Market Snapshot: Dow ends with gain of over 300 points as regional banks rally ahead of Fed rate decision

U.S. stocks were higher in midday trade on Tuesday, building on Monday’s rally as anxiety about the banking sector receded and traders looked ahead to whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates on Wednesday.

How stocks are trading

The S&P 500

climbed 35 points, or 0.9% to 3,987

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

was up 191 points, or 0.6% to 32,436

The Nasdaq Composite

gained 140 points, or 1.2% to 11,816

On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 383 points, or 1.2%, to 32,245, the S&P 500 increased 35 points, or 0.89%, to 3,952, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 45 points, or 0.39%, to 11,676.

What’s driving markets

Calmer conditions in the financial sector and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s reassurances on containing the banking crisis were buoying market sentiment on Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen vowed on Tuesday that there will be more U.S. support for small bank depositors if needed, but she also told an industry group that “the situation is stabilizing” after recent moves by the government. Reports that the U.S. Treasury is considering boosting the guarantees on bank deposits was also helping the mood.

Increased investor optimism about the banking system after the rescue takeover of Credit Suisse

by its long-term rival UBS

also helped lift U.S. regional stocks. Shares of First Republic Bank

rallied nearly 42%, after losing 47% in the previous session. Shares of the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF
 which covers the regional banks segment of the broader S&P 500 index, jumped 5.6%.

See: First Republic stock rallies after bank backstop pledge from Treasury’s Yellen and reports of push to raise capital by JPMorgan

Easing tensions in the financial sector makes it more likely the Federal Reserve will raise its policy interest rate again on Wednesday. The fast-moving banking crisis was suddenly setting up a clash for the Fed between banking sector stability and price stability while inflation sticks around.

Read:The Fed will either pause or hike interest rates by 25 basis points. What are the pros and cons of each approach?

Many Fed watchers in the market think a 25-basis-point increase is the likely outcome. There’s an 83% chance of a 25-basis-point increase to the federal funds rate when the Fed wraps its two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.

“The Fed can take a cautious approach here, and an ultra cautious approach would be to not hike at all and simply wait to see what’s going to happen,” said Thierry Wizman, a global FX and rates strategist at Macquarie.

“It’s important to keep in mind that this [banking] crisis comes at a time when unemployment is very low in the U.S., and we’re at least on a backward looking basis, referring to coincident indicators like CPI [which shows] inflation is still high. And this is why this decision probably calls for some sort of compromise result, which is to do 25 basis points instead of zero,” Wizman told MarketWatch on Tuesday.

See: Fed likely to follow ECB’s playbook and hike interest rates this week

But there’s still many who think the Fed will stand pat for now despite the brightening mood surrounding regional banks and Yellen’s remarks that regulators are ready to do what’s needed to shore up the financial system. That includes Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities.

“Does that cure the present banking turmoil? I don’t think so,” Cardillo said. “I think the Fed can pause and revisit what inflation looks like in two months,” he said.

After this week’s meeting, the central bank’s next Federal Open Market Committee meeting is scheduled for May 2-3.

Also see: Fund managers fear a ‘systemic credit event’ as the biggest threat to markets: Bank of America

Others think markets may not be out the woods, amid higher interest rates and tighter lending conditions.

Roughly one-third of 212 fund managers polled by Bank of America said a “systemic credit event” is the biggest threat, while 25% said persistent inflation is the market’s most pressing problem.

In U.S. economic data, existing home sales in February made their biggest leap since July 2020, according to Tuesday morning data. Last month, sales climbed 14.5% to 4.58 million, beating expectations of 4.2 million in sales. Housing stocks are trading higher after the data release.

Companies in focus Inc.

shares are up more than 1.5%. The online retail giant is cutting another 9,000 jobs, according to a company announcement. That follows more than 18,000 recent Amazon layoffs, and another round of layoffs for the tech sector. “This was a difficult decision, but one that we think is best for the company long term,” CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a memo.

Energy stocks outperformed, bolstered by rising oil prices. The S&P 500 Energy sector

jumped 3.1%. Shares of APA Corporation

rose 6.8%.

Shares of Tesla Inc.

advanced 6.8% after Moody’s Investors Service has lifted its rating on Tesla Inc.’s debt to Baa3, the first rung of investment grade. 

— Jamie Chisholm contributed to this article

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