Thoughts on the Market

By Morgan Stanley

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Short, thoughtful and regular takes on recent events in the markets from a variety of perspectives and voices within Morgan Stanley.


Episode Date
Andrew Sheets: Where Could Market Strength Persist?
00:03:14

After a year of falling assets, 2023 has started strong for global markets. Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets outlines which markets could sustain their momentum.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, February 3rd at 2 p.m. in London. 


2022 was a year where almost all assets fell. 2023 so far has been the opposite. Stocks in China, Japan, Europe and the U.S. are all off to unusually good starts. Meanwhile, U.S. long term bonds have actually risen more than the stock market. 


But behind this widespread strength are some rather different stories. I want to talk through these and how they inform our view of where this strength could continue, or not. 


One set of strength is coming out of Asia, where China's reopening from COVID has been much more aggressive than expected. This is a material change of policy in the world's second largest economy, which has persisted despite a large initial rise in case numbers. That persistence has made our analysts more confident that large amounts of consumer spending could still be unlocked. While valuations in emerging markets and China equities have risen as a result of this reopening, we think they remain reasonable, and therefore our overweight equities in China, Korea and Taiwan. 


The second story is Europe. China's rebound is part of the narrative here, but we think a larger driver is energy. A mild winter and abundant supplies of U.S. LNG have caused the price of natural gas in Europe to fall by more than 60% since early December, and by more than 80% since late August. This decline has specific benefits reducing inflation while simultaneously easing pressures on economic growth, a proverbial win-win. But falling energy prices also have a more general benefit. For much of the last six months, the specter of a severe energy shortage has hung over Europe, discouraging investment. With the existential threat of energy shortages easing, the region is once again attracting capital. Flows by U.S. investors into European stock ETFs, for example, is on the rise, and we think continued investment flows into the region will help boost the euro. 


The third story, the U.S. story, is different still. Better growth in China and Europe are part of this, but we think the bigger issue is growing confidence of a so-called soft landing, where growth slows enough to reduce inflation, but not so much to cause a recession. That soft landing scenario is the base case forecast of Morgan Stanley's economists. But on several key variables, major uncertainties remain. On the one hand, the index of economic leading indicators or measures of new manufacturing orders have been surprisingly weak. But today's U.S. labor market report was extremely strong, with the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. And while inflation has been easing, every update here will remain important, including the next reading of the Consumer Price Index on February 14th. 


Global markets have been almost universally strong, but the drivers are quite different. We think the stories in Asia and Europe have the best chance of persisting throughout the year, while the U.S. story remains more data dependent. Stay tuned. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Feb 03, 2023
Jonathan Garner: Tracking Asia and EM Outperformance
00:03:15

Emerging markets are turning bullish and China’s reopening leaves room for an increase in consumption. What sectors and industries might benefit from this upturn?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jonathan Garner, Chief Asia and emerging market equity strategist at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, in this episode I'll explain why the bull market in emerging market equities is still young. It's Thursday, 2nd of February at 8 a.m. in Singapore. 


In our view, the bull market in emerging market equities is still young. We entered a bull market, conventionally defined as up 20% from the trough, in the second week of January, having completed the bear market in mid-October. And bull markets typically last at least a year in our asset class, although the pace of recent market gains will probably slow. 


Unlike the U.S. market, earnings estimates revisions in Asia and emerging markets are now inflecting upwards, and that's why emerging equities are performing U.S. equities more rapidly even than in early 2009. And we think this outperformance is likely to continue a while longer. As we've entered a bull market the 52 week rolling beta, or measure of correlation of emerging markets versus U.S. equities, has undergone a regime shift falling from around 0.8 times in the third quarter last year to just 0.4 times currently. And even more striking, the beta of the Hang Seng index, at the leading edge of the current bull market in our asset class, compared to the S&P 500 has fallen close to zero. This is lower than at any point in the last 30 years of data and speaks to an environment of extreme decoupling and performance. 


These factors have led us to raise our growth stock exposure in recent months. Particularly in North Asia ex-Japan, so that's China, Korea and Taiwan, we expect those markets to continue to outperform, as is typical in the early phases of a bull market, whilst we expect Southeast Asian markets, ASEAN and India, which were defensive outperformers during the bear market to underperform as the bull market gets going. 


On the sector side, we're overweight semiconductors and technology hardware and think that the fourth quarter of 2022 was the trough for industry fundamentals, with recovery expected in the second half of this year as inventory reduces and demand recovers, particularly in China. Whilst we praised our emerging markets and China targets several times in recent months, we recently cut our Japan target for TOPIX given the headwind of yen strength. And we prefer Japan banks to the overall market as they're one of the few sectors that's positively leveraged to a stronger yen. 


Finally, we'd like to emphasize that China reopening is probably going to be more V-shaped than the consensus expects, with substantial excess savings in consumer pockets likely to support consumption through this year. Now, this factor is prima facie more bullish the energy sector, which we're also overweight, than the broad materials sector, which is more leveraged to property demand in China, which we think will be slower to recover. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and recommend Thoughts on the Market to a friend or colleague today. 

Feb 02, 2023
Michael Zezas: U.S. Policy and Investment Restrictions on China
00:02:20

As reports that the White House may be considering more impactful approaches to Chinese investment restrictions reach investors, how much should they be reading into these policy deliberations?


----- Transcription -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, February 1st at 10 a.m. in New York. 


The influence of U.S. policy deliberations on financial markets was once again on display this week. Fresh reports that the White House continues to consider implementing rules that would restrict some investments in China, shouldn't surprise regular listeners of this podcast. After all, the U.S. government has been quite public about its intention to keep U.S. resources from supporting the development of key technologies in China deemed critical to U.S. economic and national security. But what might be a bit surprising was a report suggesting that one approach to achieving this goal could be quite different than many anticipated. In particular, the White House is reportedly considering blanket bans on investing in certain sectors of concern, rather than a tailored investment by investment review. Following the news, China equity markets have moved lower and many of our clients see a link. 


However, we think investors shouldn't read too much into one media report. We emphasize that the media reports on this topic are full of hedged and subjective language. While it could very well be true that the administration is considering this more severe approach, policy deliberations of all kinds typically consider multiple options. So, the consideration of this approach doesn't inherently mean it's the most likely outcome. 


But we do think one reliable read through from this report is that the U.S. is likely to enact some form of investment restrictions with regard to China. So investors do need to grapple with what this could mean. It could drive concern among investors around impacts to tech concentrated and R&D heavy sectors of the China equity markets. But also consider that such actions underscore emerging opportunities in geographies our colleagues have become quite positive on, like Mexico and India, markets that could benefit from U.S. multinationals having to shift new tech sensitive production away from China. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

Feb 01, 2023
Matt Hornbach: A Narrative of Declining Inflation
00:02:57

As the data continues to show a weakness in inflation, is it enough to convince investors that the Fed may turn dovish on monetary policy? And how are these expectations impacting Treasury yields?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Matthew Hornbach, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Macro Strategy. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll talk about expectations for the Fed's monetary policy this year, and its impact on Treasury yields. It's Tuesday, January 31st at 10 a.m. in New York. 


So far, 2023 seems to be 2022 in reverse. High inflation, which defined most of last year, seems to have given way to a narrative of rapidly declining inflation. Wages, the Consumer Price index, data from the Institute of Supply Management, or ISM, and small business surveys all suggest softening. And Treasury markets have reacted with a meaningful decline in yield. 


We've now had three consecutive inflation reports, I think of them as three strikes, that did not highlight any major inflation concerns, with two of the reports being outright negative surprises. The Fed hasn't quite acknowledged the weakness in inflation, but will the third strike be enough to convince investors that inflation is slowing, so much so that the Fed may change its view on terminal rates and the path of rates thereafter? 


We think it is. With inflation likely on course to miss the Fed's December projections, the Fed may decide to make dovish changes to those projections at the March FOMC meeting. And in fact, the market is already pricing a deeper than expected rate cutting cycle, which aligns with the idea of lower than projected inflation. 


In anticipation of the March meeting, markets are pricing in nearly another 25 basis point rate hike, while our economists see a Fed that remains on hold. The driver of our economists view is that non-farm payroll gains will decelerate further, and core services ex housing inflation will soften as well, pushing the Fed to stay put with a target range between 4.5% and 4.75%.


In addition to all of this, it has become clear from our conversations with investors, and recent price action, that the markets of 2022 left fixed income investors with extra cash on the sidelines that's ready to be deployed in 2023. That extra cash is likely to depress term premiums in the U.S. Treasury market, especially in the belly -or intermediate sector- of the yield curve. 


