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Futures waver as banking crisis worries persist


Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 16, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

U.S. stock index futures struggled for direction on Friday as investors remained wary about a potential banking crisis despite a lifeline to troubled regional lender First Republic Bank from the country’s largest banks.

Big banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) threw a $30 billion lifeline to First Republic Bank on Thursday, calming some nerves and helping Wall Street’s main indexes notch gains, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq (.IXIC) rallying over 2%.

Shares of First Republic Bank (FRC.N), however, fell 3.8% in premarket trading as the bank suspended its dividend payout.

Peer PacWest Bancorp (PACW.O) fell 3.0% while Western Alliance (WAL.N) advanced 1.1%.

“First Republic stock is reversing gains premarket … suggesting the package does not go far enough to alleviate the risks,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor.

“Plus, it announced plans to suspend its dividend, with the reduced investor payout also weighing on shares.”

The news of the rescue came on the heels of a 50-basis-point rate hike by the European Central Bank (ECB), which remained laser-focussed on taming inflation amid the broader banking crisis even after troubles emerged at Credit Suisse .

Concerns about a global banking crisis have dominated market sentiment this week after the collapse of SVB Financial (SIVB.O) and Signature Bank (SBNY.O).

The ECB is also holding an ad hoc meeting of its Supervisory Board on Friday to discuss stress in the bank sector after recent market volatility, a spokesperson said.

Most big U.S. banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America (BAC.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) rose between 0.2% and 1.5%.

While the focus remains on the health of the banking sector, investors also looked ahead to U.S. central bank’s policy meeting next week to gauge how it will tame inflation amid a banking crisis.

Yield on the two-year Treasury note, which best reflects interest rate expectations, rose to 4.15% as some tensions about the banking sector abate.

Money market participants now see an 83% chance of a 25-basis-point hike in the key benchmark rate by the Federal Reserve on March 22.

Investors will monitor data on February industrial production and University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey for March to assess the strength of the U.S. economy.

At 5:15 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 16 points, or 0.05%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.75 points, or 0.07%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 5 points, or 0.04%.

Shares of Fedex Corp (FDX.N) rose 11.1% premarket after the delivery giant raised full-year earnings forecast after cost cuts.

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