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Plunging Lira Stokes Unusual Options Activity in Turkey ETF

This article was originally published on ETFTrends.com.

With the Turkish lira slumping to record lows against the U.S. dollar, the iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (TUR) was punished last Friday, putting the only US-listed ETF tracking Turkish stocks on pace for its one-day loss ever.

TUR, which tracks the MSCI Turkey Investable Market Index, is over a decade old. Compounding the fund's woes was commentary from President Trump regarding new trade tariffs against Turkey.

“The Turkish lira is plummeting for a variety of reasons most notably the central bank’s refusal to raise interest rates to support it as well as a recent ramp up in U.S. sanctions,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell. “Currency weakness is fueling inflation and making it more expensive for Turkey to repay its large foreign currency denominated debt.”

Data suggest bearish options traders gravitated to TUR on Friday.

By midday Friday, TUR had seen “roughly 13,000 puts and 4,800 calls change hands -- 14 times the average intraday pace. Today's options volume is now on pace to hit an annual high, and top the current peak set on June 4, when about 26,000 puts and 12,000 calls were exchanged,” according to Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Turkey Currency Troubles

The weakness in the lira has in turn diminished the ability of companies to repay foreign currency-denominated debt, fueled inflation and pressured the central bank to hike rates, which would further hamper growth.

“Most active today is the September 19 put, where several notable blocks were apparently bought to open within the first five minutes of trading. By purchasing the puts to open, the buyers expect TUR shares to breach $19 -- and extend their run to new lows -- by the close on Friday, Sept. 21, when the options expire,” said Schaeffer's.

Related: Turkey Situation Could Change Fed’s Mind About Rates

This year, Turkish assets have been plagued by concerns that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would erode the central bank’s powers and push for looser monetary and fiscal policies. Erdogan has already stated that high interest rates are “the mother and father of all evils,” fueling fears that his desire for lower rates could further deteriorate the currency and elevate inflationary pressures. The central bank tried an emergency rate hike to stem the lira's slide, but that has proven ineffective.

For more information on the Turkish markets, visit our Turkey category.