Given these developments, we have revised lower our Treasury yield forecasts. We see the 10 year Treasury yield ending the year near 3%, and the 2 year yield ending the year near 3.25%. That would represent a fairly dramatic steepening of the Treasury yield curve in 2023. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Jan 31, 2023
Mike Wilson: Fighting the Fear of Missing Out
00:03:44

Stocks have seen a much better start to 2023 than anticipated. But can this upswing continue, or is this merely the last bear market rally before the market reaches its final lows?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, January 30th and 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


2023 is off to a much better start than most expected when we entered the year. Part of this was due to the fact that the consensus had adopted our more bearish view that we pivoted back to in early December. Fast forward three weeks, however, and that view has changed almost 180 degrees, with most investors now adopting the new, more positive narrative of the China reopening, falling inflation and U.S. dollar and the possibility of a Fed pause right around the corner. While we acknowledge these developments are real net positives, we remind listeners that these were essentially the exact same reasons we cited back in October when we turned tactically bullish. However, at that point, the S&P 500 was trading 500 points lower with valuations that were almost 20% lower than today. In other words, this new narrative that seems to be gaining wider attention has already been priced in our view. In fact, we exited our tactical trade at these same price levels in early December. What's happening now is just another bear market trap in our view, as investors have been forced once again to abandon their fundamental discipline in fear of falling behind or missing out. This FOMO has only been exacerbated by our observation that most missed the rally from October to begin with, and with the New Year beginning they can't afford to not be on the train if it's truly left the station. 


Another reason stocks are rallying to start the year is due to the January effect, a seasonal pattern that essentially boost the prior year's laggards, a pattern that can often be more acute following down years like 2022. We would point out that this past December did witness some of the most severe tax loss selling we've seen in years. Prior examples include 2000-2001, and 2018 and 19. In the first example, we experienced a nice rally that faded fast with the turn of the calendar month. The January rally was also led by the biggest laggards, the Nasdaq handsomely outperformed the Dow and S&P 500 like this past month. In the second example, the rally in January did not fade, but instead saw follow through to the upside in the following months. The Fed was pivoting to a more accommodative stance in both, but at a later point in the cycle in the 2001 example, which is more aligned with where we are today. In our current situation we have slowing growth and a Fed that is still tightening. As we have noted since October, we agree the Fed is likely to pause its rate hikes soon, but they are still doing $95 billion a month in quantitative tightening and potentially far from cutting rates. This is a different setup in these respects from January 2001 and 2019, and arguably much worse for stocks. A Fed pause is undoubtedly worth some lift to stocks, but once again we want to remind listeners that both bonds and stocks have rallied already on that conclusion. That was a good call in October, not today. 


The other reality is that growth is not just modestly slowing, but is in fact accelerating to the downside. Fourth quarter earnings season is confirming our negative operating leverage thesis. Furthermore, margin headwinds are not just an issue for technology stocks. As we have noted many times over the past year, the over-earning phenomena this time was very broad, as indicated by the fact that 80% of S&P 500 industry groups are seeing cost growth in excess of sales growth. 


Bottom line, 2023 is off to a good start for stocks, but we think this is simply the next and hopefully the last bear market rally that will then lead to the final lows being made in the spring, when the Fed tightening from last year is more accurately reflected in both valuations and growth outlooks. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Jan 30, 2023
Andrew Sheets: The Choice Between Equities and Cash
00:02:25

Investing is all about choices, so what should investors know when choosing between holding a financial asset or cash?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, January 27th at 2 p.m. in London. 


Investing is about choices. In any market at any moment, an investor always has the option to hold a financial asset, like stocks or bonds, or hold cash. For much of the last decade, cash yielded next to nothing, or less than nothing if you were in the Eurozone. But cash rates have now risen substantially. 12-month Treasury bills now yield about 2.5% more than the S&P 500. 


When an asset yields less than what investors earn in cash, we say it has negative carry. For the S&P 500 that carry is now the worst since August of 2007. But this isn't only an equity story. A U.S. 30 year Treasury bond yields about 3.7%, much less than that 12 month Treasury bill at about 4.5%. 


Buying either U.S. stocks or bonds at current levels is asking investors to accept a historically low yield relative to short term cash. Just how low? For a 60/40 portfolio of the S&P 500 and 30 year Treasury bonds the yield, relative to those T-bills, is the lowest since January of 2001. 


To state the obvious low yields relative to what you can earn in cash isn't great for the story for either stocks or bonds. But we think bonds at least get an additional price boost if growth and inflation slow in line with our forecasts. It also suggests one may need to be more careful about picking one's spots within Treasury maturities. For example, we think 7 year treasuries look more appealing than the 30 year version. 


For stocks, we think carry is one of several factors that will support the outperformance of international over U.S. equities. Many non-U.S. stock markets still offer dividend yields much higher than the local cash rate, including indices in Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia. This sort of positive carry has historically been a supportive factor for equity performance, and we think that applies again today. 


Investing is always about choices. For investors, rising yields on cash are raising the bar for what stocks and bonds need to deliver. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Jan 27, 2023
Graham Secker: An Upturn for European Equities
00:04:22

European equities have been outperforming U.S. stocks. What’s driving the rally, and will it continue?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Graham Sacker, Head of Morgan Stanley's European Equity Strategy Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the recent outperformance of European equities and whether this could be the start of a longer upturn. It's Thursday, January the 26th at 4 p.m. in London. 


After a tricky period through last summer, the fourth quarter of 2022 saw European equities enjoy their best period of outperformance over U.S. stocks in over 30 years. Such was the size of this rally that MSCI Europe ended last year as the best performing region globally in dollar terms for the first time since 2000. In addition, the relative performance of Europe versus U.S. stocks has recently broken above its hundred week moving average for the first time since the global financial crisis. We do not think this latter event necessarily signals the start of a multi-year period of European outperformance going forward, however we do think it marks the end of Europe's structural underperformance that started in 2008. 


When we analyze the drivers behind Europe's recent rally, we can identify four main catalysts. Firstly, the economic news flow is holding up better in Europe than the U.S., with traditional leading indicators such as the purchasing managers surveys stabilizing in Europe over the last few months, but they continue to deteriorate in the U.S. Secondly, European gas prices continue to fall. After hitting nearly $300 last August, the price of gas is now down into the $60's and our commodity strategist Martin Rats, forecasts it falling further to around $20 later this year. Thirdly, Europe is more geared to China than the U.S., both economically and also in terms of corporate profits. For example, we calculate that European companies generate around 8% of their sales from China, versus just 4% for U.S. corporates. And then lastly, companies in Europe have enjoyed better earnings revisions trends than their peers in the U.S., and that does tend to correlate quite nicely with relative price performance too. 


The one factor that has not contributed to Europe's outperformance is fund flows, with EPFR data suggesting that European mutual fund and ETF flows were negative for each of the last 46 weeks of 2022. A consistency and duration of outflows we haven't seen in 20 years, a period that includes both the global financial crisis and the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. 


While the pace of recent European equity outperformance versus the U.S. is now tactically looking a bit stretched, improving investor sentiment towards China and still low investor positioning to Europe should continue to provide support. In addition, European equities remain very inexpensive versus their U.S. peers across a wide variety of metrics. For example, Europe trades at a 29% discount to the U.S. on a next 12 month price to earnings ratio of less than 13 versus over 17 for the S&P. 


European company attitudes to buybacks have also started to change over the last few years, such that we saw a record $220 billion of net buyback activity in 2022, nearly double the previous high from 2019. At 1.7%. Europe's net buyback yield does still remain below the U.S. at around 2.6%. However, when we combine dividends and net buybacks together, we find that Europe now offers a higher total yield than the U.S. for the first time in over 30 years. 


For those investors who are looking to add more Europe exposure to their portfolios, first we are positive on luxury goods and semis. Two sectors in Europe that should be beneficiaries of improving sentiment towards China, and our U.S. strategists forecast that U.S. Treasury yields are likely to move down towards 3%. A move lower in yields should favor the longer duration growth stocks, of which luxury and semis are two high profile ones in Europe. Secondly, we continue to like European banks, given a backdrop of attractive valuations, high cash returns and superior earnings revisions. Third, we prefer smaller mid-caps over large caps given that the former traditionally outperform post a peak in inflation and in periods of euro currency strength. Our FX strategists expect euro dollar to rise further to 115 later this year. 


The bottom line for us is that we think there is a good chance that the recent outperformance of Europe versus U.S. equities can continue as we move through the first half of 2023. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Jan 26, 2023
U.S. Economy: Renegotiating the Debt Ceiling
00:09:26

Last week, the U.S. Treasury hit the debt ceiling. How will markets respond as Congress decides how to move forward? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's Chief Cross-Asset Strategist. 


Michael Zezas: And I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Andrew Sheets: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing the U.S. debt ceiling. It's Wednesday, January 25th at 2 p.m. in London. 


Michael Zezas: And 9 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: Mike, it's great to be here with you. I'm sure many listeners are familiar with the U.S. debt ceiling, but it's still probably worthwhile to spend 30 seconds on what it is and what hitting the debt ceiling really means. 


