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Europe’s banking stocks suffer biggest drop in a year

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London
CNN
 —

Investors dumped European bank stocks for a third straight day Monday, despite dramatic moves over the weekend by the US and UK governments to shore up confidence in the financial system following Friday’s collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

Europe’s benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Banks index, which tracks 42 big EU and UK banks, fell 5.6% by mid-afternoon — notching its biggest fall since March last year. The broader Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 2.1%, while the bank-heavy FTSE 100

(UKX) was 2.2% down.

Shares in embattled Swiss bank Credit Suisse

(AMJL) plunged 12% to a new record low, before recovering. The shares of HSBC

(FTRXX) fell 3.8%, Barclays

(ATMP) 5.7%, Deutsche Bank

(DB) 4.3% and Italy’s Unicredit

(UNCFF) 7.5%.

The falls have heightened fears that the second-biggest US banking collapse in history may be followed by further failures of weaker banks. That’s despite interventions by officials on both sides of the Atlantic to stem the panic, and the relatively limited exposure among European banks to SVB and its clients.

“Investors have still been shaken by the events of the past few days,” Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at investing platform Hargreaves Lansdown, told CNN.

On Sunday, the Biden administration promised that customers of SVB and Signature Bank, which was shut down on Sunday, would have access to all their money starting Monday. In a break with precedent, the government ensured that even uninsured deposits will be returned.

The Federal Reserve will also make additional funding available for eligible financial institutions to prevent runs on similar banks in the future. US banks are sitting on $620 billion in unrealized losses — assets that have decreased in price but haven’t been sold yet — as of the end of 2022, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

It is unclear how many unrealized losses EU and UK banks are carrying on their books.

The extraordinary moves by the US authorities were designed to prevent more bank runs and to help companies that deposited large sums with the banks to continue to make payroll and fund their operations.

HSBC

(FTRXX), Europe’s biggest bank, announced early on Monday that it had bought the UK arm of SVB for £1 ($1.2), effective “immediately.” The Bank of England told SVB UK’s customers that all their deposits were safe.

Still, investors were jittery in Europe, where officials have not yet promised any additional liquidity support to the banking sector more generally, as has happened in the United States.

“The deposit insurance scheme in the US is significantly more generous than in Europe, and there is a growing expectation that the US Treasury will move swiftly to fully guarantee deposits if more banks turn insolvent,” Streeter said.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at trading platform IG, agreed. European investors were waiting for “verbal reassurance” from the European Central Bank, he said, which may not come until Thursday when it next meets to set interest rates.

“The move by US authorities is a sign that they are responding quickly, whereas Europe has still to respond,” he told CNN.

Beauchamp added that the sharper falls in European bank stocks so far seen on Monday might partly reflect their stronger performance relative to US banks this year.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Banks index rose 21% in the first eight weeks of the year, about 12 percentage points more than the KBW Bank Index, which tracks 24 leading US banks. Both indexes have fallen back since the beginning of March.

“US markets are down much more sharply over the last month,” Beauchamp said. “So much of the pessimism might be priced in.”

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