A sign is pictured above a branch of the New York Community Bank in Yonkers, New York, U.S., January 31, 2024. 

Mike Segar | Reuters

New York Community Bank’s shares churned early Wednesday after Moody’s Investors Service cut the firm’s credit rating two notches to junk status.

NYCB shares jumped 12%, reversing earlier losses of about 10%, in premarket trading. That followed a punishing series of trading sessions that cut almost 60% of the bank’s market value.

The regional bank has been in freefall since reporting a surprise loss last week, along with mounting losses on commercial real estate and the need to slash its dividend by 71% to shore up capital levels. The moves reignited concerns that some small and medium sized banks could be squeezed by declines in profitability and losses on real estate holdings.

Late Tuesday evening, Moody’s issued a report stating that NYCB faced “multi-faceted financial, risk-management and governance challenges.” It downgraded all the bank’s long term ratings to Ba2 from Baa3, partly on concerns about turnover of the firm’s risk management leaders, and warned the assessments remain on review for further downgrade.

“The downgrade reflects Moody’s views that NYCB faces high governance risks from its transition with regards to the leadership of its second and third lines of defense, the risk and audit functions of the bank, at a pivotal time,” Moody’s wrote. “In Moody’s view, control functions with strong knowledge of a bank’s risks are key to a bank’s credit strength.”

Overnight, NYCB issued a statement hours after the Moody’s report, stating that the downgrade isn’t expected to have a “material impact on our contractual arrangements.”

The bank sought to boost confidence by issuing unaudited financial information as of Monday, stating that 72% of total deposits were either insured or collateralized, and that it had amply liquidity to cover uninsured deposits.

“We took decisive actions to fortify our balance sheet and strengthen our risk management processes during the fourth quarter,” CEO Thomas Cangemi said in the release. “Our actions are an investment in enhancing a risk management framework commensurate with the size and complexity of our bank.”

NYCB has begun searching for a new chief risk officer and chief audit executive “with large bank experience,” Cangemi added. Managers holding those roles left the bank in the months before its disastrous earnings report last week, Bloomberg reported.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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