Michael Zezas: Well, in short, it means the government hit its legal limit, as set by Congress, to issue Treasury bonds. And when that happens, it can't access the cash it needs to make the payments it's mandated to make by Congress through appropriations. Hitting this limit isn't about the U.S. being unable to market its bonds, it's about Congress telling Treasury it can't do that until Congress authorizes it to have more bonds outstanding. Now, we hit the debt ceiling last week, but Treasury can buy time using cash management measures to avoid running out of money. And so what investors need to pay attention to is what's called the X date. So that's when there's actually not enough cash left on hand or coming in to pay all the obligations of the government. At that point, Treasury may need to prioritize some payments over others. That X date, it's a moving target and right now the estimates are that it will occur sometime this summer. 


Andrew Sheets: So I often see the debt ceiling and government shutdowns both used as reference points by investors, but the debt ceiling and government shutdowns are actually quite different things, right?


Michael Zezas: That's right. So take a step back, the easiest way to think about it is this: Congress makes separate laws dictating how much revenue the government can collect, so taxes, how much money the government has to spend, and then how much debt it's allowed to incur. So within that dynamic, a debt ceiling problem is effectively a financing problem created by Congress. This problem eventually occurs if Congress' approve spending in excess of the tax revenue it's also approved, that makes a deficit. If, in that case, if Congress hasn't also approved a high enough level of debt to allow Treasury to meet its legal obligation to make sure Congress's approved spending gets done. And if then you also pass the X date, you're unable to fund the full operations of the government, potentially including principal and interest on Treasury bonds. But alternately a government shutdown, that's a problem if Congress doesn't authorize new spending. So if Congress says the government's authorized to spend X amount of dollars until a certain date, after that date, the government can't legally spend any more money with the exception of certain mandated items like principal and interest and entitlement programs. So in that case, the government shuts down until Congress can agree on a new spending plan.


Andrew Sheets: So, Mike, let's bring this forward to where we are today in the current setup. How would you currently summarize the view of each camp when it comes to the debt ceiling? 


Michael Zezas: Well, Republicans say they won't raise the debt ceiling unless it comes with future spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit. Democrats say they just want a clean, no strings attached hike to the debt ceiling because the debate about how much money to spend is supposed to happen when Congress passes its budget, not afterwards, using the government's creditworthiness as a bargaining chip. But these positions aren't new. What's new here are two factors that we think means investors need to take the debt ceiling risk more seriously than at any point since the original debt ceiling crisis back in 2011. The first factor is that like in 2011, the debt ceiling negotiation is happening at a time when the U.S .economy is already flirting with recession. So any debt ceiling resolution that ends with reduced government spending could, at least in the near-term, cause some market concern that GDP growth could go negative. The second factor is the political dynamic, which is trickier than at any point since 2011. So Democrats control the White House and Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority in the House. And House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he's in a tenuous position. So per the rules he agreed to with his caucus, any one member can call for a vote of no confidence to try and remove him from the speakership. And public reports are that he promised he wouldn't allow the debt ceiling to be raised without spending cuts. So the dynamic here is that both Republicans and Democrats are motivated to bring this negotiation to the brink. And because there's no obvious compromise, they'll have to improvise their way out. 


Andrew Sheets: So this idea of bringing things to the brink Mike, is I think a really nice segue to the next thing I wanted to discuss. There is a little bit of a catch 22 here where markets currently seem relatively relaxed about this risk. But the more relaxed markets are when it comes to the debt ceiling, the less urgency there might be to act, because one of the reasons to act is this risk that a default for the world's largest borrower would be a major financial disruption. So it's almost as if things might need to get worse in order to catalyze a resolution for things to get better. 


Michael Zezas: Yeah, I think that's right. And as you recall, that's pretty much what happened in 2011. The debt ceiling was a major story in May and June with extraordinary measures set to run out in early August. But markets remained near their highs until late July on continued hope that lawmakers would work something out. And this dynamic has been repeated around subsequent debt ceiling crisis over the last 11 or 12 years, and markets have almost become conditioned to sort of ignore this dynamic until it gets really close to being a problem. 


Andrew Sheets: And that's a great point, because I do think it's worth going back to 2011, as you mentioned, you know, there you had a situation by which you needed Congress and the White House to act by early August. And then it was only then, at kind of the last moment, that things got volatile in a hurry. You know, over the course of two weeks, starting in late July of 2011, the U.S. stock market dropped 17% and U.S. bond yields fell almost 1%. 


Michael Zezas: Right. And the fact that government bond yields fell, which meant government bond prices went up as the odds of default went up, it's a bit counterintuitive, right? 


Andrew Sheets: Yes. I think one would be forgiven for thinking that's an unusual result, given that the issue in question was a potential default by the issuer of those bonds, the U.S. government. But, you know, I actually think what the market was thinking was that the near-term nonpayment risk would be relatively short lived, that maybe there would be a near-term disruption, but Congress and the government would eventually reach a conclusion, especially as market volatility increased. But that the economic impact of that would be longer lasting, would lead to weaker growth over the long term, which generally supports lower bond yields. So, you know, I think that's something that's worth keeping in mind when thinking about the debt ceiling and what it means for portfolios. The most recent major example of the debt ceiling causing disruption was equities lower, but bond prices higher. 


Michael Zezas: So, Andrew, then, given that dynamic, is there really anything investors can do right now other than watch and wait and be prepared to see how this plays out? 


Andrew Sheets: Well, I do think 2011 carries some important lessons to it. One, it does say that the debt ceiling is an important issue. It really mattered for markets. It caused really large moves lower in stocks, in large moves higher in bond prices. But it also was one where the market didn't really have that reaction until almost the last minute, almost up until a couple of weeks before that final possible deadline. So I think that suggests that this is an important issue to keep an eye on. I think it suggests that if one is trying to invest over the very short term, other issues are very likely to overwhelm it. But I also think this generally is one more reason why we're approaching 2023, relatively cautious on U.S. assets. And we generally expect Bonds to do well now. Now, the debt ceiling is not the primary reason for that, but we do think that bonds are going to benefit from an environment of continued volatility and also slower growth over the course of this year. On a narrower level, this is an event that could cause disruption depending on what the maturity of the government bond in question is. And I think we've seen in prior instances where there's been some question over delays or payment, that delay matters a lot more for a 3 month bond that is expecting to get that money back quite quickly than a 10 year or a 30 year bond that is much more of an expression of where the market thinks interest rates will be over a longer period of time. So, again, you know, I think if we look back to 2011, 2011 turned out to be quite good for long term bonds of a lot of different stripes, but it certainly could pertain to some more disruption at the very front end of the bond market if that's where you happen to be to be investing. 


Andrew Sheets: Mike, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Michael Zezas: Andrew, thanks so much for talking. 


Andrew Sheets: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today. 

Jan 25, 2023
U.S. Retail: A Tale of Two Halves
00:10:03

As economic pressures continue to drive consumption in the U.S., how will the health of the economy influence the soft lines industry? Head of Retail and Consumer Credit for Fixed Income Research Jenna Giannelli and U.S. Soft Lines Retail Equity Analyst Alex Straton discuss


----- Transcript -----


Jenna Giannelli: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jenna Giannelli, Head of Retail and Consumer Credit within Morgan Stanley's Fixed Income Research. 


Alex Straton: And I'm Alex Straton, Morgan Stanley's U.S. Soft Lines Retail Equity Analyst. 


Jenna Giannelli: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market we'll discuss soft lines from two different but complementary perspectives, equity and corporate credit. It's Tuesday, January 24th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Jenna Giannelli: Our economists here at Morgan Stanley believe that tighter monetary policy and a slowing labor market will be the key drivers of consumption in the U.S. this year. Against this still uncertain backdrop where we're cautious on the health of the U.S. consumer, we're at an interesting moment to think about the soft lines industry. So let's start with the equity side. Alex, you recently said that you see 2023 as a 'tale of two halves' when it comes to soft lines. What do you mean by that and when do you see the inflection point? 


Alex Straton: So, Jenna, that's right, we are describing 2023 as a 'tale of two halves'. That's certainly one of the taglines we're using, the other being 'things are going to go down before they go up'. So let's start with a 'tale of two halves'. I say that because in the first half what retailers are facing are harder compares from a PNL perspective, an ongoing excess inventory overhang and likely recessionary conditions from a macro perspective. On top of that, what we've got is 2023 street EPS estimates sitting about 15% too high across our coverage. As we know, earnings revisions are the number one driver of stock prices in our space. So if we have negative revisions ahead, it's likely that we're also going to have our stocks move downwards, hence the bottom I'm calling for some time here in the first quarter, while that may seem like a pretty negative view to start the year, the story is actually very different when we move to the back half of the year. Hence, the 'tale of two halves' narrative and the 'down before up'. So what do I mean by that? In the back half, really, what we're facing is retailers with easier top line compares and returns that should enjoy year over year margin relief. That's on freight, cotton, promotions, there's a number of others there. On top of that, what we've got is inventory that should be mostly normalized. And then finally a recovering macro, I think with this improving backdrop and the fact that our stocks are the quintessential early cycle outperformers, they could quickly pivot off these bottoms and see some nice gains. 


Jenna Giannelli: Okay, Alex, that all makes a lot of sense. So what are the key factors that you're watching for to know when we've hit that bottom? 


