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Thursday, March 23, 2023

ASX set for sharp falls despite Wall Street rising in rollercoaster session

Some investors are calling for the Fed to make cuts to interest rates soon to stanch the bleeding. The wider expectation, though, is that the Fed will likely pause or hold off on accelerating its rate hikes at its next meeting later this month.

“At this point in time, depending on reactions in financial markets and eventual fallout on the overall economy, we wouldn’t rule out that the hiking cycle could even be over and that the next move by Fed officials may be lower not higher,” said Kevin Cummins, chief US economist at NatWest.

There is speculation that the Fed will likely pause or hold off on accelerating its rate hikes at its next meeting later this month.Credit:Bloomberg

That would be a sharp turnaround from expectations earlier last week, when many traders were forecasting the Fed would hike its key overnight interest rate by 0.50 percentage points at its next meeting. That would be after the Fed had just downshifted last month to an increase of 0.25 points from earlier hikes of 0.50 and 0.75 points.

The fear was that stubbornly high inflation would force the Fed to get even tougher, and investors were bracing for the Fed to keep hiking at least a couple more times after that.

Higher interest rates can drag down inflation by slowing the economy, but they raise the risk of a recession later on. They also hit prices for stocks, as well as bonds already sitting in investors’ portfolios.


That latter effect is one of the reasons for Silicon Valley Bank’s troubles. The Fed began hiking interest rates almost exactly a year ago, and its fastest flurry in decades has brought its key overnight rate to a range of 4.50 per cent to 4.75 per cent. That’s up from virtually zero.

That has hurt the investment portfolios of banks, which often park their cash in Treasurys because they’re considered among the safest investments on Earth.

Rising rates and other moves reverse the Fed’s tremendous support for the economy during the pandemic have been effectively draining cash from the system, something Wall Street calls “liquidity.”

“Restoring liquidity in the banking system is easier than restoring confidence, and today it is clearly about the latter,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial.

All the fear led the price of gold to climb, as investors looked for things that seemed safe. It rose 2.6 per cent to $US1,916.80 per ounce.

Prices for Treasurys also shot higher on both demand for something safe and expectations for an easier Fed. That in turn sent their yields lower, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury plunged to 3.51 per cent from 3.70 per cent late on Friday. That’s a major move for the bond market.

The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, had an even more breathtaking drop. It fell to 4.11 per cent from 4.59 per cent Friday.

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has reverberated around the world.

Stock markets were mixed in Asia after the US government announced its plan to protect depositors at banks, but the losses deepened as trading headed westward through Europe. Germany’s DAX lost 3 per cent as bank stocks across the continent sank.

In London, the government arranged the sale of Silicon Valley Bank UK Ltd., the California bank’s British arm, for the nominal sum of one British pound, or roughly $US1.20.

On Wall Street, a measure of fear among stock investors touched its highest level since October.

Before trading began in Asia, the US Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Sunday that all Silicon Valley Bank clients will be protected and have access to their funds and announced steps designed to protect the bank’s customers and prevent more bank runs.


Regulators on Friday closed Silicon Valley Bank as investors withdrew billions of dollars from the bank in a matter of hours, marking the second-largest US bank failure behind the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual. They also announced Sunday that New York-based Signature Bank was being seized after it became the third-largest bank to fail in US history.


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