Asian shares mixed despite jitters after US bank failure

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Asian shares were trading mixed Monday, shaken by a Wall Street tumble that set off worries the biggest United States bank failure in nearly 15 years might have ripple effects around the world.

But the falls were relatively subdued because of reassurances from U.S. officials that financial shocks would be mitigated, sending U.S. futures higher.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 1.1% to finish at 27,832.96. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.5% to 7,108.80. South Korea's Kospi recouped earlier losses to gain 0.8% to 2,412.84.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.9% to 19,683.23. The Shanghai Composite rose nearly 1.1% to 3,263.88, as Chinese shares tracked a gain in U.S. futures. Dow futures were up 1.2% at 32,552.00. S&P 500 futures rose 1.7% to 3,964.00. Oil prices vacillated throughout the day.

Recent developments in Chinese politics have worked as a stabilizing factor. Major posts, including the governor of the Bank of China, were announced, signaling a continuation of policy.

Before trading began in Asia, the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and FDIC said Sunday that all Silicon Valley Bank clients will be protected and have access to their funds and announced steps designed to protect the bank’s customers and prevent more bank runs.

Regulators closed Silicon Valley Bank on Friday amid a run on the bank, which was the second-largest U.S. bank failure behind the 2008 failure of Washington Mutual. They also announced Sunday that New York-based Signature Bank was being seized after it became the third-largest bank failure in U.S. history.

Following two bank failures, worries about financial stability and liquidity concerns were dominating the market landscape, said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management in Hong Kong.

He said traders made nervous by the weekend's news could create “a ready-aim-fire Monday open.”

“With the market likely headed for a more turbulent period with US inflation on a collision course with Bank ‘theater of tragedy,’ now is probably not the best time for investor euphoria," Innes said.

But the sense that U.S. authorities were taking steps to limit “the contagion effect” helped calm the situation somewhat, although “markets remain skittish” in Asia, said Venkateswaran Lavanya at Mizuho Bank.

Unemployment data for Australia for February will be released Thursday. A gain of 50,000 jobs is expected, after two straight months of losses, and the unemployment rate is expected to move one tick lower to 3.6%, according to RaboResearch.

Shares had tanked Friday on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 dropping 1.4% to cap its worst week since September.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.1% to 31,909.64, while the Nasdaq composite sank 1.8% to 11,138.89. The S&P 500 fell 56.73 points to 3,861.59.

Some of the sharpest drops on Wall Street last week came from the financial industry. First Republic Bank tumbled 14.8%, while Charles Schwab lost another 11.7% after dropping 12.8% on Thursday. Larger banks, which have been stress-tested by regulators following the 2008 financial crisis, held up better. JPMorgan Chase rose 2.5%.

In Tokyo trading, banking issues were sold, with MUFG Bank falling 3.5%, echoing such falls on Wall Street. Shares in Mitsui Sumitomo Financial Group dipped 4%.

Worries grew recently that interest rates are set to go higher than expected after the Fed Reserve said it could reaccelerate the size of its rate hikes. The Fed is focusing on wage growth in particular in its fight against inflation. It worries too-high gains could cause a vicious cycle that worsens inflation.

Traders now largely expect the Fed to stick with a modest 0.25 point hike. Last month, the Fed slowed to that pace after earlier hiking by 0.50 and 0.75 points. The Fed has already raised rates at the fastest pace in decades and made other moves to reverse its tremendous support for the economy during the pandemic.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude gained 29 cents to $76.97 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 31 cents to $83.09 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar fell to 134.40 Japanese yen from 134.96 yen. The euro cost $1.0718, up from $1.0643.

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