Alex Straton: So on our end, it's really a few things. I think first it's where 2023 guidance comes in across our space. And, I think secondly, its inventory levels. Cleaner levels are essential for us to have a view on how long this margin risk we've seen in the back half of 2022 could potentially linger into this year. And then really finally, it's a few macro data points that will confirm that, you know, a recession is here, an early cycle is on the horizon. 


Jenna Giannelli: I mean, look, you touched on a bit just on inventory, but last year there was a lot of discussion around the inventory problem, right, which was seen as a key risk to earnings with oversupply, lagging demand weighing on margins. Where are we, in your view, on this issue now? And specifically, what is your outlook on inventory for the rest of the year? 


Alex Straton: So look, retailers and department stores, they made really nice progress in the third quarter. They worked levels down by about a little over ten points. But then from the preannouncements we had at ICR and using our work around our expectations for inventory normalization, it really seems like retailers might be able to bring that down by another ten points in the fourth quarter. But even though, you know, this rate of trend and clean up is good and people are getting a little bullish on that, I wouldn't say we're clean by any means. Inventory  to forward sales spreads are still nearly just as wide as they were at the peak of last year. And to give people a perspective there, what a retailer wants to be to assume that inventory levels are clean is that the inventory growth should be in line with forward sales growth. But I think looking ahead, you know, department stores could be in good shape as soon as this upcoming quarter, that's a fourth quarter, so really remarkable there. It'll then probably be followed by the specialty retailers in the first quarter. And then finally it'll be most of the brands in the second quarter or later. The one exception though, is the off price. And these businesses have suffered from arguably the opposite problem in the last couple of years, which is no inventory because of all the supply chain problems and the fact that it's just become this year when inventory’s been realized as a problem. So let me turn it over to you, Jenna, and shift our focus to high yield retail. The high yield retail market is often fertile ground for finding equity-like returns, and you believe there are a number of investment opportunities today. So tell me, what's your view on the high yield retail sector and what are the key factors that are informing that view? 


Jenna Giannelli: So, look, we have a very nuanced and very bottoms up company specific approach to the sector, we're looking at cash flow, we're looking at liquidity, we're looking at balance sheets and all in all in the whole for 23 things look okay. And so that's our starting point. So going into 2023, we're taking a slightly more constructive approach that there are some companies in certain categories, in certain channels up in quality that actually could provide nice returns for investors. So from a valuation standpoint, you know, look, I think that the primary drivers of what frame our view are very similar to yours, Alex. It really comes down to fundamentals and valuation. From the valuations and retail credit, levels are attractive versus historical standpoints. So to give some context, the high yield market was down 11% last year, high yield retail was down 21%. And this significant underperformance is still despite the fact that the overall balance sheet health of the average credit quality right now in this sector is better than in the five years leading up to COVID. So essentially, simply put, it means you're getting paid more to invest in this sector than you would have historically, despite balance sheets being in a generally better place. You know, from a fundamental standpoint, we fully incorporate caution on the consumer in 2023. We do take a slightly more constructive view on the higher end consumer. Taking that all together, you know, valuation’s more attractive, earnings outlook is actually neutral when we look at the full 2023 with pressure in the first half and expected improvement in the second half. 


Alex Straton: All right, Jenna, that's a helpful backdrop for how you're thinking about the year. I think maybe taking a step back, can you walk us through what the framework is that you use as you assess these companies more broadly? 


Jenna Giannelli: Sure. So we use a framework that we've dubbed our five C's, and this is really our assessment of the five key factors that allow us to rank order our preference from, you know, favorite to least favorite of all the companies in our coverage universe. So when we think about it, what are those five C's? What are these most important factors? They're content, they're category, channel, catalysts, and compensation. You know, in the case of content, this is probably the most intangible, but we're looking at brand value, brand trajectory and how that company's product really speaks to the consumer. Oftentimes when I talk to investors we're discussing: does it have an identity, what is the company and who do they and what do they represent? In the category bucket we're assessing whether the business is in a category that's growing or outperforming, like beauty is one that we've been very constructive on, or if it's heavily concentrated in mid-tier apparel, which has been, you know, underperforming. In the case of channel, look, we like diversification. That's the primary driver. So those that offer their products everywhere, similar to what the consumer would want. When we're thinking about catalysts for a company, as this is very important on the kind of the shorter term horizon, what are the events that are pending, whether with, you know, company management acquisition or restructuring related. And then of course, finally on compensation, this may be the more obvious, but are we getting paid appropriately versus the peer set? And in the context of the, you know, the risk of the company? And if you don't rank highly, at least in most or all of those boxes, we're probably not going to have a favorable outlook on the company. 


Alex Straton: Now, maybe using these five C's and applying them across your space, what are the biggest opportunities that you're seeing? 


Jenna Giannelli: So we definitely are more constructive on the categories, like a beauty or in casual footwear, right? Companies that fall in that arena. Or again, that have exposure to more luxury, luxury as a category. Look, there's been a lot of debate around the high end consumer and whether we're going to see, ya know, start to see softening there. Within our recommendations, we are less constructive on those names that are heavily apparel focused. Activewear is actually a negative, because we're lapping such really significant comps versus, you know, strength in COVID. And so there's still some pressure of lapping that strength. I think long term, the category still has some really nice upside and potential, but short term, we're still seeing that, you know, that pressure from the reopening and return to occasions and work and social events that keep the demand for that category a little bit lower. There are also companies that might have exposure to occasion based apparel. So that is where we would be more constructive. It's a little bit more nuanced, I'd say, than just general apparel, but where we're most negative, it's sort of in that mid-tier women's apparel where brands are particularly struggling. 


Alex Straton: Well, Jenna, I feel like I learned quite a bit and so thanks for taking the time to talk with me. 


Jenna Giannelli: Thank you, Alex. Great speaking with you. 


Alex Straton: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Jan 24, 2023
Mike Wilson: A Shift in Recession Views
00:03:57

While there seemed to be a consensus that U.S. Equities will struggle through the first half of the year before finishing strong, views are now varying on the degree and timing of a potential recession.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, January 23rd at 11am in New York. So let's get after it. 


Coming into this year, the number one investor concern was that everyone seemed to have the same outlook for U.S. equities - a tough first half followed by a strong finish. Views varied on the degree of the drawdown expected and magnitude of the rebound, but a majority expected a U.S. recession to begin sooner rather than later. Fast forward just a few weeks and the consensus view has shifted materially, particularly as it relates to the recession view. More specifically, while more investors are starting to entertain a soft landing for the economy, many others have pushed out the timing of a recession to the second half of the year. This change is due in part to China's reopening gaining steam and the sharp decline in European natural gas prices. 


While these are valid considerations for investors to modify their views, we think that price action has been the main influence. The rally this year has been led by low quality and heavily shorted stocks. It's also witnessed a strong move in cyclical stocks relative to defensive ones. This cyclical rotation in particular is convincing investors they are missing the bottom and they must reposition. Truth be told, it has been a powerful shift, but we also recognize that bear markets have a way of fooling everyone before they're done. The final stages of the bear are always the trickiest. In bear markets like last year, when just about everyone loses money, Investors lose confidence. They question their process as the price action and cross-currents in the data create a hall of mirrors. This hall of mirrors only increases the confusion. This is exactly the time one must trust their own work and ignore the noise. Suffice it to say we're not biting on this recent rally because our work in process is so convincingly bearish on earnings. 


Importantly, our call on earnings is not predicated on the timing of a recession or even if one occurs this year. Our work continues to show further erosion with the gap between our model and the forward estimates as wide as it's ever been. Could our model be wrong? Of course, but given its track record, we don't think it will be wrong directionally, particularly given the collection of leading series and models we published that point to a similar outcome. This is simply a matter of timing and magnitude, and we think the timing is imminent. We find the shift in investor tone helpful for our call for new lows in the S&P 500, which will finish this bear market later this quarter or early in the second quarter. 


Getting more specific, our forecasts are predicated on margin disappointment and the evidence in that regard is increasing. When costs are growing faster than sales, margins erode. This is very typical during any unexpected revenue slowdown. Recessions in particular lead to significant negative operating leverage for that very reason. In other words, sales fall off quickly and unexpectedly, while costs remain sticky in the short term. Inventory bloating, less productive headcount and other issues are the primary culprits. This is exactly what is happening in many industries already, and this is without a recession. It's also right in line with our forecast and the thesis that companies would regret adding costs so aggressively a year ago when sales and demand were running so far above trend. 


Bottom line, after a very challenging 2022, many investors are still bearish fundamentally, but are questioning whether negative fundamentals have already been priced into stocks. Our view has not changed as we expect the path and earnings in the U.S. to disappoint the consensus, expectations and current valuations. In fact, we welcome the change in sentiment positioning over the past few weeks as a necessary development for the last stage of this bear market to play out. Bear markets are like a hall of mirrors designed to confuse investors and take their money. We advise staying focused on the fundamentals and ignoring the false signals and misleading reflections. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Jan 23, 2023
Andrew Sheets: What is an Optimal Asset Allocation?
00:03:01

The financial landscape is filled with predictions about what comes next for markets, but how do investors use these forecasts to put a portfolio together?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, January 20th at 2 p.m. in London. 


