ECONOMY

Turkish exports soar in Q4

Turkey’s economic growth probably accelerated in the fourth quarter from a five-year low, as exports hit record levels and farming recovered from a drought. Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 5.1 percent, up from 3.3 percent in the previous three months, according to the median estimate of eight economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Forecasts ranged from 3.6 percent to 5.5 percent. The statistics office will release the figures in Ankara at 10 a.m. on Monday. Fourth-quarter exports increased 29 percent and reached a record $11.3 billion in November, helping to sustain a 24th consecutive quarter of economic expansion. Third-quarter growth was hurt by a drought that hit farm production. «The fourth quarter is going to be better because exports are strong and the impact of the drought is fading,» said Yarkin Cebeci, economist for JP Morgan Chase & Co in Istanbul. «The third quarter was extremely poor.» GDP in 2007 was about $651 billion, Deputy Prime Minister Nazim Ekren said on March 26, implying annual growth of about 5 percent, matching the government’s target. Turkey is aiming for 5.5 percent growth in 2008, although a global credit squeeze is likely to curb economic activity as Turkish banks often fund domestic lending by borrowing abroad. A court case to outlaw the ruling Justice and Development Party may also lead to political instability, damping economic expansion. «We forecast 4.4 percent growth this year and the risks to that are to the downside,» Cebeci said. The index of consumer confidence fell from 96.2 to 93.9 during the fourth quarter and in February hit 87.6, the lowest since records began in 2003. The central bank cut its benchmark overnight borrowing rate by a total of 2.25 percentage points to 15.25 percent between September and February before halting its reductions this month. Any pickup in domestic demand will be limited by the impact of the global credit squeeze, central bank Governor Durmus Yilmaz said on March 13. Industrial production increased at an average rate of 5.2 percent in the three months through November.