Global markets encountered more volatility throughout March as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) led to uncertainty over the state of the banking sector.
SVB’s demise was driven primarily by its high concentration in long-dated treasuries which had plummeted in value due to rapidly rising interest rates and a bank run led by investors from the tech industry, which formed a large portion of its client base. In the days that followed, Swiss bank Credit Suisse, which had just reported an annual loss of CHF 7.3 billion, faced a similar fate before being rescued by UBS Group.
The collapse of SVB had a negative impact on banking shares. The FTSE All-Share Banks index, which comprises of twelve banks listed in the UK, surrendered nearly 14% in March – its biggest monthly decline since the Covid crash in March 2020 – while banks in the US measured by the S&P 500 Banks Industry Group index were down almost 19%. Credit Suisse Group’s shares plummeted 71% during the month. The uncertainty in the banking sector led to speculation that central banks may limit further interest rate hikes, which resulted in gilt yields falling during the month.
Full round-up of March market performance
In the UK, the FTSE 100 index declined 2.47% while medium and smaller companies, measured by the FTSE 250 ex IT index and the FTSE Small Cap ex IT index respectively, fell 5.33% and 7.02%. In the US, the S&P 500 USD index rose 3.67% while in Europe the Eurostoxx 50 EUR index gathered 2.01%. Japanese stocks measured by the Topix JPY index were up 1.70%.
Emerging markets returns were mostly positive, with the MSCI Emerging Markets index gaining 2.20% in local currency terms. Chinese stocks measured by the MSCI China local index put on 4.31% while Indian stocks measured by the Nifty 50 INR index climbed 0.32%. However Latin American equities, measured by the MSCI Latin America local currency index, dipped 1.64%.
In the fixed income market, UK government bonds, measured by the FTSE Gilts All Stocks index, increased 2.86%, with long-dated (over 15 years to maturity) gilts advancing 5.20%. Sterling denominated corporate bonds, measured by the Markit iBoxx Sterling Corporates index, increased 0.77%. In the high yield market, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Sterling High Yield index dropped 0.79%.
There were mixed returns in the commodities market. The S&P GSCI USD index, which consists of a basket of commodities including oil, metals and agricultural items, fell 1.07%. Crude oil futures relinquished 1.79% during the month. In the agricultural markets, corn and wheat futures amassed 4.92% and 0.11% in USD respectively. In the precious metals markets, the S&P GSCI Gold and Silver indices returned 7.61% and 15.11% in USD respectively.
In the currency markets, it was a positive month for the pound as it appreciated 2.62% versus the US dollar, 0.04% against the euro and 0.07% versus the yen.