ECONOMY

Markets await aid news

LONDON (Reuters) – Emerging bond trade continued thin yesterday in London as traders awaited news on Turkey and on what US financial support could be available to it if the US goes to war with neighboring Iraq. European traders were also waiting for US traders, the largest source of emerging debt liquidity, to return to their desks after the Christmas and New Year holidays. Turkish officials have told the country’s press that they would seek $28 billion in aid if war breaks out. Turkish newspapers said the US might offer anywhere between $4 billion and $15 billion. «The local press have narrowed the number to something like $15 billion,» said Isaac Tabor, senior emerging market economist at Merrill Lynch in London. «The market wants to find comfort in a figure that is large enough… to compensate for the disruption any conflict would have on the Turkish economy.» «I have seen small amounts of Turkish buying in the short maturities, but nothing in the long end,» said a trader at a German bank. «What is driving the market is the talk of how big the aid package might be, but I have heard anything between $5 billion and $30 billion,» he said. Because of this, the market had shrugged off data published on Friday, showing Turkish inflation beating IMF targets by five points. That would ordinarily have boosted Turkey debt prices in yesterday’s session, traders and analysts said. Turkey is particularly vulnerable because its economy is being nursed to health by a $16 billion program, designed to rescue the country following 2001’s financial meltdown. A war in a neighboring country would likely slash Turkey’s tourism revenues, increase the cost at which it borrows and could spark a flight of money away from the country. While Turkish Foreign Ministry officials have mentioned $28 billion as an estimate of the cost of a war, other estimates have been reported as high as over $100 billion. Diplomats said that range did not reflect the size of the funding being negotiated by Turkey and the US Treasury. «People have been looking at numbers and $4-15 billion is the range of numbers that serious analysts have been talking about,» said one Western diplomat.