A man wearing a face mask walks past an electronic foreign currency exchange rates in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 22, 2023. AP
Benchmarks fell in Paris and London but rose in Frankfurt and most Asian markets. Oil prices fell back and U.S. futures edged lower.
Tuesday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 1.3% to lock in its first back-to-back gain since Silicon Valley Bank’s rapid failure began two weeks ago.
Some of Wall Street's fears over the banking sector were calmed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's assurance that the government could provide more assistance to lenders if needed.
Investors are awaiting an interest rate decision by the Federal Reserve, which is expected to temper its efforts to tame inflation given the recent turmoil that has wracked the banking sector.
Most economists expect the Fed to announce a relatively modest quarter-point hike in its benchmark rate, its ninth hike since March of last year.
“Equity markets are treading water this morning ahead of the Fed rate decision and following a decent rebound a day earlier,” Craig Erlam of Oanda said in a commentary. “It very much feels like we’re just taking one day at a time at the minute.”
Britain’s consumer inflation rate jumped to 10.5% in February from 10% the month before in a sign that price pressures persist that surprised analysts and added to pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates at its meeting on Thursday.
In London, the FTSE 100 lost 0.2% to 7,520.61 and the CAC 40 in Paris was unchanged at 7,112.62. Germany's DAX gained 0.3% to 15,242.53.
The futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1%.
Markets around the world have pinballed sharply this month on worries the banking system may be cracking under the pressure of the fastest set of hikes to interest rates in decades.
In Asian trading, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 surged 1.9% to 27,466.61, catching up on gains after the market was closed on Tuesday for a holiday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced 1.7% to 19,591.43 and the Shanghai Composite index added 0.9% to 3,265.75.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 jumped 0.9% to 7,015.60. The Kospi in South Korea climbed 1.2% to 2,416.96.
The S&P 500's advance Tuesday was its first back-to-back gain since Silicon Valley Bank’s rapid failure began two weeks ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1%, while the Nasdaq composite jumped 1.6%.
Yellen told a bankers’ group more government assistance “could be warranted” if risks arise that could bring down the system.
That could mean making sure customers at a weakened bank get all their money, even those with more than the $250,000 limit insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Earlier this month, the U.S. government said it would make all depositors at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank whole after their depositors rushed to pull their money out en masse, causing the second-and third-largest U.S. bank failures in history.
Investors have since been on the lookout for others that might fall. Much focus has been on First Republic Bank, whose stock had lost 90% for the month through Monday but jumped 29.5% Tuesday.
Hopes for the banking industry began to turn over the weekend after regulators pushed together two huge Swiss banks. Shares of both banks rose Tuesday in Switzerland, including a 12.1% jump for acquirer UBS. Credit Suisse, meanwhile, rose 7.3% after tumbling a day earlier.
In another trading Wednesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 42cents to $69.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $1.85 to $69.67 on Tuesday.
Brent crude, the pricing basis for international oils, gave up 34 cents to $74.98 per barrel.
The dollar fell to 132.42 Japanese yen from 132.47 yen. The euro rose to $1.0792 from $1.0770.