The financial landscape is filled with predictions about what markets will do. But how are these predictions used? Today, I want to take you through a quick journey through how Morgan Stanley research thinks about forecasting, and how those numbers can help put a portfolio together. 


Forecasting is difficult and as such it's always easier to be more vague when talking about the future. But when we think about market expectations, being specific is essential. That not only gives an expectation of which direction we think markets will go, but by how much and over a specific 12 month horizon. 


Details here can also really matter. For example, making sure you add dividends back to equity returns, adjusting bond forecasts for where the forwards are, and thinking about all asset classes in the same currency. In this case, U.S. dollars. 


Consistency in assumptions is another factor that is difficult but important. We try to set all of our forecasts to scenarios from our global economics team. That is more likely to produce asset class returns that are consistent with each other and to the economy we expect. 


With these returns in hand, we can then ask, "what's an optimal asset allocation based on our forecasts?" Now, everyone's investment objectives are different. So in this case we'll define optimal as a portfolio that will generate higher returns than a benchmark with a similar or better ratio of return to volatility. This type of analysis will consider expected return and historical risk, but also how well different asset classes diversify each other. 


As Morgan Stanley's forecasts currently stand this approach suggests U.S. equities are relatively unattractive. Sitting almost exactly at the year end price target of my colleague Mike Wilson, our U.S. Equity Strategist, expected returns are low, while volatility is high and U.S. stocks offer minimal benefits for diversification. Stocks in Japan and emerging markets look better by comparison. 


But the real winner of this approach continues to be fixed income. Morgan Stanley's rate strategists in the U.S. and Europe continue to think that moderating inflation in 2023 will help bond yields either hold around current levels, or push lower, resulting in returns that are better than equities with less volatility. Our expected returns for emerging market bonds are also higher, with less volatility than U.S. and European stocks. 


Forecasting the future is difficult, and it's very possible that either our market forecasts or the economic assumptions to back them will be off to some degree. Still, considering what is optimal based on these best estimates, is a useful anchor when thinking about strategy. And for the moment, this still favors bonds over stocks. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Jan 20, 2023
U.S. Housing: Will Activity Continue to Slow?
00:05:19

With housing data from the last few months of 2022 coming in weaker than expected, what might be in store for mortgage investors? Co-Heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research Jim Egan and Jay Bacow discuss.


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Jim Egan: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jim Egan, Co-Head of U.S. Securitized Products Research here at Morgan Stanley. 


Jay Bacow: And I'm Jay Bacow, the other Co-Head of U.S. Securitized Products Research. 


Jim Egan: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. It's Thursday, January 19th at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: So, Jim, the housing data hasn't been looking all that great recently. We've talked about this bifurcated outlook for the U.S. housing market, still holding that view? 


Jim Egan: So to catch people up, the bifurcated housing narrative was between housing activity. And by that we mean sales and housing starts and home prices. We thought there was going to be a lot more weakness in sales and starts at the end of 2022 and throughout 2023, then home prices, which we thought would be more protected. Since we came out with that outlook, it's safe to say that sales have been materially weaker than we thought they'd be. To put that into a little bit of context, existing home sales for the most recent month of data, which was November, showed the largest year over year decrease for that time series since the early 1980s. Pending home sales, we only have that data going back to 2001, but pending home sales just showed their weakest November in the entire history of that time series, so weaker than it was during the great financial crisis. Now, Jay, when we talk about those kind of weaker than anticipated sales volumes, what does that mean for your markets? 


Jay Bacow: Right. So while homeowners clearly are going to care about home prices, mortgage investors care more about the housing activity. And they care about that because that housing activity, those home sales, that results in supply to the market and it actually results in supply to the market from two different sides. There's the organic net supply from home sales. And then furthermore, because the Fed is doing QT, the faster the pace of home sales, the more the Fed balance sheet runoff is. And so as those home sales numbers come down, you get less supply to the market, which is inarguably good for mortgage investors. Now, the problem is mortgage spreads have repriced to reflect that at this point. 


Jim Egan: Now Jay, a lot of things have repriced. 


Jay Bacow: Right. And I think the question now is, is that going to keep up? But turning it over to you, what's causing this slowdown in home sales? And do we think that's going to continue? 


Jim Egan: I think in a word, it's affordability. A lot of the underlying premises behind our bifurcated narrative, we still see those there they're just impacting the market a little bit more than we thought they would. From an affordability perspective, and we've said this on this podcast before, the monthly mortgage payment as a percentage of household income has deteriorated more over the past year than really any year we have on record. From a numbers perspective, that payment's gone up over $700. That's a 58% increase. That's making it more difficult for first time buyers to buy homes and therefore pulling sales activity down. But where the bifurcation part of this narrative comes from, a lot of current homeowners have very low, call it maybe 3-3.5%, 30 year fixed rate mortgages. They're not incentivized to list their homes in this current environment and we're seeing that. Listing volumes are close to 40 year lows. In a month in which sales fall as sharply as they just did, we would expect months of supply at least to move higher and that roughly stayed flat. And so you have this lack of inventory, people aren't selling their homes, that means they're also not buying a home on the follow which pulls sales volumes down, leading to some of those numbers we talked about on top of just how long it's been since we've seen sales fall as sharply as they have. But on the other side of the equation, that's also keeping home prices a little bit more protected. 


Jay Bacow: Okay. So you mentioned affordability is impacting home sales, but then what's happening to actual home prices? Are they holding up then? 


Jim Egan: We think they will now. Don't hear what I'm not saying, that doesn't mean that home prices keep climbing. It just means that the pace with which they're going to slow down or the pace with which they're going to fall isn't as substantial as what we're going to see on the activity front. Now year over year HPA most recently up 9.2%. We think in the next month's print, that's going to slow to a little bit below 8% down to 7.9%. On a month over month basis from peak in June of 2022, home prices are off 3%. We think they'll fall a further 4% in 2023. But to kind of put some guardrails around that bifurcation narrative, that drop only brings us to the fourth quarter of 2021. That's 30% above where home prices were onset of the pandemic in March of 2020. On the sale side, our base case was that we were going to fall back to 2013 levels of transactions. And given how data has come in since then, it looks like we're heading lower than that. 


Jay Bacow: All right. So we think housing activity is going to continue to fall, but that slowdown in housing activity means that home prices, while seeing the first year on year decline since 2012, are going to be well supported. 


Jay Bacow [00:04:51] Jim, always a pleasure talking to you. 


Jim Egan: Great talking to you, too, Jay. 


Jay Bacow: And thank you for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcasts app, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Jan 19, 2023
Michael Zezas: The Year of the Long-Term Investor
00:03:08

At a recent meeting of analysts from around the globe, we identified three central transitions for 2023 that may help investors shift towards a focus on long-term trends as opportunities.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, January 18th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


What do you get when 45 global research analysts gather in a room for two days to debate secular market trends? A plan. In particular, a plan to deal with a world where key underpinnings of the global political economy are changing rapidly. For investors, we think that means concentrating on multi-year secular trends as an opportunity. In markets where short-term focus has become the norm, it stands to reason that there's less competition and more potential outperformance to be earned by analyzing the market impacts of longer-term trends. That's why we recently gathered analysts from around the globe to identify the key secular themes that Morgan Stanley research should focus on this year. 


The agenda for our meeting included over 30 topics, but the discussion gravitated around a smaller subset of themes whose potential market impact was substantial, but perhaps beyond what analysts could plausibly perceive or analyze individually. Understanding these three global transitions appeared central to the questions of inflation, interest rates and the structure of markets themselves. 


The first is rewiring global commerce for a multipolar world, one with more than one meaningful power base and commercial standard, where companies and countries can no longer seek efficiencies through global supply chains and market access without factoring in geopolitical risks. We've spoken much about that in this space, but our analysts believe the practical implications of this trend are not yet well understood. 


The second is decarbonization. While this isn't a new theme, we think investors need to shift from debating whether it will be meaningfully attempted to sizing up the impact of that attempt. After all, 2022 saw both U.S. and European policymakers putting the power of government behind decarbonization. Now we'll focus on helping investors grapple with both the positive and negative market impacts of this transition, which the International Energy Agency estimates could cost about $70 trillion over the next 30 years. Identifying the companies, sectors and macro markets that will benefit, or face fresh challenges, is thus essential work. 


Finally, we'll remain focused on tech diffusion. Once again, not a new theme, but what is new is the speed and breadth with which tech diffusion can impact sectors that were previously untouched. Fragmented industries or those with high regulatory barriers look poised for a multi-year transition via tech diffusion. Opportunities may appear in finance, health care and biopharma. We expect the next five years of tech diffusion to move meaningfully faster than the last five, and so we'll focus on delivering important market related insights. 


