First Republic Bank branch
The First Republic Bank branch on 4th Avenue in downtown San Diego. Image from Google Street View

Large U.S. banks injected $30 billion in deposits into Los Angeles-based First Republic Bank on Thursday, swooping in to rescue the lender caught up in a widening crisis triggered by the collapse of two other mid-size U.S. banks over the past week.

Banking stocks globally have been battered since Silicon Valley Bank collapsed last week due to bond-related losses that piled up when interest rates surged last year, raising questions about what else might be lurking in the wider banking system.

Within days, the market turmoil had ensnared Swiss lender Credit Suisse, forcing it to borrow up to $54 billion from Switzerland’s central bank to shore up liquidity.

By Thursday afternoon, the spotlight whipsawed back to the United States as big banks led an effort to prop up support for First Republic, a regional lender with six San Diego branches, whose shares had tumbled 70% in the last nine trading sessions.

Some of the biggest U.S. banking names including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were involved in the rescue, according to a statement from the banks.

The deal was put together by power brokers including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who discussed the package on Tuesday, according to a source familiar with the situation.

U.S. regulators said the show of support was most welcome, and showed the resilience of the banking system.

A round of financing on Sunday raised through JPMorgan had given First Republic access to $70 billion in funds. But that failed to calm investors as worries of a contagion deepened with the demise of Signature Bank to follow that of SVB and depositors began moving cash to larger lenders.

First Republic Bank’s stock closed up 10% on news of the rescue but its shares fell 18% in after-market trading, after the bank said it would suspend its dividend.

The bank’s stock price is down more than 70% since March 6.

News of the rescue also helped boost Wall Street indexes, with JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America all up more than 1%, while the benchmark S&P 500 Banks Index recovered 2.2%.    Smaller banks also rebounded from the recent sell-off, with Fifth Third Bancorp, PNC Financial Services Group and KeyCorp each gaining more than 4%.

Policymakers have tried emphasize that the current turmoil is different than the global financial crisis 15 years ago as banks are better capitalized and funds more easily available.

“The numbers, as we see them right here, are more consistent with the idea that this is just an idiosyncratic issue at a handful of banks,” said Thomas Simons, money market economist with investment bank Jefferies.

Yellen said the U.S. banking system remains sound thanks to “decisive and forceful” actions following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.

Updated at 8:45 p.m., Thursday, March 16, 2023