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Forecast: US bank collapse sends shockwaves across financial world, Black Sea grain deal expires, and TikTok’s CEO testifies before Congress

A single person in a room marked "polling zone" is placing their ballot into three tubs marked "presidential, senatorial, and house of representatives." The room looks older. The individual is wearing modern Nigerian clothing, a blue robe with bright orange spots and a hat

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

The sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank last weekend marked the second- and third-largest bank failures in U.S. history. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Joe Veyera discuss why the bank failures may impact the Federal Reserve’s upcoming interest rate decision.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of March 17-24
A Look Ahead

March 18 – Nigeria governorship and state assembly elections

On Saturday, Nigerians will cast ballots in delayed governorship and state assembly elections, just three weeks after a controversial presidential poll. 

What’s happened so far 
Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos from the governing All Progressives Congress party, was elected as Nigeria’s president following the first phase of the country’s general elections on Feb. 25. The country’s elections committee said the turnout rate was approximately 29 percent, amid reports from independent observers of widespread irregularities in the voting process. The opposing Labour Party said it would challenge the election results in court while asking its supporters to remain peaceful. The country’s electoral body delayed the governorship election by a week, saying it needed time to reset its voting machines.

The impact 
A total of 28 out of Nigeria’s 36 states will elect new governors, and new lawmakers for all 36 states will be elected for the Houses of Assembly. Human rights organizations report more than nine deaths in at least 60 attacks across the country since late September ahead of the general election, and analysts believe that attacks aimed at intimidating voters will likely continue ahead of the next round of voting.

March 18 – Black Sea grain deal expires  

The Black Sea grain agreement between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations will once again expire on Saturday, unless a new extension is agreed before the deadline. 

What’s happened so far 
The deal was first agreed in late July 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine impacted global food supply, leading to food prices hike. Under the agreement, ships are able to export grain from three ports along the Black Sea. The deal was renewed in November despite fears it would not go ahead after Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out an attack on naval vessels in Sevastopol. This week, a Russian fighter collided with a U.S. Reaper drone, forcing it down into the Black Sea. Russia called the incident a “provocation.”

The impact 
Russian officials have released statements in the week leading up to this date suggesting they were open to extending the deal for 60 days, even claiming a deal had been reached. However, Turkey came forward saying negotiations were still ongoing, while Kyiv said it would stick to the terms of the previously agreed deal based on a 120-day duration.

March 18 – Kosovo and Serbia meet  

Officials from Kosovo and Serbia will meet in North Macedonia on Saturday for EU-hosted talks looking to normalize relations between the two nations.

What’s happened so far 
The EU announced in late February that both countries had agreed to sign an initial proposal to normalize relations following a meeting in Brussels. The efforts to improve ties between both countries follow years of tensions since Kosovo broke away from Serbia and declared independence in 2008 after nine years of war. Serbia still considers Kosovo as a breakaway province and clashes between authorities and minority Kosovo Serbs broke out in recent months.

The impact 
Under the proposed deal, Serbia would not be forced to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation, but it would recognize documents such as passports and license plates, and would not prevent Kosovo from joining international bodies. Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, however, said he would not sign the deal if it did not achieve advancements toward mutual recognition between the two states, while Serbia’s president said he would not sign a deal that included mutual recognition and the entry of Kosovo into the U.N. According to leaked documents, Germany and France offered to speed up Serbia’s EU membership if it recognized Kosovo’s independence. 

March 19 – Montenegro elections  

Montenegrins will select a new president on Sunday after multiple no-confidence votes in 2022 collapsed the ruling coalition.

What’s happened so far 
Montenegro’s opposition parties ousted the government in two separate no-confidence votes in February and August 2022 amid concerns over links with the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church. Parliament attempted to appoint veteran politician Miodrag Lekić as prime minister-designate in December 2022, but the vote was disputed by President Milo Djukanović and Lekić later failed to garner enough support to form a government.

The impact 
Montenegro, an EU accession candidate since 2008, has been at odds with the bloc after the country’s parliament attempted to curb the president’s powers to nominate a prime minister through what the EU called an unconstitutional reform. The EU is sending observers to the Saturday polls. A runoff election will be held April 2 if no candidate wins a majority in the first round.

March 19 – Extraordinary elections in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan will hold early elections on Sunday after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev dissolved the parliament in January.

What’s happened so far 
The elections, called by the president when he dissolved parliament, followed a year of political turmoil and violent protests, leading to an early presidential vote in November. Tokayev secured a second term with more than 80 percent of the vote. The nation, which is one of Russia’s closest allies, has subtly shown it is against the invasion of Ukraine, even saying it does not recognize Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine.

The impact 
The elections will be closely monitored following January 2022’s violent protests over natural gas price hikes that left more than 200 people dead and led to a referendum on a constitutional reforms. Since then, the country has made steps toward decentralization of executive power. The vote will already take into account some changes made in the constitution in the aftermath of the referendum. Meanwhile, authorities have been accused of failing to investigate the deaths and human rights violations during the protests, which also saw more than 300 people convicted.

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March 22 – No confidence vote against Spanish PM

The Spanish parliament will vote next Wednesday on whether to support incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a no-confidence vote.

What’s happened so far 
Spain’s far-right VOX party announced in February 2023 that it would bring forward a vote of no confidence to the parliament against Sanchez, proposing Ramon Tamames, an 89-year-old economist, ex-military leader and former member of the Communist Party, as a replacement. Spain’s Congress leader confirmed this week that the vote of no confidence would take place following a day scheduled for debate. The leader of the VOX party, Santiago Abascal, had been unsuccessful in gaining support for a no-confidence vote he brought to parliament in 2020 against Sanchez.

