Bitcoin demand surges in Turkey as lira plumbs new lows – report

Demand for bitcoin is jumping in Turkey after the lira fell to a six-month low against the dollar and inflation remained near 20 percent, CoinDesk reported on Wednesday.

Turkey already had the highest proportion of bitcoin users in Europe prior to a currency crisis that peaked in August last year, according to an ING report, CoinDesk's Leigh Cuen said. Turkey also had the highest rate of respondents globally that said they will hold the currency long-term at 45 percent, it said.

“Some users can increase their investments in bitcoin during the volatile periods of the Turkish lira,” Turkish vlogger Alp Işık told CoinDesk. “Turkish users generally use local exchanges as a gateway to foreign exchanges.”

The lira has slid more than 10 percent against the dollar this year, adding to losses of 28 percent in 2018. Inflation edged up to 19.7 percent in March, though is lower than a 15-year high of 25.2 percent set in October. Meanwhile, the country’s economy entered a recession in the fourth quarter of last year, official data shows.

Thirty thousand Turkish users have signed up to global crypto exchange OKEx since it expanded to Turkey on March 26, according to Andy Cheung, head of operations at the company.

“Turkey is without a doubt the only country that boasts of a high percentage of independent crypto-ownership in Europe and the Middle East,” Cheung told CoinDesk. “It has one of the most robust and promising crypto communities anywhere in the entire world.”

Inflation in the country is slowly, but consistently, driving demand for bitcoin, said BtcTurk CEO Ozgur Guneri, according to CoinDesk. He said his crypto exchange has also taken on 30,000 new users in 2019.

 “We have never seen a declining number of users, just the pace of growth might go down a little bit,” Guneri said “Even on the most bloody day, we’re signing up new users.”

The lira traded little changed at 5.96 per dollar at 12:49 p.m. local time in Istanbul on Thursday.