So, you'll be hearing more from us over the course of 2023 on these three transitions and their impacts on markets. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Jan 18, 2023
Ed Stanley: Key Themes for 2023
00:04:49

At the start of each new year, we identify 10 overarching themes for the year and beyond. So what should investors be keeping an eye on in the coming months?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ed Stanley, Morgan Stanley's Head of Thematic Research in Europe. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be discussing 10 key themes for 2023. It's Tuesday, January the 17th at 2 p.m. in London. 


At the start of the New Year, we identify 10 overarching, long-term themes that we believe will command investor attention throughout the year and beyond. If you're a regular listener to the show, you may have heard my colleagues and I discussing some of these topics over the past year. We will certainly revisit them in 2023 as we develop new insights, but let me offer you a roadmap to navigate these themes in the coming months. 


First, company earnings and margins are likely to come under pressure this year as pricing power declines and costs remain sticky. Both the U.S. and Europe look at risk from this theme. The S&P 500 earnings will likely face significant pressure and enter an earnings recession, and Europe earnings similarly will likely fall 10%. 


Second is inflation. Last year we flagged that inventory had grown sharply, while demand, especially demand for goods, is falling. In 2023, companies will need to decide how they want to handle that excess inventory, and we believe many will turn to aggressive discounting. 


Up next is China. We've talked a lot over the last few months about China's expected reopening, and we believe a V-shaped recovery in China's growth is now likely, given the sudden change in prior COVID zero policy. We expect a 5.4% GDP growth for China in 2023. 


Our fourth theme is ESG. We think that what we call ESG rate of change, i.e. companies that are leaders in improving environmental, social and governance metrics, will be a critical focus for investors looking to identify opportunities that can both generate alpha on the one hand and ESG impact on the other. 


Next, in Q4 last year, you may have heard us talk about Earthshots, which is our fifth theme. These are radical technological decarbonization accelerants or warming mitigants. Clean tech funding is one of the most resilient segments in venture, and breakthroughs are becoming more frequent. We're keeping a close eye on the key technologies that we think will hold the greatest decarbonization potential in 2023 and beyond. 


Sixth, we're in the upswing of unicorns, i.e. privately held startup companies with a valuation over $1 billion, needing to re raise capital to maintain operations and growth. In the absence of unicorn consolidation, we expect money to flow out of public equities to support or compensate for the weakness in private investments. This will be the year of the down round, in our view, where companies need to raise additional funds at lower valuations than prior rounds. But also we expect it to be a year of opportunity for crossover investors and a potential reopening of the IPO market. 


Next, I've already mentioned our China forecasts, but we are also in the early innings of the "India Decade", which is our seventh theme. India has the conditions in place for an economic boom fueled by offshoring, investment in manufacturing, the energy transition and the country's advanced digital infrastructure. This is an underappreciated multi-year theme, but importantly one that is gathering momentum right now. 


Our other regional theme to watch this year is Saudi Arabia, which is also undergoing an unprecedented transformation with sweeping social and economic reforms. With about $1 trillion in "gigaproject" commitments, and rapid demographic shifts, it's our eighth big theme. And one that we think could easily leave people behind given the blistering speed of change. 


Penultimately, with the emergence of ChatGPT, the future of work is set to be further disrupted. We believe that we are on a secular trajectory towards the workforce, particularly the younger Gen Z, entering what we call the "multi-earner era" - one where workers pursue multiple earning streams rather than a single job. There are a vast array of enabler stocks for this multi-year era, in our view.  


And finally, last but not least, we believe obesity is the "new hypertension" and that investing in obesity medication is moving from a linear secular theme to an exponential one, with social media creating a virtuous feedback loop of education, word of mouth, and heightened demand for weight loss drugs. 


So that's it. Hopefully we've given you some thought provoking macro, micro, regional and ESG ideas for the year ahead. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or a colleague today.

Jan 17, 2023
Andrew Sheets: Will Emerging Market Outperformance Hold?
00:03:04

One of the frequent questions regarding Emerging Markets is whether outperformance will hold for the short term or the long term. So what factors should investors consider when evaluating the cross asset performance of EM?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, January 13th at 2 p.m. in London. 


A common question when talking about almost any market is whether the view holds for the short term or the long term. Call it a question of whether to "rent" versus "own". Is this a strategy that could work over the next six months or is it geared to the next six years? This question comes up most frequently when we discuss emerging market or EM assets. 


We like EM on a cross-asset basis. We think equities in EM outperform those in the U.S. We think EM currencies outperform the U.S. dollar and the British pound. And we think EM sovereign bonds perform well on an outright basis and also relative to U.S. high yield. 


Several factors underlie this positive view. First, as we've discussed in this program before, a number of key themes for 2023 look like the mirror image of 2022. Last year saw U.S. growth outperform China, inflation rise sharply and central banks hike aggressively, a combination that was pretty tough in emerging market assets. But this year we see growth in China accelerating while the U.S. slows, inflation falling and central banks pausing, a reversal that would seem much better for EM. 


And this is all happening at a time when EM assets still enjoy a valuation advantage. Emerging market equities, currencies and sovereign bonds all still trade at larger than average discounts to their U.S. peers. 


All of that supports the near-term case for outperformance in emerging markets, in our view. But what about the longer term story? Here we admit there are still some uncertainties. On one hand, there are some countries where there's a quite positive long run outlook in the eyes of my research colleagues. I'd highlight Mexico here, a country that we think could be a major long term beneficiary of U.S. companies looking to shorten supply chains and bring more production back from Asia. 


But there are also major long term uncertainties, especially related to earnings power. The case for EM equities is often based around the idea that you get the higher growth of the developing world at lower valuations, an attractive combination that offsets the higher political and economic volatility. But as my colleague Jonathan Garner, Head of Asia and Emerging Market Equity Strategy, has noted, earnings for the EM market have been surprisingly weak over the long run and are still at levels similar to 2010. Growth so far has been elusive. 


Uncertainty around that long term earnings power is one of several reasons that it may be too early to say that EM will be a multiyear outperformer. But for the time being, we think those longer term concerns will be secondary to near-term support and continue to expect cross-asset outperformance from EM assets this year. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Jan 13, 2023
Michael Zezas: Bringing Semiconductors to North America
00:02:23

At this week’s North American Leaders Summit, the U.S., Canada and Mexico committed to boosting the semiconductor industry in another key step on the path towards a multipolar world.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Thursday, January 12th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


This week, the presidents of the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered for the North American Leaders Summit. For investors, the key result was a commitment by the countries to work together to boost the semiconductor industry in North America. While the practical details of this commitment will matter greatly, the agreement in principle underscores a few key themes for investors. 


The first is that the trend toward a multipolar world is ongoing, one where geopolitics increase commercial barriers and create the need for multiple supply chains, product standards and economic ecosystems. So countries and companies must rewire their own approach to production in order to cope. This semiconductor commitment is the result of a determination by the U.S. that it's in its own interest to develop a substantial and secure semiconductor industry in its own backyard, in order to mitigate supply chain risks to key industries like automobile production. In this way, the country's economy is less susceptible to overseas disruptions. And the U.S. was likely able to achieve this commitment with its neighbors by enacting the CHIPS+ legislation with bipartisan support. You may recall that legislation appropriated money to attract the construction of semiconductor facilities in the U.S. 


This brings us to our second point, which is that this commitment underscores the opportunity for Mexico to benefit from U.S. led nearshoring. As we've discussed on this podcast with our Mexico strategist, Nik Lippman, Mexico has a sizable manufacturing labor force and proximity to the U.S. For semiconductors, that means Mexico could potentially be a supplier or at least a supplier of the goods materials that go into fabrication. It's one of the key reasons that Nik has upgraded Mexico stocks to overweight. 


So in short, this meeting was another step on the path toward a multipolar world, a key trend we're tracking in 2023. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Jan 12, 2023
Quantitative Strategies: A 2023 Return?
00:09:32

In 2022 it seemed like there was nowhere to hide from the negative returns in traditional investing. But if we look to quantitative strategies, we may find more flexibility for the year ahead.


----- Transcript -----

Vishy Tirupattur Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's head of fixed income research and director of Quantitative Research.


Stephan Kessler And I'm Stephan Kessler, Morgan Stanley's global head of Quantitative Investment Strategies Research.


Vishy Tirupattur And on this special episode of the podcast, we will discuss the return of quantitative investing. It's Wednesday, January 11th, at 10 a.m. in New York.


Stephan Kessler And 3 p.m. in London.


Vishy Tirupattur Stephan, 2022 was a pretty dismal year for traditional investment strategies across various asset classes. You know, equities, credit, government bonds—all of them had negative total returns for the year. And in fact, for traditional investment strategies, there really was nowhere to hide. That said, 2022 turned out to be a pretty decent year for systematic investing or factor investing or quantitative investing strategies. So can you start us off by giving us an overview of what systematic factor strategies are and how they performed in 2022 versus traditional investment strategies?


