Regional and big bank stocks choppy amid rising fears of banking crisis
By Steve Gelsi and Ciara Linnane
Woes at Credit Suisse and jitters over bank solvency quickly end rally in regional bank stocks from the previous session
Shares of megabanks fell into the red and U.S. regional banks mostly lost ground Wednesday, as concerns about Credit Suisse and worries about a flight of deposits from smaller lenders weighed on the sector.
First Republic Bank (FRC) stock dropped 21.4% as S&P Global Rating cut the company's debt grade by four notches to BB-plus from A-minus, placing it in speculative grade, or 'junk,' status.
Bloomberg reported that Bank of America (BAC) drew in more than $15 billion in customer deposits recently following the failure of three banks in the space of a week.
A rally in regional bank stocks in the previous session reversed course, with most bank stocks moving well into negative territory. Some bank stocks rose, however.
See now:Moody's now negative on U.S. banks due to 'extremely volatile funding conditions,' while First Republic and other regional banks are placed under review
Short sellers of regional bank stocks are seeing windfall profits of $3.53 billion in March in the month to date and of more than $2.29 billion in the last three days of trading, according to data analytics company S3 Partners Research, which tracks short selling data.
The most shorted stock is PNC Financial Services (PNC), which fell 4.2% on Wednesday.
"We have seen increased short selling in the sector over the last seven days with $416 million of new short selling partially offsetting a $3.9 billion decline in the stock prices of shares shorted," S3 wrote in commentary
Credit Suisse (CSGN.EB) sank 13.9% and weighed on other bank stocks after it admitted material weakness and its largest shareholder, Saudi National Bank, told Bloomberg that it would not provide more liquidity for regulatory and statutory reasons.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) dropped by 4.7%, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) retreated by 3.1%, Morgan Stanley (MS) dropped by 5.1%, Citigroup Inc. (C) moved lower by 5.4% and Wells Fargo & Co(WFC). dropped 3.3%.
In its downgrade of First Republic, S&P cited increased wholesale borrowings further weighing on the regional bank's net interest margin.
"We believe the risk of deposit outflows is elevated at First Republic Bank despite the actions of federal banking regulators and the bank actively increasing its borrowing availability to mitigate risk associated with the bank failures over the last week," S&P said in a statement. "We believe that First Republic's deposit base is more concentrated than most large U.S. regional banks, which presents heightened funding risks in the current environment."
The move will raise borrowing costs for First Republic and potentially dent its image, making other corporate debt more attractive to investors.
Among other regional bank stocks, Zions Bancorp. (ZION) dropped 1.9% and Western Alliance Bancorp. (WAL) rallied 8.3% after UBS upgraded the stock to a buy..
Truist Financial (TFC) rose 0.7% after Citi analyst Keith Horowitz lifted his rating on the company to buy despite headwinds in the market on earnings challenges and potential regulatory action.
Horowitz said Truist stock now offers an attractive entry point after a 27% loss in the last five days.
"The primary risk to our thesis is depositor behavior given market reactions, which could induce deposit flight, but we view this as relatively unlikely," he said. "The TFC bear case is all about high held-to-maturity (HTM) losses relative to equity and we believe this thesis is flawed."
Truist is a "fundamentally different bank" than now-defunct Silicon Valley Bank, he said.
Synchrony Financial (SYF) dropped 5.1% after it disclosed that over-30 day loan delinquencies and net charge-offs, or debt owed that was written off, as a percentage of loan receivables for February rose from January and from a year ago, which the consumer financial services company said just reflected the "normalization of credit trends."
Gainers in the banking sector Wednesday included Metropolitan Bank Holdings Corp. (MCB), up 15%, Prosperity Bancshares (PB), up 3.6%, Customers Bancorp stock (CUBI), up 10.8% and Comerica Inc. (CMA), up by 3.1%.
MarketWatch Live: U.S. stocks move sharply lower as bank worries intensify with Credit Suisse woes
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March 15, 2023 16:39 ET (20:39 GMT)
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