Western Alliance stock plummeted and partially recovered on Thursday as news outlets published reports that the regional bank would consider a sale, a claim the firm denied.
The volatility comes days after First Republic Bank imploded and weeks after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank similarly failed as customers with balances above the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation threshold at the three medium-sized banks rushed to withdraw their funds. Two people briefed on discussions at Western Alliance, which is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and serves clients throughout the western part of the country, claimed the firm is exploring options such as a full or partial sale, according to a report from the Financial Times.
Western Alliance later commented that the assertions in the article were “absolutely false” and said the company would pursue legal action over the story. “There is not a single element of the article that is true. Western Alliance is not exploring a sale, nor has it hired an advisor to explore strategic options,” a spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. “It is shameful and irresponsible that the Financial Times has allowed itself to be used as an instrument of short sellers and as a conduit for spreading false narratives about a financially sound and profitable bank.”
Shares for Western Alliance fell nearly 34% on Thursday even as regulators repeatedly halted trading of the company’s stock. The firm has seen share prices decrease more than 40% over the past five days and more than 68% since the banking crisis started two months ago.
Western Alliance saw deposits fall more than 11% between the end of December and the end of March, from $54 billion to $48 billion, according to a first-quarter earnings report from the company. PacWest, which saw declines of 17% over the same time horizon, also witnessed market volatility on Thursday and announced that the company would evaluate the possibility of a sale and other “options to maximize shareholder value.”
The continued tumult and investor unease in the financial sector occurs immediately after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell declared on Wednesday afternoon that the banking system remains “sound and resilient.”
“We are committed to learning the right lessons from this episode and will work to prevent events like these from happening again,” he said at a press conference.
Officials at the Federal Reserve unveiled a report last week concluding that the failure of Silicon Valley Bank came as executives neglected to properly assess risk and address turmoil within the technology sector, upon which the firm was heavily reliant for customers.
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Policymakers also worked to increase the target federal funds rate over the past year to combat inflation by hiking interest rates across the economy, prompting heavy losses when Silicon Valley Bank sold a long-term bond portfolio to fund withdrawals. Assets in the overall banking system are now $2 trillion lower than their book value due to the elevated interest rates, according to a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.