Stephan Kessler Absolutely. So, if you look at quant strategies, or systematic strategies, key is 'systematic.' So we look at repetitive, persistent patterns in the markets which can be beneficial for investors. Usually they're data driven. So we look at data which can be price data, fundamental data like economic growth data and the like, which then gives us signals for our investment. Those strategies tend to have low long-term exposures to traditional markets such as equities and fixed income. So they work as diversifiers and the rationale for why they work comes from academic theory, by and large, where we look at risk premia, we look at structural or behavioral patterns that are well known in the academic world. So common strategies that investors apply can be carry investing, for example. So we benefit here from interest rate differentials where we borrow, for example, money in low yielding regions or currencies, and then we invest in high yielding currencies, clipping the difference in the interest rate between these regions. Value investing is another important style that investors implement, where they simply identify undervalued investments, undervalued assets by looking at price to book ratios, by looking at dividend yields, for example, to identify what appears to be cheap. Momentum investing is probably the third most important strategy here, which is where we benefit from the price trends in markets which we know to be persistent. So those are the, I think, the important styles—carry, value and momentum—but there are also more complex strategies where we model and identify very minute details in markets. We go really deep into the functionality of markets. Then the final point I would make is that these strategies tend to be long-short so they are not long biased as traditional investing is, but they can go really both directions in terms of their positioning.


Vishy Tirupattur Investors often ask how quant strategies, that are typically predicated on historical data patterns, can handle volatile market environments with very few historical precedents. 2022 was anything but normal. Don't such market aberrations break quant strategies?


Stephan Kessler That's a really good question. If you look at it from the higher level, it does seem like this was a unique market that actually should be challenging for systematic strategies which look at historical patterns. When you dig a little bit deeper, it becomes actually more nuanced. So the strong outperformance of quant in '22, we think is driven by the different catalysts that we saw in the markets. So for example, the tightening by central banks led to substantial and durable macro trends that can be captured by trend following. We saw a reemergence of interest rates across the globe through this monetary policy, which sparked the revival of carry investing. And then equity value investing reemerged as higher rates forced investors to focus more on fundamental valuations, and that led to an increase in efficiency of the value factor.


Vishy Tirupattur Will any of the performance patterns that you saw in 2022 carry over into 2023? Or do you think the investment landscape for quant investors would be very different in this year?


Stephan Kessler 2023 we think we'll look, of course, different from the past year. So, we'll move into an environment of low inflation where terminal rates are going to be reached by many central banks. And then equities will start the year in Q1 likely down to then end the year rather flat according to our equity strategists. Now, from a quant perspective, while this is different in terms of the actual dynamics, what remains is that we are likely to see market swings, which tend to favor short- to mid-term trend following strategies. The differences in central bank policies are also likely to remain so there's going to be a dispersion in rates and this dispersion in rates will help, in our expectation, carry strategies. It makes carry strategies attractive. Indeed, if you think about being exposed to, say, for example, carry in fixed income, where we go long bonds with high yields, we go short bonds with low yields and clip the difference, those bonds with particularly high interest rates are likely to also benefit from a normalization of rates. So, you could actually see an additional benefit where being invested in high yielding bonds will be then doubly positive because you earn the carry, but you also benefit from a normalization of rates and the increase in prices of those bonds. And finally, when we look at, you know, value investing, we think that is also likely to remain important because higher rates simply force investors to be focused on the valuations, to be focused on the financing of business activities, to be focused on healthy companies. And so we think that the market dynamics, while different, will continue to favor quant investing.


Vishy Tirupattur So Stephan, you talked about a wide range of investment strategies within the quant world. Which of those strategies, what kinds of strategies do you think will drive outperformance in 2023?


Stephan Kessler Yeah, I think it's specific forms of what I've mentioned is generally strategies which will do well. So, you know, if we start again with trend following, the market should be positive for it. There are though iterations of trend falling where we bias. And we think these types of biases—we have a long-bias or as we call it defensively-biased trend following strategies—those will be particularly positively performing because they will benefit from the higher rates that we see. We also think that some of the pricing out of inflation and then eventually in terms of the lower rates that we see, that should be beneficial for rates value strategies, where rates converge to longer term levels. And then something we haven't talked much about yet; volatility carry we feel is particularly interesting. Volatility carry means we are selling options in the markets. We sell a call option, a put option in the market, we earn the premium and then we hedge the beta that is embedded. So, we essentially try to earn the option premium without taking directional market risk, which works quite well in terms of harvesting a carry in calm market environments. But it tends to be causing negative returns, when you see spikes in volatility, when you see jumps in markets. We think that this is going to be an interesting investment opportunity, first on the Treasury side and then, once equity markets through this more difficult slowdown that we see at the moment, we also think volatility should get lower and that should benefit generally volatility carry in equities. So, selling equity options into the market. So those would be the particularly strong strategies. And then, as I already mentioned, there's this crossing of equity value and quality is a theme that we believe is particularly well-suited for the environment.


Vishy Tirupattur If you're thinking about the outlook for 2023 for quant investors, what are the real risks? What can go wrong?


Stephan Kessler So I think there's, of course, a range of things that can go wrong in such a dynamic and fluid market environment as we are at the moment. So one is that rates could continue to increase more than we expect at the moment, possibly driven by inflation being more resilient. That would not be good for rates carry strategies which tend to underperform in such environments because they are long. And so as those assets build up further, as the rates go up, the price of those assets would be hit. And on the back of that, the carry strategies would suffer. We also think that against all odds, growth is very resilient. There's a growth rally. That would, of course, hurt value type strategies, maybe through higher efficiency or resilience of tech stocks, for example. And then finally, if markets become to gap-y, i.e., if they don't trend but they really jump around through this market environment, that that might actually be negative for trend following strategies.


Vishy Tirupattur Looks like 2023 will be a fascinating year ahead for quant investing strategies. So, Stephan, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.


Stephan Kessler Great speaking with you, Vishy.


Vishy Tirupattur And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Jan 11, 2023
Mike Wilson: Challenging the Consensus on 2023
00:04:18

As 2023 begins, most market participants agree the first half of the year could be challenging. But when we dig into the details, that's where the agreement ends.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Tuesday, January 10th at 10 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it.


To start the year, we return to a busy week of client meetings and calls. While our conversations ranged across a wide swath of topics, the most consistently asked question was, "if everybody has the same view, how can that be right?" The view I'm referring to is that most sell-side strategists and buy-side investors believe the first half of the year will be a challenging one, but the second half will be much better. Wrapped into this view is the notion that we will experience a mild recession starting in the first half. The Fed will cut rates in response and a new bull market will begin. Truth be told, this is generally our view too. So, how do we reconcile this dilemma of how the consensus can be right?

 

We think the answer is that the consensus can be right directionally, but it will be wrong in the magnitude and rationale which may inhibit its ability to monetize the swings we envision. More importantly, our biggest issue with the consensus view is how nonchalant many investors seem to be about the risk of a recession. When we ask investors how low they think the S&P 500 will trade in a mild recession, most suggest 35-3600 will suffice, and the October lows will hold. One rationale for this more constructive view is that we are closer to a Fed pause, and that pivot will put a floor under stock valuations.


The other reason we hear is that everyone is already bearish and expects a recession. Therefore, it must already be priced. We would caution against those conclusions as recessions are never priced until they arrive and we're not so sure the Fed is going to be coming to the rescue as fast as usual, given the inflation dynamics unique to this cycle.


The other way we think the consensus is likely to be wrong is on earnings. With or without an economic recession, the earnings forecasts for 2023 remain materially too high in our view. Our base case forecast for 2023 S&P 500 earnings per share is $195, and this assumes no recession, while our bear case forecast of a recession leads to $180. This compares to the bottoms up consensus forecast of $230, which nearly every institutional investor agrees is too high. However, most are in the camp that the S&P 500 earnings per share won't be as bad as we think, with the average client around $210-$215. Coincidentally, this is in line with the consensus sell-side strategists' forecast of $210 as well. In summary, even if we don't experience an economic recession, investor expectations for earnings remain too high based on our forecasts and conversations with clients. This leaves equity prices unattractive at current levels.


Our well-below-consensus earnings forecast is centered around a theme of negative operating leverage driven by falling inflation. One of the most consistent pieces of pushback we have received to our negative earnings outlook centers around the idea that higher inflation means higher nominal GDP and therefore revenue growth that can remain positive even in the event of a mild real GDP recession. Therefore, earnings should hold up better than usual. While we agree with the premise of this view that revenue growth can remain positive this year, even if we have a mild recession, it ignores the fact that margins are likely to materially disappoint. This is because the rate of change on cost inflation exceeds the rate of change on sales. Indeed, margins have started to fall and the consensus forecasts for fourth quarter results currently assume negative operating leverage. But we think this dynamic is likely to get much worse before it gets better.


The bottom line, equity markets still appear to be overly focused on inflation and the Fed, as evidenced by the still meaningfully negative correlation between real yields and equity returns. Last week, we saw expectations improve slightly for inflation and the Fed's reaction to it. And stocks rallied sharply into the end of the week. We think this ignores the ramifications of falling prices on profit margins, which is likely to outweigh any benefit from increased Fed dovishness.


