Markets Calm Down And Banking Contagion Fears Ease – For Now

Published on
  • Degree of calm returns to markets
  • Kingfisher sees rising shareholder returns ahead
  • Bloomberg reports US considering guaranteeing all bank deposits

Banking Contagion Fears Ease

“Markets took a breather from fretting about banking contagion overnight. Wall Street saw modest rallies across leading industrial, financial and technology sectors as investors dissected the detail of the rescue of Credit Suisse Group AG (NYSE:CS) by longstanding rival, UBS Group AG (NYSE:UBS).

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The deal has combined Switzerland’s two leading banks, both of them leading players in the international investment banking arena. Both, of course, are also substantial private bankers handling the affairs of rich families worldwide.

Initially sceptical of the deal, the market’s mood changed over the course of yesterday, with UBS shares ending higher after a sharp initial fall. There was no respite for First Republic Bank (NYSE:FRC) though, with the Californian lender’s stock almost halving last night.

First Republic is seen as vulnerable to the same losses on longer term bond values and liquidity squeeze that brought Silicon Valley Bank (NASDAQ:SIVB) down. The fall came despite a support deal brokered by the Fed that will see big Wall Street operators place $30bn on deposit at First Republic.

In Asia, Australia, China and Hong Kong shared in the relief rally, pushing indices usefully higher. Japan was the standout however, with the Nikkei index dropping 1.4% to 26,945 as investors fretted over contagion risks that could remain in the system.

Upturn In UK Investor Sentiment

Hargreaves Lansdown’s latest poll of UK private investor sentiment showed a continuing upturn in their confidence about investing within the UK stock market. The upturn, which began in September 2022 shows that investors are looking through the shorter-term noise, ignoring the Liz Truss debacle and the ongoing Ukrainian conflict.

The confidence is very much domestic though, HL’s poll reveals declining sentiment toward overseas markets. Crucially, the polling was undertaken before news of SVB and Credit Suisse’s collapse broke, making next month’s poll a critical barometer for the underlying strength of HL client confidence in the market.

Kingfisher's Earnings

Kingfisher plc (LON:KGF), the owner of B&Q, Screwfix and French DIY operator, Castorama, has released full year results. Profits have fallen back from last year’s highs, but the group points out that sales are double-digits ahead of their pre-pandemic levels.

Sales were sluggish in Europe, masking a stronger performance back home whilst cost pressures and a lower gross margin saw retail profits drop almost 20% to £923m. The group are pointing to a stronger performance in the current financial year, with like for like sales in February inching back into positive territory.


Screwfix’s international expansion is being accelerated with 25 store openings in France planned. The market took the messaging positively, pushing the stock up almost 3% in early trading.

US Considering Guaranteeing All Bank Deposits

The US Treasury Department is considering how it might temporarily guarantee all US bank deposits, Bloomberg reports. If accurate, the reports show that the US is not yet convinced that risks of further banking contagion have gone away.

To insure all deposits would be an unprecedented move but could prove to be a decisive backstop behind the US regional banking network where deposit outflows have been concentrated.

Getting such a Bill past a deeply partisan Congress is another matter and the reports suggest that Treasury officials are exploring where their limits to act without Congressional approval lie.”

Article by Steve Clayton, head of equity funds Hargreaves Lansdown