The impact 
Spain’s far-right leader Abascal called the current no-confidence vote over what his party believes is the prime minister’s role in Spain’s “energy dependence, galloping inflation and unaffordable gas and electricity bills.” Abascal sayid he is hopeful the conservative Populist Party (PP) will support the motion, despite PP’s leader saying he is unlikely to attend the vote after calling it a “political performance.” To pass, a vote of no confidence requires the support of at least 176 lawmakers in parliament, which analysts believe VOX is highly unlikely to achieve at this point.

March 23 – TikTok CEO to testify before Congress  

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. Chew is expected to testify about the social media app’s security and privacy practices as well as its ties with China.

What’s happened so far 
Chew has already met with some lawmakers in a series of closed-door meetings. While these types of meetings are somewhat common, Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., said her meeting with Chew was more substantive than those she’s previously had with the heads of Meta, Instagram and Google. 

The impact 
Chew’s appearance before Congress comes as the video-sharing platform continues to face criticism on several issues, including child safety, even after the company recently added new tools aimed at giving parents more control over their children’s usage of the app. The CEO’s appearance also follows a proposal from a bipartisan group of Senators seeking to expand President Joe Biden’s authority to ban TikTok nationwide.  

March 23 – President Biden visits Canada

U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Canada on Thursday to address the country’s Parliament and hold talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

What’s happened so far 
This is Biden’s first visit to Canada as president, with the coronavirus pandemic nixing the traditional trip north following an inauguration, though both leaders have met during international summits, including most recently at a North American leaders summit in Mexico City in January. The Biden-Trudeau relationship is considered more cordial than that of his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who visited Canada only once during his presidency.

The impact 
Economic issues are high on the agenda, as is China’s alleged interference in Canadian elections and recent balloon overflights that have led to shootdowns. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and continued U.S.-Canadian support for Ukraine is also likely to dominate discussion.

What Else Matters

The entry sign of Silicon Valley Bank's headquarters
Silicon Valley Bank, pictured here at its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., failed on Friday following a run on the bank. (Photo: Minh Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons)

Silicon Valley Bank failure 

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on Friday and Signature Bank on Sunday marked the second-and-third-largest bank failures in U.S. history, and the biggest since the 2008 financial crisis, sending shockwaves through the tech industry and for startups that had come to rely on the regional lender. Following a whirlwind 72 hours of government discussions, the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and FDIC announced late Sunday it would guarantee access to all deposits at both banks, including those above the $250,000 threshold. The Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly launched investigations into the SVB failure, including stock share sales by executives in the leadup to the collapse.  

Watch for: Several other regional banks, including San Francisco-based First Republic and PacWest Bancorp of Los Angeles, also appeared at risk in the wake of SVB’s failure, but have seen their stock prices rebound as concerns eased that the collapse would have a wider ripple effect on the industry. However, the bank failure may impact the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision at next week’s board meeting after making eight increases in the last 12 months, most recently a 0.25-point jump in February. Long-term, startups may feel the pinch, with SVB one of the top providers of venture debt and other credit. 

Cyclone Freddy 

Heavy rains, flooding and landslides have pummeled the southeastern coast of Africa, killing more than 200 people and injuring many more in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar. The storm formed Feb. 20 and made landfall as a tropical storm in Madagascar’s eastern coast shortly after, only to then re-enter the waters, strengthen substantially and make its second landfall as a stronger cyclone in Quelimane, Mozambique. This has made it one of the longest lasting tropical cyclones of this size. Strong winds enabled the storm to destroy homes and buildings, therefore causing more havoc in a region reeling from the first time the storm passed. 

Watch for: Authorities do not yet know the full extent of damage Cyclone Freddy has caused, including ongoing impacts on power grids, critical infrastructure and phone lines. The damage is extremely widespread, and the situation for Malawi, where the eye of the storm is currently, will deteriorate further. The effect the storm’s damage will have on the wider region and Malawi, a country reeling from a widespread cholera epidemic, is yet to be seen as well. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

March 17-24 

March 17 

  • OSCE foreign ministers to meet in Vienna, Austria
  • EU-Republic of North Macedonia Stabilisation and Association Council meeting

March 18 

  • Black Sea grain deal expires
  • Nigeria governorship and state assembly elections
  • Kosovo and Serbia meet

March 19 

  • Kazakh House of Representatives election
  • Montenegro referendum election
  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit India

March 20

  • EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting
  • Voter registration begins in Liberia
  • IMF board meeting on loan for Sri Lanka

March 21

  • EU General Affairs Council meeting

March 22

  • No confidence vote against Spain PM 
  • Ramadan begins
  • Greek rail service begins to resume

March 23

  • TikTok CEO testifies before U.S. Congress
  • European Council meeting
  • President Biden visits Canada

March 25-31 

March 25 

  • New South Wales state election

March 26

  • Turkmenistan National Assembly election
  • King Charles visits France
  • Cuban National Assembly of People’s Power election

March 27

  • Malaysian prime minister Anwar Ibrahim visits Cambodia

March 28

  • Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping
  • ASEAN+3 Finance and Central Bank Deputies’ meeting

March 29

  • Nigeria census
  • Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov to visit Israel

March 30

  • Palestine Land Day

March 31

  • Oscar Pistorius parole hearing

April 1-7 

April 2

  • Bulgaria elections
  • Finnish Parliament election

April 4

  • NATO foreign ministers to meet in Brussels

April 5

  • Passover begins

April 8-14 

April 9

  • Easter

April 11

  • French President Emmanuel Macron makes a state visit to the Netherlands

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