Stocks stumble as banking turmoil sends investors to safety
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Monitors displaying the stock index prices and Japanese yen exchange rate against the U.S. dollar are seen at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo, Japan January 4, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks slid on Thursday and investors turned to the safety of gold, bonds and dollars as Credit Suisse became the latest focal point for fears of a banking crisis, leaving markets on edge ahead of a European Central Bank meeting later in the day.
Credit Suisse’s announcement that it will take up an option to borrow as much as 50 billion Swiss francs ($54 billion) from Switzerland’s central bank soothed some of the gravest concerns and provided a floor to bank shares and a boost to Europe futures.
But sentiment was fragile and a nervous air hung over markets. MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell to 2023 lows and was down 0.9% mid-morning. dropped 1.3%.
“I think we’re getting into the hard hat territory again,” said Damian Rooney, a dealer at Perth stockbroker Argonaut.
“The word contagion is knocking about…we’re getting fear across the whole board here.”
Credit Suisse stock plunged as much as 30% to a record low overnight. The Swiss franc suffered its biggest drop on the U.S. dollar in seven years.
Insurers, banks, miners and consumer-exposed stocks led the losses around Asia as worries grow that a potential credit crunch can worsen a looming economic slowdown. [.T][.AX][.HK]
Commodities also nursed big falls. futures were struggling to lift from 15-month lows and hovered around $74.16 a barrel. slid 2.5% in Shanghai after a 4% drop in London overnight. [O/R][MET/L][IRONORE/]
were up 0.4% in bumpy trade, while support for Credit Suisse from the Swiss National Bank had EuroSTOXX futures up 2% and futures up 1%.
“The concrete response from Swiss authorities may help to shore up sentiments in the interim,” said OCBC Bank currency strategist Christopher Wong. “But it remains to be seen if they are sufficient to shore up confidence.”
BONDS, DOLLAR GAIN
Credit Suisse’s troubles have been long and well publicised, with exposure to a string of scandals from the implosion of heavily-levered U.S. investment firm Archegos in 2021 to the bust of British supply-chain financier Greensill.
The latest pressure came in the wake of the collapse of three U.S. banks in the space of a week and was triggered after the bank said it hadn’t stemmed deposit outflows and its biggest shareholder declined to offer further support.
The Bank of England was holding emergency talks with international counterparts the Telegraph newspaper reported on Wednesday. The Bank of England declined to comment.
Expectations for a 50 basis rate hike in Europe have also evaporated as markets radically rethink the global interest rate outlook in light of the banking jitters.
Money market pricing implies a less than a 20% chance of a 50 bp hike from the ECB, down from 90% a day earlier.
Bonds have rallied hard, driving two-year U.S. Treasury yields to their lowest since September at 3.72% at one point overnight. They last yielded 3.97%. Benchmark 10-year yields fell overnight and held at 3.492% in Asia. [US/]
The euro and Swiss franc found some support from news of the central bank’s help for Credit Suisse, steadying after steep overnight drops.
The euro last stood at $1.0589 and the franc at 0.9309 to the dollar. The flight to safety lent support to the yen and it rose 0.5% to 132.83 per dollar.
($1 = 0.9310 Swiss francs)