Thousands of miles away from U.S. shores last Wednesday, a headline began working its way across Europe, then Wall Street, sparking fresh panic as it dawned on investors that they may be facing yet another banking crisis.
Shares of Credit Suisse
would eventually sink 25% last week to a fresh record low, unable to find footing days after the head of top shareholder Saudi National Bank said they won’t invest any more in the bank. By Sunday, the struggling Swiss bank had a new owner, leaving investors to wonder if at least one chapter in a current roller coaster of global banking stress can be closed.
Swiss authorities steered rival UBS AG
to an all-stock deal worth 3 billion francs ($3.25 billion), or 0.76 francs per share, a not-so-slight discount to the 1.86 franc close on Friday of Credit Suisse. So important was the agreement, it was announced by Switzerland’s President Alain Berset, with both banks and the chairman of the Swiss National Bank on either side of him.
“With the takeover of Credit Suisse by UBS, a solution has been found to secure financial stability and protect the Swiss economy in this exceptional situation,” the SNB said in a statement.
The Swiss National Bank said either Swiss bank can borrow up to 100 billion francs in a liquidity assistance loan, and Credit Suisse will get a liquidity assistance loan of up to 100 billion francs, backed by a federal default guarantee. The U.S. Federal Reserve had worked with its Swiss counterpart on the deal as well.
“We welcome the announcements by the Swiss authorities today to support financial stability. The capital and liquidity positions of the U.S. banking system are strong, and the U.S. financial system is resilient,” said a statement Sunday by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde also praised Swiss authorities for “restoring orderly market conditions and ensuring financial stability,” while reiterating the “resilience” of the euro-area banking sector. She said the ECB stands ready to provide liquidity if needed.
Her comment comes days after the the ECB pulled the trigger Thursday on a 50-basis-point rate hike, as it warned “inflation is projected to remain too high for too long.”
The deal for Credit Suisse comes in the wake of stress on the U.S. banking sector, triggered by the collapse of Silvergate Bank, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, all within the space of a week.
“Virtually everyone at this high-level Swiss press conference — government officials, regulator, central bank governor, and executives of the two banks — blamed the US banking sector turmoil for being the catalyst for the financial turmoil in #Switzerland,” tweeted Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, of the press conference Sunday with Swiss authorities to announce the deal.
And for U.S. investors who have had quite enough anxiety lately, a logical question would be to ask if the deal that brings together the two Swiss banking giants will now remove one layer of stress from global markets, and hence Wall Street.
For that reason, many will be watching how Asian and U.S. equity futures trade later on Sunday, as well as Europe’s opening reaction on Monday.
The Credit Suisse news may only go so far to assuage investors, with some raising an eyebrow over Powell and Yellen’s Sunday statement about the Swiss deal. “Seriously, if everyone truly believed the ‘The capital and liquidity positions of the U.S. banking system are strong, and the U.S. financial system is resilient’ … Would they have to tell us? Are these words enough?” said Jim Bianco, president of Bianco Research, on Twitter. “Or do investors want to see Warren Buffett writing checks to regional banks in the next two hours (before Asia opens)?”
Fox News and other media outlets reported over the weekend that the Berkshire Hathaway
chairman and CEO had been talking to President Joe Biden’s administration in recent days over possible investments in the battered regional bank sector, and offering his advice.
The billionaire investor was responsible for a capital injection to Bank of America
in 2011 as its shares tumbled due to subprime mortgages, as well as $5 billion to Goldman Sachs
amid the 2008 financial crisis.
Some had said ahead of the deal last week that global-market stability depended on the Swiss first getting their house in order.
“I don’t think there are any direct consequences for U.S. investors, but it’s extremely negative for sentiment if a major Swiss bank fails, hot on the heels of SVB/SBNY,” Simon Ree, the founder of Tao of Trading options academy school and author of the book by the same name, told MarketWatch last week.
“The market will be (temporarily) wondering who’s next. It could start to have the optics of a global banking crisis, rather than an idiosyncratic failure of a niche U.S. regional bank,” said Ree.
Credit Suisse’s troubles came amid a revamp and five straight money-losing quarters, following a painful legacy that included billions worth of exposure to the collapsed Archegos family office and $10 billion worth of funds tied to Greensil Capital it had to freeze.
“The SNB and the Swiss government are fully aware that the failure of Credit Suisse or even any losses by deposit holders would destroy Switzerland’s reputation as a financial center,” said Otavio Marenzi, CEO of Opimas, a management consulting firm focused on global capital markets, in a note to clients last week.
The bank’s plummeting stock price and soaring bond yields was “mimicking Silicon Valley Bank’s recent collapse in a frightening way. In terms of the outflow of deposits, Credit Suisse’s position looks even worse,” said Marenzi.
As far as some are concerned, the market may have more stress ahead of it.
“The SVB failure highlights the potential for other skeletons to be hidden in closets and the market will spend the next few weeks/months hunting them out. Even just the extreme volatility we’ve seen on bond markets the last five days renders any attempt to ascribe a value to other asset classes redundant,” said Ree.
His view is shared by many analysts, who in part point to increasing uncertainty around how the Federal Reserve will react going forward as it tries to balance market and economic risks. Some now see full percentage rate cuts by year-end, amid banking stress.
Samantha LaDuc, the founder of LaDucTrading.com who specializes in timing major market inflections, said she stands by her advice (that she shared with MarketWatch in February) that investors are being “paid to wait,” by staying in cash.
“I have been literally recommending and tweeting to clients that we are PAID TO WAIT in T-bills at 5% until [the] bond market can figure out if we have recession or not. All that happened last week pulled forward recession risk,” she told MarketWatch.
Prior to the SVB crisis, she had been recommending clients short reflation trades, such as banks
and metals and mining
and has been saying she sees “unattractive risk-reward for either stocks or bonds.”
Opimas’ Marenzi said the threat to Wall Street from Credit Suisse was simple:
“You mean what do American investors who do not own any non-American stocks and do not own a passport and could not find Switzerland on a map and who think that anyone who speaks any language other than English is a bit weird have to worry about? Not a lot, other than the contagion spreading back into the US banking system and causing a meltdown,” he told MarketWatch.