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Wall St ends higher as bank contagion fears ease, Fed eyed

Trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks jumped on Monday after a deal to rescue Credit Suisse and central bank efforts to bolster confidence in the financial system relieved investors, while participants also weighed the likelihood of a pause in rate hikes from the Federal Reserve this week.

UBS late on Sunday agreed to buy rival Credit Suisse for $3.23 billion, in a merger engineered by Swiss authorities to avoid more turmoil in the banking group.

Also, major central banks moved on Sunday to bolster the flow of cash around the world.

The S&P Banking index was up 0.6% and the KBW Regional Banking index was up 1.5% following sharp losses last week.

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The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank shook markets earlier this month, leading to a rout in banking stocks and worries that central bank monetary tightening would create a recession.

While some bank shares were still lower on Monday, the weakness appeared to be contained, said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

All of the major S&P 500 sectors ended higher, and the Cboe Volatility index - Wall Street's fear gauge - fell.

U.S.-listed shares of Credit Suisse were down 53% on Monday, while UBS Group shares rose 3.3%.

Regional bank First Republic Bank fell 47.1% following a downgrade by S&P Global and a report of more fundraising that fueled fears about the bank's liquidity despite a $30 billion rescue last week. Trading in shares of the bank was halted several times due to volatility.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 382.6 points, or 1.2%, to 32,244.58, the S&P 500 gained 34.93 points, or 0.89%, to 3,951.57 and the Nasdaq Composite added 45.03 points, or 0.39%, to 11,675.54.

Helping optimism, New York Community Bancorp climbed 31.7% after a unit of the bank agreed to buy deposits and loans from Signature Bank.

"Where it is another bank coming in, that is the kind of headline that helps underpin confidence in the banking system," Krosby said. "It helps to halt the panic and fear."

Among other regional banks, PacWest Bancorp closed up 10.8% after the bank said deposit outflows had stabilized.

Investors are also focused on the Fed's decision when policymakers conclude a two-day meeting on Wednesday. Before the turmoil with the banks earlier this month, many market participants had been factoring in a 50 basis-point interest rate hike from the Fed at its March meeting.

Fed funds futures now show a 28.4% probability of the Fed holding its overnight rate at 4.5%-4.75%, and a 71.6% likelihood of a 25 basis-point increase, according to CME's FedWatch Tool.

Shares of Amazon.com fell 1.3% on the day following the company's plans to slash another 9,000 jobs.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 12.48 billion shares, compared with the 12.60 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.69-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.05-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 1 new 52-week high and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 33 new highs and 298 new lows.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevith in New York; Additional reporting by Shubham Batra, Amruta Khandekar and Ankika Biswas in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Matthew Lewis)