Treasury yields jump as big U.S. banks pledge to shore up First Republic
By Vivien Lou Chen and Jamie Chisholm
The policy-sensitive 2-year Treasury yield spiked back above 4% on Thursday, along with the rate on 6-month T- bills, after several banks agreed to a funding deal to rescue First Republic Bank.
What drove markets
On Thursday, 11 banks -- including Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase --- stepped in to shore up First Republic Bank (FRC) in a joint rescue totaling $30 billion. The pledge gave U.S. stocks a lift and sent rates on 6-month, 1-year, 2-year and 3-year rates soaring.
The multibank action followed the Swiss central bank's efforts to support beleaguered bank Credit Suisse CH:CSGN.
Earlier on Thursday, the European Central Bank followed through with its plan to raise interest rates by a half-percentage point, given inflation that's projected to remain high. As with the Federal Reserve, investors fear the ECB's ability to tackle inflation by lifting rates had been compromised by fragility in the banking sector. But the ECB's decision to plow through with a half-point hike anyway was seen as offering a potential model for the Fed, according to analysts.
Uncertainty about the Fed's most likely policy trajectory has caused sharp moves up and down in bond yields in the past week, sending the ICE BofAML MOVE Index to its highest level since the 2008 financial crisis as of Wednesday.
Markets are pricing in an 81.9% probability that the Fed will raise interest rates by another 25 basis points -- to a range of 4.75% to 5% -- next Wednesday, according to the CME FedWatch tool. The central bank is still mostly expected to cut its policy rate by the end of the year, though traders have pulled back from expectations for a full percentage point worth of cuts by December, according to fed funds futures.
U.S. economic updates released on Thursday showed jobless claims tumbled to 192,000 last week and returned close to historic lows, suggesting that layoffs in the U.S. remain quite low. Meanwhile, housing starts rose by 9.8% in February to 1.45 million and the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing gauge remained deep in contraction territory this month.
What analysts are saying
"The Fed's goal is getting inflation in check and stabilizing the labor market. Neither of these are directly impacted by the SVB [Silicon Valley Bank] situation. SVB is a result of Fed tightening, however, the direct response is likely contained to a small subset of the market -- primarily VC backed companies. The decline of VC backed companies will likely not have a significant impact on inflation or the labor market in the US economy," said Austin Graff, co-chief investment officer and portfolio manager of the TrueShares Low Volatility Equity Income ETF."The Fed wants to avoid a stop/start process to rate hikes so we probably won't see the Fed change their course on rates until there is more clear data that inflation and the labor market are closer to desired levels," Graff said in an email to MarketWatch.
-Vivien Lou Chen
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March 16, 2023 16:00 ET (20:00 GMT)
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