Banking Woes Push Investors to Safe Havens, High-Risk Assets

Investors have been betting on completely different markets following worries over the banking sector, with traditional safe havens like gold, treasuries and money markets seeing high demand along with high risk assets like cryptocurrencies and tech stocks. The unusual trend has started with financial distress started with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has spread to Europe, as UBS Group agreed to buy its troubled competitor Credit Suisse in a state backed takeover and major central banks took steps to reassure markets. Still, investors have been uneasy about the health of the financial system.

Financial sector woes have made investor to reposition assets, as they are now betting on central banks to slow interest rate hikes in order to avoid hurting the economy further, as concerns over the banking sector threaten to slow growth.

As a result, some assets that usually struggle when central banks are expected to tighten monetary policy are now holding strong. The S&P 500 tech sector is up around 2% since March 8, the day Silicon Valley Bank’s troubles became apparent, compared with a 1% decline in the broad S&P 500 index. Bitcoin, which fell 60% as rates were rising in 2022, has gained nearly 30% since March 8.

Meanwhile, traditional “safe-havens” have also gained. Yields on shorter-dated Treasuries, which move inversely to prices, saw a historic drop last week, while money market funds notched their biggest inflows since April 2020 in the week to March 15. Gold prices are up more than 9% while the S&P 500 utilities sector has gained 2.2%.

On the other hand, assets perceived as sensitive to economic growth has been hit. Oil prices have fallen to their lowest level since 2021, while shares of industrial and small-cap companies have also dropped.

As investment disparity continues, Fed’s two-day policy meeting is set to conclude on Wednesday. Earlier this month, investors were bracing for a hefty 50 basis-point rate hike as the central bank continued to stress the need to raise rates to rein inflation. But the current expectation varies from a 25 point raise to no raise at all.

Some investors see the continued gains in riskier segments of the stock market as a sign that more volatility lies ahead – especially if forecasts of a recession come to pass.

The decline in Treasury yields has bolstered areas of the market like tech stocks, whose recent strength has outweighed declines in banking and energy shares to help support the broader S&P 500.

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