U.S. equities are lower as pressure has returned to the banking sector, which remains top of mind. However, the major indexes are on track to post gains for the week, despite the severe tumultuousness over the past week and a half. Treasury yields are again moving lower, and the U.S. dollar is declining, while crude oil prices continue to tumble, and gold is rallying. Other equity news is light, but FedEx posted quarterly results that beat the Street and offered an upbeat outlook. Economic news is on the somber side, as the February Leading Economic Index fell for an eleventh-straight month, consumer sentiment for this month surprised to the downside, while industrial production came in flat. Asia finished with gains across the board, and markets in Europe are falling, as stress surrounding the turbulence in the banking sector persists.
At 10:50 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is falling 1.4%, and the S&P 500 is losing 1.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite is 1.0% lower. WTI crude oil is falling $1.75 to $66.59 per barrel, and Brent crude oil is down $2.07 at $72.63 per barrel. The gold spot price is jumping $35.70 to $1,958.70 per ounce, and the Dollar Index is declining 0.2% to 104.19.
The banking sector remains in focus in the wake of yesterday's report that some of the nation’s largest banks have agreed upon a plan to deposit as much as $30 billion in an attempt, supported by the U.S. government, to stabilize First Republic Bank (FRC $28). The deal comes after Bloomberg reported that the struggling bank may be exploring strategic options that include a sale and weighing options for shoring up its liquidity. The company acknowledged the support from the consortium after updating its financial position late Thursday. The turmoil has fostered severe volatility in the markets and fueled concerns about contagion in the financial markets. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department, the Fed and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) have enacted several measures to contain the issue.
The turbulence originated in the U.S. banking sector after the failures of SVB Financial Group (SIVB), and crypto-related Silvergate Capital Corp. (SI), and the closure of Signature Bank (SBNY) in the past week. The anxiety made its way across the pond as Credit Suisse Group AG's (CS $2) top shareholder, the Saudi National Bank, said it will not provide more capital assistance. However, the lender announced that it will borrow $54 billion from the Swiss National Bank.
For a look at what our experts think about the recent stock market drop, read our latest article, Bank Worries Strike Again, as well as Schwab's Chief Fixed Income Strategist Kathy Jones' latest article, Bank Turmoil: What Does It Mean for Fed Policy? Kathy notes that the situation may relieve some pressure on the Federal Reserve, possibly leading to a pause or slowing in its current rate-hike cycle.
In other equity news, FedEx Corporation (FDX $221) reported adjusted fiscal Q3 earnings-per-share (EPS) of $3.41, above the $2.71 FactSet estimate, as revenues fell 5.9% year-over-year (y/y) to $22.2 billion, versus the Street's forecast of $22.7 billion. The package delivery and logistics company cited success in its cost-cutting measures offset continued weakness in demand. FDX reiterated its plans to make cost reductions of more than $4 billion by the end of fiscal year 2025. As such, it upped its full-year 2023 EPS guidance to a range of $14.40 and $15.20, compared to the Street's forecast of $13.56. Shares are sharply higher.
Schwab’s Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders notes in her latest article, Caveat Emptor: Important Market Shifts Underway, how given the topsy-turvy nature of the market thus far in 2023, it remains crucial for investors to know what they are buying—especially as it relates to growth, value, and quality.
Leading Index and consumer sentiment fall, industrial production unchanged
The Federal Reserve's industrial productioncame in flat month-over-month (m/m) in February, compared to estimates of a 0.2% gain, and versus January positively revised 0.3% reading. Manufacturing output rose, offsetting by a decline in mining and utilities production. Capacity utilization remained at the prior month's downwardly revised rate of 78.0%, versus estimates of a slight increase to 78.4% from. Capacity utilization is 1.6 percentage points below its long-run average.
The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index (LEI) for February fell 0.3% m/m, matching the Bloomberg consensus estimate and January's unrevised decline. The index recorded its eleventh consecutive monthly loss, as ISM new orders, consumer expectations, the yield curve, jobless claims, and credit conditions were the negative contributors, more than offsetting positive contributions from building permits and stock prices.
The preliminary University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for March showed that sentiment surprisingly decreased, falling to 63.4 from February's final reading of 67.0, and where it was expected to remain. A solid decline in the current conditions portion of the index joined a slight decrease in the expectations component of the report. The 1-year inflation forecast fell to 3.8% from 4.1% in February, and the 5-10-year inflation outlook nudged lower to 2.8% from the prior month's 2.9% rate.
Treasury rates remain under pressure, as the yield on the 2-year note is down 14 basis points (bps) to 3.99%, the yield on the 10-year note is declining 15 bps to 3.42%, and the 30-year bond rate is decreasing 12 bps to 3.59%.
Bond yields have been under pressure as the markets wrestle with uncertainty regarding if the Fed may change its tightening campaign a bit sooner than expected in the wake of the recent turbulence in the banking sector.
Schwab's Kathy Jones notes in her article, How to Prepare for Landing, how a "soft landing," with declining inflation but positive growth, would be ideal. However, she points out that turbulence appears likely. Kathy offers insight on how to handle it.
Europe falling as banking crisis fears return
Stocks in Europe are lower in late-day action, erasing most of yesterday's rebound, as the disorder in the banking sector continues. The moves come despite the disclosure of an aid package for First Republic Bank, which followed Credit Suisse's announcement that would be able to borrow up to $54 billion from the Swiss National Bank after its largest shareholder said it will not provide further capital assistance. The banking sector has come under pressure recently and has caused some investors to speculate that the Fed may pause its aggressive rate hike campaign next week. However, on Thursday the European Central Bank moved forward with a 50-bp increase, noting that "inflation is projected to remain too high for too long," but adding that it is monitoring current market tensions closely and stands ready to respond as necessary to preserve price and financial stability.
Schwab’s Chief Global Investment Strategist Jeffrey Kleintop, CFA, discusses in his latest article, Waves of Inflation, how although inflation may be receding, intermittent waves of price increases may cause investor uncertainty about the direction of economic growth and central banks' policy response. In light economic news in the region, Eurozone CPI remained at the preliminary estimate of an 8.5% increase y/y, matching estimates. The euro and the British pound are higher versus the U.S. dollar, while bond yields in the Eurozone and in the U.K. are falling.
The U.K. FTSE 100 Index is down 0.7%, France's CAC-40 Index is falling 1.5%, Germany's DAX Index and Italy's FTSE MIB Index are declining 1.3%, Spain's IBEX 35 Index is dropping 1.7%, and Switzerland's Swiss Market Index is 1.1% lower.
Asia higher in footsteps of U.S. gains
Stocks in Asia were higher across the board, as jitters surrounding the recent turmoil in the U.S. banking sector eased some following the announcement of a rescue package for First Republic Bank. However, uncertainty persists regarding the ultimate impact on the global financial market system. The turmoil has also caused some speculation that this may prompt the Fed to back off of its aggressive monetary policy campaign. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank went ahead with a rate increase yesterday, while the Bank of Japan (BoJ) left rates unchanged, as widely expected last week. Schwab's Jeffrey Kleintop discusses in his article, Are You Focused on the Wrong Central Bank?, how while investor attention is on the Fed, changes at the Bank of Japan might bring shifts to the economic environment, impacting the global markets.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose1.2%, with the yen rising versus the U.S. dollar. China's Shanghai Composite Index increased 0.7%, and the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index gained 1.6%. Meanwhile, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index nudged 0.4% higher, South Korea's Kospi Index advanced 0.8% and India's BSE Sensex 30 Index traded 0.6% higher.
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