Risk off has returned with fresh concerns about Deutsche Bank. Also, the US probe on whether financial professionals at UBS and Credit Suisse helped Russian oligarchs circumvent sanctions will add to the uncertainty and keep investor confidence fragile
Commodities saw a relief rally this week as the US Federal Reserve hinted at a pause in rate hikes and easing concerns of an immediate contagion. The dollar fluctuated largely between 102 and 104 levels as risk sentiments wavered ahead of the FOMC policy decision and as markets assessed emergency measures taken by the US and Europe to safeguard the global banking system.
Initially, risk appetite improved on reports that US officials are reportedly studying ways they might temporarily expand Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) coverage to all deposits, in order to avert a potential financial crisis. Also, UBS Group AG agreed to buy rival Credit Suisse Group AG with Swiss regulators playing a key role in a rescue deal as governments looked to contain the financial crisis. First Republic Bank too took a sigh of relief after a sharp sell off as US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the government stood ready to provide further support for smaller lenders if needed.
Besides, the FOMC policy decision was on expected lines as the Fed raised federal funds rate by 25 bps to between 4.75 percent to 5 percent and kept the “terminal rate” unchanged from December estimate at 5.1 percent by the end of 2023.
Projections indicated Fed expects only one more quarter-point rate hike before they pause, exerting pressure on both dollar and US treasury yields.
The dollar tumbled to 101.91, the lowest since January while US 10-year treasury yields slipped below 3.4 percent. However, Fed Chair Jerome Powell was quick to add that rate cuts are currently not in the central bank’s “baseline expectation.” Still, the greenback did not see a significant rebound as CME Fedwatch tool shows Fed funds futures pricing in 75 bps rate cuts by end 2023.
COMEX Gold plunged to $1936.5 per troy ounce after hitting a one-year high of $2,014.9 per troy ounce earlier in the week but rebounded sharply above $2,000 on renewed concerns regarding the banking sector after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the FDIC was not considering providing “blanket insurance” for banking deposits. Powell, too, couldn’t promise to backstop all deposits.
Along with this, a comment by US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm that it will be “difficult” to refill government oil reserves this year led to a pullback in WTI oil prices from above $71 a barrel to $69. Still, crude oil prices saw around a 4 percent weekly upside. Base metals did not see a major price retreat and closed the week with decent gains as markets expect an improving consumption outlook ahead of peak construction season in China.
However, risk-off has again returned with fresh concerns regarding Deutsche Bank, whose shares dived by more than 13 percent on March 24 adding to a 30 percent decline for the month of March. Credit default swaps, a form of insurance for a company’s bondholders against its default, jumped to 173 basis points on Thursday from 142 basis points the previous day. This highlights that investors remain wary of spill-over risks in the wake of the emergency rescue of Credit Suisse.
Coupled with this, a US probe against UBS and Credit Suisse as to whether financial professionals helped Russian oligarchs evade sanctions will add to uncertainty in the macro-economic environment and keep investor confidence fragile.
Next week, investors will focus on Core PCE, Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, to see if price pressure moderated in February as expected. US Final GDP and speeches by some FOMC members will be keenly awaited while China’s PMI figures may show whether sharp rebound seen in February is extended to March.
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