Turkey's economy slides into recession

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People on Bosphorus bridgeImage source, EPA

Turkey went into recession at the end of last year, according to the country's official statistics office.

The Turkish Statistical Institute said the economy shrank by 2.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018, from the previous quarter.

It followed a 1.6% drop the previous quarter, making two quarters of falling growth - the definition of recession.

A trade war with the US sparked a steep fall in Turkey's currency, making imports far more expensive.

The two countries are opposed on a range of issues including how to fight the Islamic State group in Turkey's neighbour Syria, Turkey's plans to buy Russian missile defence systems and how to punish the alleged plotters of a failed coup in Turkey in 2016 which attempted to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey also wants the extradition of a Turkish cleric now living in the US who it has charged with terrorism and espionage.

Turkey's lira fell by 30% against the dollar last year, making imports on average a third more expensive.

That prompted the central bank to raise interest rates, making borrowing more expensive.

Car and housing sales suffered as a result and industrial production was also hit.

The final quarter's data leaves economic growth of 2.6% overall for 2018, the slowest since 2009, and a marked reverse from 2017's growth rate of 7.4%.

Worst over?

The news comes as President Erdogan, fights to keep his party in control of key cities Ankara and Istanbul in nationwide local elections.

Rising prices, especially for food, and high unemployment, are major election issues.

Turkey's finance minister, Berat Albayrak, said the worst was over and he expects the economy to return to growth by the end of this year.

But analysts at Capital Economics expect the economy to perform poorly this year.

"While the worst of the downturn may now have passed, the weak carryover means that we expect GDP to decline by 2.5% this year," the firm said in a research note.

It adds, though, that is it more gloomy than other commentators.