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Wall Street falls over 1% as bank worries keep investors jittery

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

Wall Street’s main indexes fell more than 1% on Friday as efforts to provide lifelines to some regional lenders failed to assuage investor fears of a broader banking crisis.

Big banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N) had stepped in to inject $30 billion into First Republic (FRC.N) on Thursday, helping calm some nerves and lifting U.S. stocks.

The boost was shortlived and fears of a banking crisis gripped the market on Friday, with shares of First Republic Bank (FRC.N), which also suspended its dividend payout, dropping 24.5%.

The lender’s shares have taken a beating this week, slumping 68%, in a widespread bank selloff after the recent collapse of SVB Financial (SIVB.O) and Signature Bank (SBNY.O) unleashed fears of a broader banking crisis stemming from surging interest rates.

SVB Financial said on Friday it had filed for a court-supervised reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to seek buyers for its assets.

Peer PacWest Bancorp (PACW.O) fell 13.1% while Western Alliance (WAL.N) slid 16.9%.

Big U.S. banks including JPMorgan, Citigroup (C.N) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N) also declined between 3.0% and 4.1%.

Most of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors fell.

The KBW regional banking index (.KRX) and the S&P 500 banks index (.SPXBK) fell over 9% each in the week.

“Dow and S&P have taken a hit after the sell-off we had, especially financials leading them to the downside. The fears of what these potential bank failures could mean for the economy have led the cyclicals to lag,” said David Russell, VP of Market Intelligence at TradeStation.

“At this point how the Fed reacts to the stress in the banking sector is really what matters, because that determines the interest rates.”

The news of First Republic’s rescue came on the heels of a 50-basis-point rate hike by the European Central Bank (ECB) despite concerns about the region’s banks after troubles emerged at Credit Suisse , which was down 5.6%.

Investors are now looking ahead to the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision, due next week, to gauge how it will tame inflation.

As U.S Treasury yields fell, megacap growth stocks Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) rose 0.2% and 0.5% respectively, providing some support to the Nasdaq, which is set for its biggest weekly percentage gain in two months.

Money market participants now see a 67% chance of the Fed raising rates by 25 basis points on March 22. .

Meanwhile, data showed production at U.S. factories edged up in February.

At 11:49 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was down 456.83 points, or 1.42%, at 31,789.72, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was down 52.00 points, or 1.31%, at 3,908.28, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was down 132.31 points, or 1.13%, at 11,584.97.

On a positive note, shares of FedEx Corp (FDX.N) rose 7.7% after the delivery giant raised its full-year profit forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 5.46-to-1 ratio on the NYSE by a 3.56-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded four new 52-week highs and 18 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 21 new highs and 201 new lows.

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