Asian stocks slide on US bank concerns
Singapore — Falling bank stocks drove Asian markets lower on Friday, while bonds rallied and expectations for US interest rate rises were reduced after a surprise capital raising at a Silicon Valley start-up lender unleashed fears of broader banking-system stress.
The yen weakened and Japanese government bond yields plunged after the Bank of Japan opted to keep stimulus settings steady at governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s last meeting in charge, as expected.
The benchmark 10-year JGB yield, which the Bank of Japan pins within 50 basis points either side of zero, pulled back sharply from that ceiling to last sit at 0.445%. The yen was last down about 0.4% at 136.615/$ after a knee-jerk drop of as much as 0.6%.
Japan’s Nikkei pared declines to last be down about 1%, compared to a 1.23% loss before the central bank decision.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.8% to a two-month low, with banks and Hong Kong tech stocks leading losses.
S&P 500 futures were down 0.57%, following the cash index dropping 1.8% and falling below its 200-day moving average.
The US dollar edged higher and short-end Treasuries extended sharp overnight gains — driving two-year yields down another 12 basis points to 4.7837% in Tokyo trading.
Fed funds futures also rallied strongly, pulling the market-implied peak in US rates from above 5.6% to just below 5.5%, and pricing about a 50% chance of a 50 basis point Fed hike this month, down from more than 70% a day earlier.
The sharp moves followed SVB Financial Group, parent of start-up lender Silicon Valley Bank, noting a higher-than-expected “cash burn” from clients, falling deposits and rising costs of capital. It announced an equity sale hours after crypto-focused lender Silvergate said it was closing down.
SVB stock was still sliding after the bell and has lost about 70% of its value in 24 hours. Shares of big banks were dragged down with it, with JPMorgan Chase losing 5.4%, Citigroup down 4.1% and big lenders in Asia and Australia on the slide — albeit to a lesser extent — on Friday morning.
“I think there’s speculation that there are wider problems within the US banking system, or there’s that potential, and that’s caused a rethink of Fed policy,” said ING economist Rob Carnell in Singapore.
“The thinking is that if what the Fed’s doing is causing this distress, then perhaps they won’t be doing that much more,” he said.
“But it’s a big move on the back of what seems to be some fairly woolly speculation … which just shows how antsy the markets are right now, and this has spilled into all the other markets.”
Surprisingly high US jobless claims have offered a weak entrée for broader US employment data later on Friday, putting some pressure on recent dollar gains.
The figures loom as a crucial barometer of the health of the US labour market and the direction of interest rates after Fed chair Jerome Powell warned rates could rise further and faster if data shows that is needed to get a grip on inflation.
Bitcoin was nursing losses just above the psychological $20,000 level as the fallout from the demise of Silvergate weighs on the broader mood in digital assets.
Brent crude futures eased to $81.19 a barrel while gold was pinned at $1,830/oz.