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Thu. 9:04 a.m.: US futures tick down, regional bank stocks still sliding

A screen showing today's market at the Australian Stock Exchange in central Sydney, Australia. The Asian stock markets tumbled today after Wall Street sank as a plunge in Credit Suisse shares reignited worries about a possible bank crisis following the failure of two U.S. lenders. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Wall Street drifted lower before the bell this morning, even as European shares got a boost after Credit Suisse said it would borrow up to $54 billion from Switzerland’s central bank to shore up its finances, possibly easing worries about a bank crisis following the failure of two U.S. lenders.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 0.3 percent before the bell and futures for the S&P 500 dipped 0.1 percent.

Credit Suisse’s shares soared 30 percent today after it announced the loan, bolstering confidence as fears about the banking system moved from the U.S. to Europe.

It was a massive swing from a day earlier, when shares of Switzerland’s second-largest commercial bank plunged 30 percent on the SIX stock exchange after its biggest shareholder said it would not put more money into Credit Suisse.

That dragged down other European banks after the collapse of some U.S. banks stirred fears about the health of global banks. European bank shares recovered a bit today, with the Euro Stoxx Banks index of 21 leading lenders up 1.6 percent, following a steep 8.4 percent drop Wednesday. Bank stalwarts like Commerzbank, Santander, Unicredit and Raiffaisen all rose more than 2 percent.

“Expect confidence to remain fragile,” Chris Turner, Francesco Pesole and Frantisek Taborsky of ING said in a report.

Back in the U.S., regional bank shares tumbled again in off-hours trading, led by San Francisco’s First Republic, which slid another 28 percent during off-hours after S&P downgraded it late Wednesday, saying it had an elevated risk of withdrawals.

Its share price plunge reignited worries about the global industry after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank collapsed in the second- and third-biggest U.S. bank failures in history.

S&P estimated that about 68 percent of First Republic’s deposit base — about $120 billion — was above the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insurance limit of $250,000 and “most susceptible to withdrawal.”

First Republic shares fell 21 percent on Wednesday and have lost about 80 percent of its value since last week.

Other regional banks fell between 2 percent and 5 percent, but major U.S. banks held steady before markets opened this morning.

The turmoil over banks will complicate a European Central Bank decision due to be announced today about another possible interest rate hike, they said. It is “casting doubts on whether policymakers will raise rates at all,” they said.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London gained 1.1 percent, the DAX in Frankfurt rose 0.9 percent and the CAC 40 in Paris jumped 1.3 percent.

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo retreated 0.8 percent to 27,010.61. Mizuho Bank was down 3.9 percent, while Resona Holdings, a major second-tier bank, lost 4.8 percent.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 1.7 percent to 19,203.91. Standard Chartered Plc lost 5.4 percent and HSBC was 2.4 percent lower.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.1 percent to 3,226.89 after government data Wednesday showed the Chinese economy is recovering more slowly than expected following the lifting of anti-virus controls.

The Kospi in Seoul was off less than 0.1 percent at 2,377.91 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 sank 1.5 percent to 6,965.50.

China’s banks don’t face the same pressures as foreign lenders because Beijing has held its benchmark lending rate steady since mid-2022 and keeps the country sealed off from global capital flows.

U.S. banks are struggling after the Federal Reserve’s fastest series of rate hikes in decades caused prices of assets on their balance sheets to decline.

Stress in the financial system could push the Fed to hold off on hiking rates at its meeting next week or at least refrain from the larger rate hike it had been potentially signaling. But inflation at 6 percent in February still is well above the Fed’s 2 percent target.

Weaker-than-expected economic reports released Wednesday may have allayed some of those worries.

One showed that inflation at the wholesale level slowed by much more last month than economists expected.

Other data showed that U.S. spending at retailers fell by more than expected last month. Such data could raise worries about a recession on the horizon, but they may also take some pressure off inflation in the near term.

Elsewhere, Treasury yields stabilized somewhat, with the 2-year back up to 3.97 percent from 3.90 percent late Wednesday. The 10-year held at 3.46 percent from 3.47 percent.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained 16 cents to $67.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plummeted $3.72 on Wednesday to $67.61. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading advanced 25 cents to $73.94 barrel in London. It lost $3.76 to $73.69 the previous session.

The dollar declined to 132.76 yen from Wednesday’s 133.46 yen. The euro gained to $1.0614 from $1.0586.

On Wednesday, the Dow lost 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq composite closed up 0.1 percent.

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