Wall Street CEOs try to come up with new plan for First Republic

Shares in First Republic tumbled again on Monday after its credit rating was cut for the second time in the space of a week, a decision that came following depositors pulling tens of billions of dollars from their accounts.

The bank’s shares, which have fallen more than 80 per cent in March, were down 30 per cent with trading halted numerous times into the afternoon. The shares had plunged nearly 50 per cent at the lows of the day.

S&P Global, on Sunday, downgraded the bank’s credit rating to B plus from BB plus — its second cut in a week — saying the $30bn lifeline from large US banks “should ease near-term liquidity pressures, but it may not solve the substantial business, liquidity, funding and profitability challenges that we believe the bank is now likely facing”.

Investors have been concerned about the health of regional banks following the failure of two banks, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, in as many weeks.

Those two banks as well as other regionals have had a rush of deposit withdrawals in search of safety, expedited in an era of digital banking. Many of those deposits have flowed to the biggest US banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup.

First Republic, which is battling to restore investor confidence, has lost about $70bn of deposits since the start of the year when they totalled $176.4bn, said one person briefed on the matter. The withdrawal figures were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

The outflows have, however, slowed since First Republic announced $30bn in financial aid from 11 of the largest US banks, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

California-based First Republic on Sunday said the bank was “well positioned” to cover any short-term deposit activity.

Signature had lost $50bn in deposits, or nearly 60 per cent of money in the bank’s accounts, since the beginning of the year, according to numbers revealed on Monday from New York Community Bank, which is acquiring nearly all of the failed bank’s operations. Signature’s deposits totalled $88bn at the end of December.

NYCB said deposit outflow from Signature had been significant, but had “stabilised” in the past week. US regulators guaranteed Signature deposits after it was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. NYCB shares were trading up more than 30 per cent following the deal announcement.

At SVB, customers withdrew $42bn, a quarter of its total deposits, in the bank’s final day of operations, underscoring the swifter nature of a bank run when customers can pull money electronically.

Still, broader US market indices were higher on Monday after the forced takeover of Credit Suisse by its local rival UBS showed that European authorities were acting decisively to prevent global contagion.

US authorities over the weekend also tried to calm fears about the health of regional banks, saying the outflows of deposits had slowed.

The share prices of most regional banks that came under pressure last week were flat or higher, though they remain well below the levels before the recent banking turmoil.

Camden Fine, a bank industry consultant and former head of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said despite outflows at the larger regionals, the conditions at smaller banks seem to be stabilising.

“I have talked to dozens of community bank CEOs, and believe it or not in every case they have seen an inflow of deposits in the past week,” said Fine, who tends to work with banks with less than $10bn in assets.

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