Cyprus deal weighs on Turk markets

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish shares ended slightly weaker yesterday in thin pre-holiday trade as investors awaited further moves to resolve the decades-old Cyprus problem. The lira firmed slightly to 1,336,000 against the dollar, up from 1,342,000. Yields on the busiest March 23, 2005, bonds rose to 25.29 percent from Thursday’s close of 24.98 percent. The Istanbul share index slipped 0.13 percent to close at 17,259.25 points, continuing Thursday’s technical correction which saw it shed 3.46 percent of its value. Brokers said market talk that the Cukurova Group would present a new debt-restructuring proposal for Yapi Kredi Bank helped support the market. Cukurova later issued a statement saying it was still working on the problem. Earlier this week, Turkey’s banking watchdog rejected Cukurova’s proposal for Yapi Kredi, and its shares slid. Yesterday, the bank bounced back, closing 8.82 percent higher at 2,775 lira. «We see the Cukurova Group attaches importance to this issue (of debt repayment) and wants to resolve it. The market has been buying on this expectation and this has helped keep the index above 17,100 points,» said Selcuk Ozcan of Ziraat Investment. Turkish markets will be closed until February 5 because of the Muslim holiday Eid Al Adha. Brokers said the main issues for the market in February would be the expected resumption of talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus before it joins the European Union on May 1 and continued talks with the IMF on the release of a new loan tranche. «It seems we face a turbulent period,» said Tayfun Oral, general manager of Oyak Investment. Hakan Avci of Raymond James Securities added, «If we get an indication that the talks on Cyprus are heading toward a positive conclusion, I guess Turkey should start to show a better performance than other developing markets.» The markets believe a deal on Cyprus, divided between ethnic Greeks and Turks since 1974, could ease Turkey’s own path toward European Union entry negotiations. Ankara has in recent days called for a swift resumption of talks which broke down last March.

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