ISTANBUL: The lira was slightly weaker on Monday after Turkey's finance minister was cited as saying he expected some $10 billion of forex bank deposits to be converted to lira due to a new law exempting such deposits from corporate tax.

Sources also cited Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati as saying he expected inflation to rise to about 40% in the months ahead, lower than most estimates, and that no interest rate hikes were planned by the central bank.

At 0542 GMT, the lira traded at 13.49, weakening 0.15% from Friday's close of 13.4695. It tumbled 44% last year after the central bank slashed its policy by 500 basis points to 14% since September, but has steadied this month.

Nebati met economists on Saturday and gave a presentation on Turkey's economic model which he said aimed to solve the current account deficit problem, overcome the middle income trap and lift Turkey up the global value chain.

In a statement, his ministry also cited Nebati as saying that project banking would be accelerated and that value-added tax would be simplified.

Volatile Turkish lira seesaws after inflation surges

Turkey's parliament last week approved a law under which lira deposits converted from forex under a scheme to support the currency will be exempt from corporate income tax on gains resulting from the conversion.

Companies have some $90 billion worth of foreign currency bank deposits, central bank data shows.

According to participants at Saturday's meeting, Nebati said that lira deposits in the scheme had reached 184 billion lira ($13.7 billion) by Jan. 21, while forex conversions to lira as a result of the corporate tax move could reach as much as $20 billion based on Treasury assessments.

The deposit scheme, announced by President Tayyip Erdogan in December, compensates depositors for any loss in the value of the lira incurred during the duration of the deposit.

According to four participants, Nebati told the meeting that the most important priority would be lowering inflation, which surged to 36% in December.

Economists see inflation reaching 50% in the first half of the year. However, Nebati was cited as saying he did not expect such a rise, but that inflation could rise to around 40% in the coming three months, before subsequently falling clearly, potentially to below 30% by year end.

Nebati reiterated that inflation would fall to single digits by the time of elections set for mid-2023.

Participants also cited him as saying that there would be no turning back from the central bank's current monetary policy and that nobody should expect rate hikes, adding that the policy rate's importance had lessened.


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