Bank lifelines ease global financial crisis fears

On Friday, Asian stocks were mostly higher in morning trade, tracking Wall Street's relief rally

By Reuters

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Image used for illustrative purposes only (Photo: AP)
Image used for illustrative purposes only (Photo: AP)

Published: Fri 17 Mar 2023, 9:16 AM

Multi-billion dollar lifelines for troubled US and European banks shored up investor confidence on Friday and bolstered sentiment in battered stocks, although concerns now centre on whether a global financial crisis has been fully averted.

Large US banks injected $30 billion in deposits into First Republic Bank on Thursday, swooping in to rescue the lender caught up in a widening crisis triggered by the collapse of two other mid-size US lenders over the past week.


The package came less than a day after Swiss bank Credit Suisse clinched an emergency central bank loan of up to $54 billion to shore up its liquidity, which went some way to calming panic about a global banking crisis.

On Friday, Asian stocks were mostly higher in morning trade, tracking Wall Street's relief rally. First Republic Bank's stock closed up 10 per cent on news of the rescue but its shares fell 18 per cent in after-market trading, after the bank said it would suspend its dividend. The stock is down more than 70 per cent since March 6.


"I don't think we are in the crux of a global financial crisis, balance sheets are much better than they were in 2008, banks are better regulated," said Karen Jorritsma, head of Australian equities, RBC Capital Market. "But people are concerned that the contagion risk is real, and that rattles confidence."

The European Central Bank pressed forward with a 50-basis-point rate hike on Thursday despite the financial markets turmoil, arguing that euro zone banks were resilient and that if anything, the move to higher rates should bolster their margins.

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Focus now swings to the Federal Reserve's policy decision next week and whether it will stick with its aggressive interest rate hikes as it seeks to get inflation under control.

In Asia, authorities in Singapore and Australia said they were monitoring financial markets but were confident local banks were well capitalised and able to withstand major shocks.

Banking stocks globally have been battered since Silicon Valley Bank collapsed last week due to bond-related losses that piled up when interest rates surged last year, raising questions about what else might be lurking in the wider banking system.

Within days, the market turmoil had ensnared Credit Suisse, forcing it to borrow from Switzerland's central bank.

By Thursday, the spotlight whipsawed back to the United States as big banks led an effort to shore up support for First Republic, a regional lender whose shares had tumbled 70% in the last nine trading sessions.

Some of the biggest U.S. banking names including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp , Wells Fargo & Co, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were involved in the rescue, according to a statement from the banks.

The deal was put together by top power brokers including U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who together discussed the package on Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Emergency liquidity

Credit Suisse became the first major global bank to take up an emergency lifeline since the 2008 financial crisis as fears of contagion swept the banking sector and raised doubts over whether central banks will be able to sustain aggressive rate hikes to rein in inflation.

Rapidly rising rates have made it harder for some businesses to pay back or service loans, increasing the chances of losses for lenders already worried about a recession.

Policymakers have tried to emphasise that the current turmoil is different to the global financial crisis 15 years ago as banks are better capitalised and funds more easily available.

But data on Thursday also showed banks in the United States sought record amounts of emergency liquidity from the central bank in recent days, driving up the size of the Fed's balance sheet after months of contraction.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen said the country's banking system remains sound thanks to "decisive and forceful" actions following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

Credit Suisse shares closed 19% higher on Thursday, recovering some of their 25% fall on Wednesday. Since March 8, European banks have lost around $165 billion in market value, Refinitiv data shows.


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