies, which he had unveiled in August and anchored to the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest-rate increase in December.

After defying market expectations last month, policy makers said they would start to gradually scrap the broad interest-rate corridor for a single benchmark rate when financial volatility declines.

But in the month since the central bank's last meeting, volatility has surged and the Turkish lira has lost about 4% against the dollar, nearing its Sept. 24 all-time low of 3.0755 to the greenback. Inflation also spiked at year's end, finishing 2015 up 8.8% and overshooting the 5% official target by its largest margin since 2011. Economists forecast consumer price increases will accelerate to about 9.5% in the coming months.

"With inflation still rising and the lira still vulnerable, the central bank should not wait any longer to hike," currency strategists at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. said Tuesday.

Write to Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com

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