NEW YORK, March 16 ― US stocks pared losses late yesterday but the Dow and S&P 500 still closed lower, as problems at Credit Suisse revived fears of a banking crisis, eclipsing bets on a smaller US rate hike this month.
Benchmark indexes regained some ground in late trade after Bloomberg reported the Swiss government was holding talks on options to stabilize the country’s banking giant. The Nasdaq composite closed with slight gains.
“We are seeing movement on the headlines but not severe headlines which is good. … I don’t think we are at 2008-2009 stages by any means when it comes to the contagion stuff,” said Themis Trading co-manager of trading, Joe Saluzzi.
Still, Credit Suisse troubles piled more pressure on the banking sector after US authorities relieved investors with emergency measures to prevent contagion after the collapse of SVB Financial and Signature Bank.
Some investors believe aggressive US interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve caused cracks in the financial system.
“They’ve tightened at the steepest, most dramatic rate that we’ve seen since 1980 and so I think this could be the opportunity for them to pause,” said Cresset Capital CIO, Jack Ablin.
US-listed shares of Credit Suisse hit a record low, after its largest investor said it could not provide more financing to the bank, starting a rout in European lenders and pressuring US banks as well.
The selloff put an early end to Wall Street’s lukewarm rebound in yesterday’s session.
“The bounce back yesterday in financial stocks, the banks, made sense, but sort of an overriding factor here is a loss of confidence and it’s really fear of the unknown,” said Adams Funds CEO and senior portfolio manager Mark Stoeckle.
Data showed US retail sales fell 0.4 per cent last month after 3.2 per cent growth in January. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a contraction of 0.3 per cent.
A separate report showed US producer prices unexpectedly fell in February, a day after another reading showed moderation in consumer inflation. This fuelled investor hopes the Fed might slow its rate hikes.
US Treasury yields fell, with traders now expecting equal chances of a 25-basis-point rate hike and a pause at the Fed’s March meeting.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 280.83 points, or 0.87 per cent, to 31,874.57, the S&P 500 lost 27.36 points, or 0.70 per cent, to 3,891.93 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.90 points, or 0.05 per cent, to 11,434.05.
First Republic Bank tumbled 21.37 per cent while PacWest Bancorp slid 12.87 per cent, and trading was halted several times for volatility, a day after shares of the battered banks staged a strong recovery.
Shares of Western Alliance Bancorp and bank and brokerage Charles Schwab Corp bucked the trend to close up 8.3 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. Both stocks reversed early declines.
“In the financial markets, you just have to look at the ones that could weather through and don’t have as much investment risk on their on their portfolio,” said Jeffrey Carbone, managing partner at Cornerstone Wealth.
Big US banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup and Bank of America Corp dropped, pushing the S&P 500 banking index down 3.62 per cent. The KBW regional banking index declined 1.57 per cent.
Most of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were in the red, with energy the worst performer with a 5.42 per cent fall.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.34-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.33-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 3 new 52-week highs and 37 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 379 new lows. ― Reuters