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Turkish stock market: Time to clean things up

Foreigners love the Turkish stock market because it behaves like none other on earth ­ driven by forces only a few can understand, involving politics, hidden assets and the so-called "chatterers". It's been referred to as one big inside trade. But there are serious attempts to clean it up. And Global Securities, the market leader, is under pressure to change its act. David Shirreff reports

When the Islamic/centre-right coalition banned Turkish nationals from entering the country's 74 casinos from October 1, where did gambling addicts put their money? On the Istanbul Stock Exchange of course. That, according to the popular daily Hürriyet, explained the inexorable rise of the stock exchange index in the final days of September.

Experienced Turkish brokers immediately recognized this story for what it was ­ complete rubbish. Mehmet Akkent, manager at Citicorp Securities in Istanbul, took time off to call the journalist and scold him for giving another jerk to an already chaotic market.

It's a game played by a whole raft of newspapers and magazines. Sometimes the stories, like this one, can be harmless fun. Sometimes they make a bunch of speculators, and perhaps the journalist, a heap of money. Sometimes they can be damaging, like the story flown by Sabah, Turkey's highest-circulation daily, on August 7.

Sabah said that the securities watchdog, the Capital Markets Board (CMB), was investigating two alleged irregularities: first, that a former head of the Privatization Administration (PA) had done a sweetheart deal with one broker in June, selling it stock in the national airline (THY) just before earnings announcements tripled the price.

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