Banking Backstops Have Gone Global
Cleaning up a Swiss mess
Shares in Credit Suisse rose as much as 40 percent on Thursday, after the embattled lender said it would borrow up to $54 billion from the Swiss National Bank to restore investor confidence.
The move appeared to allay fears of widening banking contagion after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, at least for now. But all eyes are on the European Central Bank, which is set to announce its latest move on interest rates on Thursday, and whether central banks worldwide will temper their inflation-fighting maneuvers to avoid further spooking investors.
Credit Suisse hopes it has put fears for its survival to bed. The bank said it would make use of a liquidity backstop by the S.N.B. and buy back $3.2 billion worth of debt. The moves came after Credit Suisse shares hit an all-time low on Wednesday. More worryingly, the cost of insuring its debt via credit default swaps blew out to record prices, making it more expensive for the firm to fund its daily operations.
Analysts were cautiously optimistic that Credit Suisse had stamped out investor panic: RBC Capital Markets told clients that the measures “should provide some comfort,” while JPMorgan Chase wrote that the steps “will be sufficient to buy the institution the time required to execute on its restructuring plan.” Still, Morningstar cautioned that, fundamentally, Credit Suisse “has a profitability problem, not an asset quality problem.”
Investors tiptoed back into other bank stocks as well. Shares in European lenders like BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank rose modestly on Thursday, while the broader STOXX Europe 600 index jumped 2 percent at the open before giving up most of those gains. Futures for American lenders whose stocks dropped on Wednesday, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, were looking up as well.
But some investors worry that there is the potential for more pain in the coming weeks. “You’re going to get those long and variable, cumulative and lagged impacts hitting the market further,” Bob Michele, the chief investment officer of JPMorgan Asset Management, told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday. One influential factor that he cited: how central banks react to the recent turmoil.
What will the E.C.B. do on Thursday? The central bank is set to announce its latest rates move at 9:15 a.m. Eastern. But while Christine Lagarde, the bank’s president, had all but committed to a half-percentage-point increase, traders and economists are increasingly betting that it will raise rates by only a quarter of a point to avoid further hammering the value of banks’ bond holdings.
Further out, the Fed is still expected to raise rates by a quarter of a point next week. Analysts also predict that rate cuts could come in the back half of the year, if economic data show that inflation is stabilizing. (Some evidence for that came from Wednesday’s retail sales and producer price data.) Bonds have rallied in recent weeks on hopes that interest rates won’t go much higher and amid worries about a recession.
In other news:
First Republic is exploring strategic options, including a sale, after its credit rating was downgraded on Wednesday.
Silicon Valley Bank’s culture is under scrutiny after the firm’s collapse.
No, “wokeness” didn’t kill S.V.B.
And a Silicon Valley Bank employee wrote a parody of Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” to (half-jokingly) ask Elon Musk to rescue her firm.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
The White House demands that TikTok be sold. In calling for the sale of the video service, the Biden administration has hardened its stance against the company’s owner, ByteDance of China. TikTok said it was weighing its options but argued that a sale wouldn’t help protect American users’ data from Chinese government prying. Shares in its rival Snap surged in premarket trading on the news.
U.S. regulators approve Canadian Pacific’s deal to buy a rival Kansas City Southern. The $31 billion transaction, which would create the first railroad to span North America, won’t reduce competition, according to the Surface Transportation Board. The deal comes amid heightened scrutiny of railroad safety, though the board said that wouldn’t be an issue.
A fugitive Chinese billionaire is charged with fraud. Federal prosecutors said that Guo Wengui, an associate of Steve Bannon and a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, orchestrated an elaborate conspiracy to defraud online followers of at least $1 billion. The charges mirror similar ones lodged against Mr. Guo in China, which he left in 2014.
Wells Fargo’s former retail chief pleads guilty over sham bank accounts. Federal prosecutors accused Carrie Tolstedt, who ran the lender’s banking branches, of turning a blind eye to signs that employees were using illegal tactics to meet aggressive sales targets. Ms. Tolstedt, the first high-ranking Wells Fargo executive to face criminal charges, faces up to 16 months in prison.
Virgin Orbit furloughs nearly all its employees. Richard Branson’s satellite-launching company told workers on Wednesday that it was pausing operations for a week and putting them on unpaid leave as it sought to secure an investment lifeline, according to CNBC. Virgin Orbit has struggled since a mid-flight mission failure in January.
