There’s no doubting it now – Credit Suisse has made the banking crisis global and, in classic financial crisis mode, investors are rushing for the global safe havens of the US dollar, US Treasuries and Japanese yen.
There are major economic data releases from Asia on Thursday – New Zealand GDP, Japanese trade, Australian unemployment, and an Indonesian rate decision – but all that will be subsumed by the ferocious volatility sweeping through world markets.
Indeed, the most important driver for Asian markets on Thursday may come from Frankfurt. The European Central Bank (ECB) was on track to raise rates by 50 basis points, but can it be so aggressive – can it tighten at all – in light of Wednesday’s tumultuous events?
A cynic might point out that the ECB has form for failing to grasp the enormity of an unfolding financial crisis and raising interest rates. Not once, but twice.
Asian markets are likely to open under severe pressure on Thursday, even though Wall Street closed off its lows – the Nasdaq even ended up slightly – after the Swiss National Bank said it would provide Credit Suisse (CSGN) liquidity “if necessary.”
Even if a full resolution for Credit Suisse is announced and markets surge in a relief rally on Thursday, financial crises are not resolved in a few days. Remember, Bear Stearns was rescued in March 2008, oil rose to a record high and the ECB raised rates that July, and Lehman wasn’t until September.
Debate is intensifying on the roots of the banking crisis – solvency, liquidity, or asset quality? – regulatory blind spots, the US and Swiss response so far, what more regulators need to do, and the impact on growth and monetary policy going forward.
But ultimately, the banking system and markets rely on confidence. If that goes – and it can disappear very quickly – it can take a long time to recover.
Amid so much uncertainty, investors won’t stray too far from the safety of the dollar, Treasuries and the yen, and the top-rated collateral of US bills. The aforementioned Asian economic indicators could offer brief distraction, but it will likely be just that – brief.
Here are three key developments that could provide more direction to markets on Thursday:
– ECB policy meeting
– Indonesia interest rate decision
– Japan trade (February)
(By Jamie McGeever; editing by Josie Kao)