US STOCKS-Wall Street ends sharply lower on bank contagion fears


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      First Republic Bank tumbles on suspending dividend

      SVB Financial seeks bankruptcy protection

      FedEx jumps on full-year profit forecast raise

      Indexes down: Dow 1.19%, S&P 1.10%, Nasdaq 0.74%

 (Adds market details after close of trading, updates prices)
    By Stephen Culp
       NEW YORK, March 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street closed lower
on Friday, marking the end of a tumultuous week dominated by an
unfolding crisis in the banking sector and the gathering storm
clouds of possible recession.
    All three indexes ended the session deep in negative
territory, with financial stocks  .SPNY  down the most among the
major sectors of the S&P 500.
    For the week, while the benchmark S&P 500 ended higher than
last Friday's close, the Nasdaq and the Dow posted weekly 
    SVB Financial Group  SIVB.O  announced it would seek Chapter
11 bankruptcy protection, the latest development in an ongoing
drama that began last week with the collapse of Silicon Valley
Bank and Signature Bank  SBNY.O , which sparked fears of
contagion throughout the global banking system.
    "(The sell-off) is a bit of an overreaction," said Oliver
Pursche, senior vice president at Wealthspire Advisors in New
York. "However, there is validity to some of the concerns
regarding overall liquidity and a potential liquidity crunch."
    Those concerns have spread to Europe, as Credit Suisse
 CSGN.S  shares stumbled over liquidity worries, prompting
policymakers to scramble to reassure markets.
    "This goes a lot further than just a run on SVB or First
Republic, it goes to the real impact these interest rate hikes
are having on capital and balance sheets," Pursche added. "And
you're seeing it impact large institutions like Credit Suisse,
and that’s got people rattled." 
    Over the last two weeks, the S&P Banking index  .SPXBK  and
the KBW Regional Banking index  .KRX  plunged by 4.6% and 5.4%,
respectively, their largest two-week drops since March 2020.
    First Republic Bank  FRC.N  plunged 32.8% after the bank
announced it was suspending its dividend, reversing Thursday's
surge which was sparked by an unprecedented $30 billion rescue
package from large financial institutions
    Among First Republic's peers, PacWest Bancorp  PACW.O  fell
19.0% while Western Alliance  WAL.N  slid 15.1%.
    U.S.-traded shares of Credit Suisse also closed sharply
lower, down 6.9%.
    Investors now turn their gaze to the Federal Reserve's
two-day monetary policy meeting next week.
    In view of recent developments in the banking sector and
data suggesting a softening economy, investors have adjusted
their expectations regarding the size and duration of the Fed's
restrictive interest rate hikes.
    "This mini banking crisis has increased the chance of
recession and accelerated the slowdown timeline for the
economy," Pursche said. "It's natural that the Fed should
re-examine its course of action, but it's still very clear that
while inflation is slowing it's still very much a concern and
needs to be brought under control."
    At last glance, financial markets have priced in a 60.5%
likelihood that the central bank will raise its key target rate
by 25 basis points, and a 39.5% probability that it will let the
current rate stand, according to CME's FedWatch tool.
    The Dow Jones Industrial Average  .DJI  fell 384.57 points,
or 1.19%, to 31,861.98, the S&P 500  .SPX  lost 43.64 points, or
1.10%, to 3,916.64 and the Nasdaq Composite  .IXIC  dropped
86.76 points, or 0.74%, to 11,630.51.
    All 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 ended the session in
negative territory.
    On the upside, FedEx Corp  FDX.N  jumped 8.0% after hiking
its current fiscal year forecast.
    Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a
4.07-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.94-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
    The S&P 500 posted 5 new 52-week highs and 20 new lows; the
Nasdaq Composite recorded 29 new highs and 320 new lows.
    Volume on U.S. exchanges was 19.41 billion shares, compared
with the 12.49 billion average over the last 20 trading days.   

 (Reporting by Stephen Culp in New York
Additional reporting by Shubham  Batra and Amruta Khandekar in
Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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