Rethinking bank regulations
The Fed’s failure to spot the risks at Silicon Valley Bank has sparked a debate in Washington focused on two areas, report The Times’s Jeanna Smialek and Emily Flitter. Did a push to relax some regulations for small and midsize banks in 2018 go too far? And do the existing rules suffice for a changing world? Here are the big questions in play:
How big does a bank have to be to pose a systemic risk? The government’s robust response to Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse showed that even the 16th-largest is big enough. Now, some Democratic lawmakers want to reverse changes to banking regulations, including a provision that raised the threshold at which banks become subject to tougher rules to $250 billion in assets. Policymakers are also set to review how they run stress tests, which are meant to measure a bank’s ability to respond to changing economic conditions. Many economists had assumed that inflation and interest rates would stay low for a long time — and apparently the stress tests were based on the same flawed assumption.
Should more deposits be insured? Silicon Valley Bank’s huge share of uninsured depositors fled quickly amid signs of weakness. This raises questions about whether deposit insurance needs to be extended more broadly, or if regulators should limit the amount of uninsured deposits banks can hold.
Do we need new rules for the Twitter era? Randal Quarles, a former vice chair for supervision at the Fed, doesn’t think the regulatory rollbacks in 2018 caused the bank’s collapse. But he acknowledged that the meltdown raised new questions about how to regulate when technology accelerates a bank run. “You had this perfect flow of imperfect information that really increased the speed and intensity of this run,” he said.
Lobbyists are already making their case in Washington. The Bank Policy Institute, an industry trade group, has told lawmakers that failures of bank supervision and management, not inadequate regulations, were to blame. The American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive think tank, gave DealBook a first look at its policy wish list, including a repeal of the 2018 rollbacks, recovery of compensation paid to bank executives and clawback provisions built into any future government responses.
— The value of loans and payments made to Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the collapsed crypto exchange FTX, according to a new court filing. Most of that came from its sister trading arm, Alameda Research.
Stripe’s down round isn’t all bad news
Stripe, the digital payments specialist that rode a stay-at-home boom in e-commerce sales to a $95 billion valuation, has secured a new funding round that’s significantly shrunk its market worth.
The deal underscores the new market reality that even Silicon Valley darlings of the start-up scene will find it hard to justify sky-high valuations amid a wider pullback in venture funding.
The Stripe deal, which will help employees cash out their stock holdings, raised $6.5 billion at a $50 billion valuation. Investors include existing backers Andreessen Horowitz and Thrive Capital, as well as newcomers GIC, Temasek and Goldman Sachs Asset and Wealth Management.
The deal ranks among the largest private placement deals ever, no small feat given the turmoil in the V.C. and banking sectors. Goldman Sachs served as sole placement agent on the transaction. JPMorgan Chase acted as a financial adviser.
One of the main reasons that companies typically eschew down rounds — investor dilution — does not fully apply here. A portion of the funds Stripe raised will be used to cover employee tax obligations on their restricted stock awards. The rest will be used for a tender offer for employees’ shares. The deal was not affected by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, DealBook hears.
Stripe, which counts Amazon, Ford and others as customers, sought — and received — a valuation multiple based on revenue that’s higher than those of publicly traded peers like PayPal, DealBook hears.
THE SPEED READ
T-Mobile agreed to buy Mint Mobile, the start-up wireless provider backed by the actor Ryan Reynolds, for up to $1.35 billion. (NYT)
Carl Icahn urged Illumina to sell its newly acquired Grail business, as he wages a proxy fight against the life sciences company. (Reuters)
Disney executives reportedly favor the sale of the media giant’s majority stake in the streaming platform Hulu, but are less certain about what to do with ESPN. (FT)
The S.E.C. proposed new cybersecurity rules for financial firms, including requiring brokers and asset managers to notify customers of data breaches within 30 days. (WSJ)
Britain’s highest court sided with Ukraine in a $3 billion dispute with Russia over bonds it sold to Moscow a decade ago. (Bloomberg)
How makers of chatbots in China are grappling with ensuring their software doesn’t offend Beijing. (WSJ)
Best of the rest
Demonstrators in France took to the streets again — and mountains of garbage went uncollected — to protest raising the retirement age to 64, a bill that now heads to the National Assembly for an uncertain vote. (NYT)
A big shareholder in British American Tobacco urged the company to swap its London listing for a U.S. one. (FT)
“Musk Brought Internet to the Amazon. Criminals Love It.” (AP)
Will holograms become part of the next evolution of the workplace? (Insider)
Richard Rosenberg, the former chairman and C.E.O. of Bank of America, died on March 3. He was 92. (NYT)
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