Morning Report: Trouble in the banking sector

Vital Statistics:

S&P futures3,909-9.75
Oil (WTI)74.98-0.74
10 year government bond yield 3.78%
30 year fixed rate mortgage 6.80%

Stocks are lower this morning on fallout from the Silicon Valley Bancorp situation. Bonds and MBS are up.

Bank stocks got slammed yesterday after SVB Financial announced it would take actions to “strengthen its financial position.” SVB will sell its available for sale securities portfolio and undertake an equity and convertible preferred stock offering to raise capital. This sent the stock down 60% and also hit troubled First Republic. Tech venture capitalist Peter Theil has recommended that people pull their money from the troubled bank. The entire banking sector was sold off, with the KBW Bank Index down 7.7% for the day. The contagion has spread to Europe (the financial sector correlates a lot), and it sounds like SVB’s capital raise found no takers.

Below is a chart of the KBW Bank Index.

An inverted yield curve is a major headache for banks, who borrow short and lend long. If you want to know why your local bank is paying depositors well below the Fed Funds rate, well, there you go. If a bank is only earning 3.8% on Treasuries, it isn’t going to pay 4.25% on a savings account.

If there is one thing that could get the Fed to halt its tightening regime, troubles in the banking sector is it. We have been seeing bankruptcies in the commercial mortgage space (especially office and mall paper), so this is something to watch. Banking crises have a tendency to spread into unanticipated spaces, like when the subprime crisis ended up making the commercial paper market freeze. Sovereign yields are down across the board so the bond market is paying close attention to this.

Of course for mortgage originators this means even tighter credit from warehouse banks and liquidity risk for non-QM products. This will also mean much lower rates and an even more inverted yield curve as investors flock to safe assets. If the playbook runs as usual, we could see a flight to MBS as well since those are more or less guaranteed by the government.

The economy added 311,000 jobs in February, according to the Employment Situation Report. The gains were primarily in leisure / hospitality, government, retail and health care. The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% from 3.4%, while the labor force participation rate inched up to 62.5% and the employment-population ratio was flat at 60.2%. Both numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.2% month-over-month and 4.6% year-over-year, which was below the 0.3% / 4.7% Street estimates. The average workweek fell. Since the Fed is mainly concerned with wage growth right now this should be welcome news. That said the CPI report next week will be the big driver and it will come during the quiet period for the Fed ahead of the March FOMC meeting so we won’t get any sort of take from the Fed until the actual meeting.

The jobs report and the SIVB situation have the markets leaning towards a 25 basis point hike again.

The Federal Trade Commission has voted to officially block the merger of Black Knight and ICE. The FTC did mention the proposed remedy of selling Empower to Constellation Software: “Black Knight has proposed to remedy the competitive harm resulting from the proposed deal by selling its Empower LOS and some related services to a technology company, Constellation Web Solutions, Inc. According to the complaint, the proposal does not address the anticompetitive effects in the market for PPE software and would not replace the intense competition between ICE and Black Knight in the LOS market.”

Apparently there was internal documentation from ICE about how it could use price increases for Encompass as a “ever” to drive revenue increases. Bad move. As part of the deal, ICE had committed to litigate with the FTC to get the deal done, but this is a classic “Coke and Pepsi” merger.

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