Bank Crisis: Yellen Speaks To Senate As Big Banks Discuss First Republic Bank Aid

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen assured Congress that the banking system remains strong during testimony Thursday. Meanwhile, bank stocks leaned toward another day of losses Thursday after U.S. financial institutions took a beating Wednesday.

Regional banks headed lower in early trade, led by First Republic Bank (FRC) as it explores strategic options, including a potential sale, Bloomberg reported late Wednesday. On Thursday, JPMorgan and several big firms discussed potential deals with First Republic. Larger banks pared losses after their retreat on Tuesday.


Secretary Yellen is set to testify before the Senate Finance Committee beginning at 10 a.m. ET. She is expected to tell Congress “that our banking system remains sound, and that Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need them,” according to prepared remarks. Yellen will also highlight Federal Reserve and FDIC plans to support the banking system, including the new lending facilities.

Big Banks Discuss First Republic Deal

On Thursday, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley (MS) and several other large banks discussed a possible deal with First Republic that could include a sizable capital injection, the Wall Street Journal reported.

First Republic Bank stock dove more than 31% early Thursday after Bloomberg reported that the San Francisco-based outfit is exploring strategic options to shore up liquidity, including a capital raise and potential sale. However, a full takeover looks unlikely at this point, according to WSJ reports.

FRC stock is down roughly 75% so far this month as the closures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank sparked a bank crisis.

On Wednesday, ratings agencies S&P Global and Fitch downgraded First Republic, citing liquidity and funding risks. S&P lowered FRC stock to a speculative-grade BB+ from its previous A- rating. Fitch gave First Republic a BB grade, down from A-, and put the bank on negative rating watch. On Monday, Moody’s announced it was reviewing First Republic and five other regional banks for potential downgrades.

The news is a dramatic turn for First Republic. On Sunday, it secured additional liquidity from the Federal Reserve Bank and JPMorgan (JPM), bringing the total available funding to more than $70 billion. First Republic CEO Jim Herbert told Jim Cramer the bank is operating “business as usual” on Monday. At the time, Herbert noted the bank wasn’t seeing many withdrawals of more $250,000, and that the additional funding from JPMorgan is working.

“First Republic’s capital and liquidity positions are very strong, and its capital remains well above the regulatory threshold for well-capitalized banks,” CEO Jim Herbert said in the funding announcement.

Bank Stocks

Regional banks followed First Republic lower early Thursday. Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Pacific West Bank (PACW) opened to an 18% loss. Zions Bancorp (ZION) fell 3.8% in the morning. Western Alliance (WAL) fell more than 5.8%, nearly erasing Wednesday’s 8.3% rebound.

JPMorgan inched up 0.4% early Thursday after falling 4.7% on Tuesday. Wells Fargo (WFC) edged 0.3% higher following its 3.2% dive Wednesday. Goldman Sachs (GS) traded down 0.4%, following its 3% dip Wednesday.

Credit Suisse American depositary receipts rebounded 7%, following its $54 billion injection from the Swiss National Bank. Credit Suisse ADRs cratered as much as 30% Wednesday.

You can follow Harrison Miller for more stock news and updates on Twitter @IBD_Harrison


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