Your Tuesday Briefing: A U.S. Banking Crisis

Clients waited to enter Silicon Valley Bank yesterday in Santa Clara, Calif.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Bank failure fears

President Biden tried to reassure Americans that the U.S. banking industry was safe, after federal regulators took over two failing banks in three days. Several midsize U.S. banks also scrambled to calm the fears of their customers.

“Americans can rest assured that our banking system is safe,” Biden said in a brief televised statement. “Your deposits will be there when you need them.” The Federal Reserve also set up a broader emergency lending program to ensure that other U.S. banks could weather the storm.

The rush to reassure bank customers spoke to a core truth of financial markets: Bank runs can feed on themselves and become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as my colleague David Leonhardt noted in The Morning. In the DealBook newsletter, Andrew Ross Sorkin called the new Fed program “the most sweeping backstop for the U.S. banking system since the 2008 crisis.”

Here’s what we know about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, a once-obscure lender which had focused on tech start-ups. SVB was the biggest American bank to fail since the collapse of Washington Mutual in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis. Two other banks have also closed.

Context: Biden sought to distinguish his intervention from the taxpayer-financed bailout in 2008 and 2009, when the U.S. steered hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue the bank industry. “No losses will be borne by the taxpayers,” Biden insisted.

The Federal Reserve: Investors speculated that the Fed may have to slow the pace of its interest rate increases, which contributed to the downfall of the banks.

Markets: Stocks of U.S. regional banks took a beating. Stock indexes across Europe suffered their worst day of the year, while Asian markets were mixed.

A photograph released by Russian state media showed President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights.Credit…Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/EPA, via Shutterstock

Russians to face war crimes charges

The International Criminal Court intends to open two war crimes cases tied to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will seek arrest warrants for several people, according to officials. They would be the first international charges to be brought forward since the war started.

The cases would accuse Russia of abducting Ukrainian children and sending them to Russian re-education camps, and of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure.

The Downfall of Silicon Valley Bank

One of the most prominent lenders in the world of technology start-ups collapsed on March 10, forcing the U.S. government to step in.

  • A Rapid Fall: The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, the biggest U.S. bank failure since the 2008 financial crisis, was caused by a run on the bank. But will the turmoil prove to be fleeting — or turn into a true crisis?
  • The Fallout: The bank’s implosion rattled a start-up industry already on edge, and some of the worst casualties of the collapse were companies developing solutions for the climate crisis.
  • Signature Bank: The New York financial institution closed its doors abruptly after regulators said it could threaten the entire financial system. To some extent, it is a victim of the panic around Silicon Valley Bank.
  • The Fed’s Next Move: The Federal Reserve has been rapidly raising interest rates to fight inflation, but making big moves could be trickier after Silicon Valley Bank’s blowup.

Experts said it was possible that Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, could be charged. The likelihood of a trial remains slim as the court cannot hear cases in absentia and Russia is unlikely to surrender its own officials.

Even if the cases do not make it to trial, legal experts say an arrest warrant issued by the I.C.C. is symbolically important because it can make someone a pariah, as these charges do not go away. Ukraine’s government is separately holding its own war crimes trials, and a host of other international bodies are investigating atrocities during the war.

Other updates from the war:

  • Russia said it was willing to extend a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain by 60 days.

  • A Ukrainian military official said villages along the front line in eastern Ukraine were “being erased” as Russia stepped up attacks.

Li Qiang took office on Saturday.Credit…Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

China’s new No. 2 urges confidence

In his first news conference as premier, Li Qiang promised that private and state-owned businesses would be treated equally and that the rights of entrepreneurs would be respected. His efforts to reinvigorate investor confidence come as the ruling Communist Party struggles to revive economic growth after “zero Covid” restrictions.

Li, who has a business-friendly reputation, promised “fair competition” in commerce. He delivered the most forceful statement by a Chinese leader in years on the need to preserve the vitality of the private sector, coming after a decade in which the party has played a growing role in private companies.

It showed that he is poised to take point on the economy, while Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has positioned himself to play the role of a removed, paternalistic leader who provides security. The direction of the country’s economy, the second largest in the world, now depends on how these tensions play out.

Background: Weak investor confidence has hurt China’s economy. Even after the end of Covid restrictions, many are still wary. Li cautioned that China’s modest goal of 5 percent growth would not be easy to achieve.


Around the World

North Korea indicated that the missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads.Credit…Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • North Korea launched cruise missiles from a submarine. The test, a first for the country, came as the U.S. and South Korea were about to begin a major joint military exercise.

  • The Biden administration approved a huge oil drilling project in Alaska despite opposition because of its likely environmental and climate impacts.

  • The BBC reinstated Gary Lineker, its most visible sports broadcaster, after a staff mutiny.

The Oscars

Credit…Todd Heisler/The New York Times
  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won best picture and six other awards. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian to win best actress.

  • “All Quiet on the Western Front,” from Germany, won best international film. “Naatu Naatu,” from the Indian blockbuster “RRR,” won best original song. Here are all the winners.

  • Style: These were the best (and worst) outfits, and our favorite photos.

A Morning Read

Russian restaurants and nightclubs dominate part of Dubai.Credit…Andrea DiCenzo for The New York Times

Dubai is becoming “Russia outside Russia,” at least for the rich. It’s business-minded, expat-oriented and apolitical — protests in the authoritarian monarchy of the United Arab Emirates are effectively illegal. There are no Ukrainian flags displayed in public, and the war feels far away.

Lives Lived: Kenzaburo Oe was a Nobel laureate who used his powerful novels and essays to criticize postwar Japan. He died at 88.


A 25-story Rubik’s cube

Both of these towers now house hundreds of apartments — through very different transformations.Credit…Larry Buchanan

Cities are eager to turn office buildings into housing as remote work rises. The premise suggests cities could solve two problems — an office glut and a housing shortage — at once.

But it’s harder than you might think, and each building presents a unique challenge. Above all, every unit needs to be able to access fresh air and sunlight.

Prewar buildings are often easier conversions. The same logic that shaped how they were designed as offices determines how apartments are planned today: Both share a rule of thumb that no interior space be more than 25 to 30 feet from a window that opens. Architects often just need to add a bathroom, move around some walls and voilà: A new apartment is born.

Modern offices can be hard to adapt. Air conditioning and fluorescent lighting allowed them to have big footprints, and there’s a lot of space that’s far from the windows — which don’t open — and largely useless for apartment living. Solutions have to be bolder, like cutting a hole through a high-rise to make a courtyard.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Maggie Ruggiero.

Pasta alla gricia is a spectacular, simple emblem of Rome. “Take a few really good ingredients, treat them with care and you’ll end up with a mind-blowing meal,” Melissa Clark writes. 

What to Read

“Birnam Wood,” by the Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, is an ardent, funny ecological novel that follows guerrilla gardeners in New Zealand.

What to Watch

In “Chang Can Dunk,” a warmhearted comedy, a short teen channels his inner Kobe Bryant.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Quite a few (four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Today is Pi Day, if you write the date in the American way: 3.14. The famous mathematical ratio is the perfect symbol for our species’ long effort to tame infinity.

“The Daily” asks: What is E.S.G., and why are Republicans so mad about it?

You can always reach me at [email protected]. I read every note.

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