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Yellen leaves open the prospect of protecting banks.
What you need to know today
- U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said yesterday the federal government is prepared to take emergency actions to back up regional banks, just as it did for Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. Her comments struck a different tone from the day before, when Yellen, asked by a senator if Treasury is considering guaranteeing all bank deposits without congressional approval, replied it is not.
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- Stocks in the U.S. made marginal gains Thursday in a turbulent trading session as traders bet interest rate hikes would stop soon. Asia-Pacific markets, however, mostly traded lower Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 0.38% as the country's factory activity in March contracted for the fifth straight month, according to a flash estimate from au Jibun Bank.
- TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was grilled by U.S. lawmakers, who fear that TikTok, which is owned by China-based ByteDance, shares data with the Chinese Communist Party. After more than five hours of questioning, it was clear Chew failed to assuage lawmakers' fears. His admission that China-based employees of ByteDance may still have access to U.S. data from TikTok didn't help.
- Hindenburg Research, the short seller behind the attack on Indian conglomerate Adani Group, has a new target: Jack Dorsey's Block. The short seller alleged Block facilitates fraud and is deficient in complying with regulations. Block shares plunged 14.82% after Hindenburg's accusation.
- PRO Bitcoin is now at $28,300.74, levels not seen since June. Analysts think its skyrocketing price has a message about markets' expectations for interest rates.
The bottom line
Yellen spoke more on the banking crisis yesterday — this time, though, there was a material difference in what she said.
In prepared remarks, Yellen reiterated before a House subcommittee that the federal government guaranteed deposits at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank to "prevent contagion." Then, she added this all-important line: "We would be prepared to take additional actions if warranted." The statement doesn't contradict her comments from Wednesday — it's clearly not a promise to safeguard all deposits without congressional approval. But it showed the federal government's willingness to step in if necessary.
Her comments came late in the trading day but managed to reassure investors. The SPDR S&P Regional Bank ETF (KRE), a fund that tracks the performance of regional banks, ended the day down by 2.78%, but it had been down by as much as 7.7% before Yellen started talking.
The major indexes made marginal gains. The S&P 500 added 0.29% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.23%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 1%, buoyed by tech stocks. Netflix was a standout, jumping 9%.
Compared to the past two weeks of banking turmoil, Thursday might have felt like a relatively quiet day. But Liz Young, head of investment strategy at SoFi, has a warning. "Even if the banking woes have been contained and the deposit flight is over, I don't think they'll prove to be the only set of headlines that pose risks to the economy," she wrote. We might, then, just be in the eye of a storm.
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