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Stock Futures Rally In Asia As U.S. Acts On Banks

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.

U.S. stock futures rallied in Asian trade on Monday as U.S. authorities announced plans to limit the fallout from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), though investors were also still favouring the safety of sovereign debt.

In a joint statement, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve announced a range of measures to stabilise the banking system and said depositors at SVB would have access to their deposits on Monday.

The Fed was also considering easing the terms for banks to access its discount window to prevent another collapse, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.

Investors reacted by sending U.S. S&P 500 stock futures up 1.2%, while Nasdaq futures rose 1.3%.

“All the focus is on whether authorities have done enough to stabilise confidence in U.S. banks to avoid a spread of depositor flight,” said Tapas Strickland, an analyst at NAB.

“It is uncertain what financial structures could be vulnerable following a decade of extraordinary low rates,” he added. “If mark to market losses on bond portfolios are a worry for certain US banks, what about European and Japanese banks?”

Such was the concern about financial stability, that investors speculated the Fed would now be reluctant to rock the boat by hiking interest rates by a super-sized 50 basis points this month.

Fed fund futures surged in early trading to imply only a 28% chance of a half point hike, compared to around 70% before the SVB news broke last week.

The peak for rates came all the way back to 5.11%, from 5.69%, last Wednesday, and markets were even pricing in rate cuts by the end of the year.

That, combined with the shift to safety, saw yields on two-year Treasuries dive 47 basis points on Thursday and Friday to stand at 4.58%, a long way from last week’s 5.08% peak.

Treasury 10-year bond futures added 7 ticks, having been up over 20 ticks at one stage in hectic early trade.

“Accelerating your pace of hikes in the face of a significant bank failure may not be the wisest play for the Fed, especially if subsequent problems emerge stemming from similar root causes – underwater rates portfolios,” said John Briggs, global head of economics at NatWest Markets.

Still, much will depend on what U.S. consumer price figures reveal on Tuesday, with an obvious risk that a high reading will pile pressure on the Fed to hike aggressively even with the financial system under strain.

The European Central Bank meets on Thursday and is still widely expected to lift its rates by 50 basis points and to flag more tightening ahead, though it will now have to take financial stability into account.

In currency markets, the dollar dipping 0.7% on the safe-haven Japanese yen to 134.05 while easing 0.3% on the Swiss franc. The euro was a fraction firmer at $1.0687.

Gold climbed 0.8% to $1,882 an ounce, having jumped 2% on Friday. [GOL/]

Oil prices edged higher, with Brent up 10 cents at $82.88 a barrel, while U.S. crude rose 26 cents to $76.94 per barrel.