In short, we think we're quickly approaching the point where bad news on growth is bad. And we see 3900 on the S&P 500 as a good level to be selling into again in front of what is likely to be another weak earnings season led by poor profitability and the broader introduction of 2023 guidance.


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Jan 10, 2023
Martijn Rats: The 2023 Global Oil Outlook
00:04:23

With an eventful year for the oil market behind us, what are the factors that might influence the supply, demand, and ultimately the pricing of oil and gas in 2023?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Martijn Rats, Morgan Stanley's Global Commodity Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss some of the key uncertainties that the global oil market will likely face in 2023. It's Monday, January 9th at 3 p.m. in London. 


Looking back, 2022 was an eventful year for the oil market. The post-COVID demand recovery of 2021 continued during the first half and by June demand was back to 2019 levels. For a brief period the demand recovery appeared complete. Over the same period non-OPEC supply growth mostly disappointed, OPEC's spare capacity declined and inventories drew. Which eventually meant that oil markets had to start searching for the price level where demand destruction kicked in. Eventually, this forced prices of key oil products such as gasoline and diesel, to record levels of around $180-$290 a barrel in June. 


Clearly, those prices did the trick. Together with new mobility restrictions in China, aggressive rate hikes by central banks and rising risk of recession, particularly in Europe, they effectively stalled the oil demand recovery. And by September, global oil demand was once again below September 2019 levels. By late 2022, brent prices that retraced much of their earlier gains and other indicators, such as time spreads and refining margins, had softened too. 


Now, looking into 2023 we don't see this changing soon. Counting barrels of supply and demand suggest that the first quarter will still be modestly oversupplied. Also, declining GDP expectations, falling PMIs and central bank tightening are still weighing heavily on the oil market today. Eventually, however, we see a more constructive outlook emerging, say from the spring onwards. First, we expect to see a recovery in aviation. Global jet fuel consumption is still well below 2019 levels, and we think that a substantial share of that demand will return this year. Another key development will be China's reopening. At the end of 2022 China's oil demand was still well below 2020 and 2021 levels, held back by lockdowns and mobility restrictions. We expect China's oil demand to start recovering after the first quarter of this year. 


Shifting over to Europe and the EU embargo on Russian oil, as of last November, the EU still imported 2.2 million barrels a day of Russian crude oil and oil products. Now, especially after the EU's embargo on the import of oil product kicks in, which will be on February 5th, Russia will need to find other buyers and the EU will need to find other suppliers for much of this oil. Now, some of this has already been happening, but the full rearrangement of oil flows around the world as a result of this issue will probably not be full, smooth, fast and without price impact. As a result, we expect that some Russian oil will be lost in the process and Russian oil production is likely to decline in coming months. 


In the U.S., capital discipline and supply chain bottlenecks have already held back the growth in U.S. shale production. However, well performance and drilling inventory depth are emerging additional concerns putting further downward pressure on the production outlook. Eventually, the slowdown in U.S. shale will put OPEC in the driver's seat of the oil market. Also last year saw an unprecedented release of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But this source of supply is now ended and the U.S. Energy Department will likely start buying back some of this oil in coming months. 


Finally, investment in new oil and gas production is rebounding, but it comes from a very low base and the recovery has so far been modest. Much of it is simply to absorb cost inflation that has also happened in the industry. In other words, the industry isn't investing heavily in new oil production, which has implications for the longer term outlook for oil supply. 


Eventually, we think these factors will combine in a set of tailwinds for oil prices. If we are wrong on those, the market would be left with the status quo, which would be neutral. But we believe that these risks will eventually skew positively later in 2023. We expect the oil market to return to balance in the second quarter, and be undersupplied in the second half of this year. With a limited supply buffer only, we think brent will return to over $100 a barrel by the middle of the year. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Jan 09, 2023
Andrew Sheets: Lessons from Last Year
00:03:25

Discover what 2022, a historic year for markets, can teach investors as they navigate the new year.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, January 6th at 2 p.m. in London.


For the year ahead, we think U.S. growth slows while China accelerates, inflation moderates and central banks pause their rate hikes while keeping policy restrictive enough to slow growth. We think that backdrop favors bonds over stocks, emerging over developed markets and international over U.S. equities.


But there'll be plenty of time to discuss those views and more in the coming weeks. Today, I wanted to take a step back and talk a little about the year that was. 2022 was historic and within these unusual swings are some important lessons for the year ahead.


First, for the avoidance of doubt, 2022 was not normal. It was likely the first year since at least the 1870s that both U.S. stocks and long-term bonds fell more than 10% in the same calendar year. We don't think that repeats and forecast small positive total returns for both U.S. stocks and bonds in the year ahead.


Second, it was a year that challenged some conventional wisdom about what counts as a risky part of one's portfolio. So-called defensive stocks—those in consumer staples, health care and utilities—outperformed significantly, which isn't a surprise given the poor market environment. But other things were more unusual. Small cap stocks and value stocks, which are often seen as riskier, actually outperformed. Financial equities were the second-best performing sector in Europe, Japan and emerging markets despite being seen as a riskier sector. And both the stock market and currencies of Mexico and Brazil, markets that are seen as high beta, gained in dollar terms despite the historically difficult market environment.


This is all a great reminder that the riskiness of an asset class is not set in stone. And it shows the importance of valuation. Small caps, value stocks and Mexico and Brazilian assets all entered 2022 with large historical valuation discounts, which may help explain why they were able to hold up so well. For this year, we think attractive relative valuation could mean international equities are actually less risky than U.S. equities, bucking some of the historical trends.


Finally, 2022 was a great year for the so called 'momentum factor.' Factor investing is the idea that you favor a certain characteristic over and over. So, for example, always buying assets that are cheaper, the 'value factor,' buying assets that pay you more, the 'carry factor,' or always buying assets that are doing better, the 'momentum factor.'


In 2022, buying what had been rising, both outright or relative to its peers, worked pretty well across assets despite the simplicity of this strategy. Our work has suggested that momentum has a lower return than these other factors but is often very helpful in more difficult market environments. It's a good reminder that it's not always best to be contrarian and sometimes going with the trend is a simple but effective strategy, especially in commodities and short-term interest rates.


2022 is in the record books. It was an unusual year but one that still provides some useful and important lessons for the year that lies ahead.


Happy New Year and thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen and leave us to review. We'd love to hear from you.

Jan 06, 2023
Chetan Ahya: Has Inflation in Asia Peaked?
00:03:33

With the fight against inflation quieting down in many regions, Asia saw a relatively small step up in inflation. Will that leave 2023 open to the possibility of growth outperformance?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Chetan Ahya, Morgan Stanley's Chief Asia Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be discussing our 2023 outlook for Asia economics. It's Thursday, January 5th at 9 a.m. in Hong Kong. 


If 2022 was all about inflation, we believe 2023 will be about the aftermath of this battle with inflation. All eyes are now on how the world's largest economies will stack up after this battle with inflation. While Asia, along with the rest of the world, face multiple stagflationary shocks in 2022, we think that Asia weathered these shocks better. Indeed, we believe Asia will enter a rapid phase of disinflation and is well-positioned for growth outperformance in 2023. 


The step up in Asia's inflation was smaller compared to other regions. Furthermore, Asia's inflation had more of a cost-push element, meaning it was driven to a large extent by increases in cost of raw materials. And we believe Asia's inflation already peaked in third quarter of 2022. 


Asia's inflation should be rapidly returning towards central bank's comfort zone. We expect this to be the case for 90% of Asian economies by mid 2023. Cost-push factors are fading, resulting in lower food and energy inflation. Core good prices are descending rapidly, given the deflation in goods demand. Moreover, labor markets were not that tight in Asia, and wage growth has remained below its pre-COVID rates. Because of this backdrop, we've argued that central banks in Asia do not need to take policy rates deeper into restrictive territory. 


In fact, all of the central banks in the region will likely stop tightening in first quarter of 2023. This pause in Asia's rate hiking cycle, coupled with an easing in U.S. 10 year bond yields and with the peak of USD behind us, should lead to easier financial conditions in 2023. 


While weak external demand will remain a drag at least through the first half of 2023, Asia's domestic demand is supported by three factors. First, the easing of financial conditions will lift the private sector sentiment. Second, we are witnessing a strong uplift in large economies like India and Indonesia, supported by healthy balance sheets. Finally, China's reopening will lift consumption growth and have a positive effect on economies in the region, principally via the trade channel, helping Asian economies to get onto the path of growth outperformance. We expect Asia's growth to improve from a trough of 2.8% in first quarter of 2023, to 4.9% in second half of 2023, while DM growth will slow from 0.9% in first quarter of 2023 to 0.3% in second half of 23. Growth differentials will likely swing back in Asia's favor, rising back towards the levels last seen in 2017 and 2018. 


There are, of course, risks to our optimistic outlook for Asia. If U.S. inflation stays elevated for longer, this would lead to more tightening by the Fed than is expected and could drive renewed strength in the USD. This in turn would prolong the rate hike cycle in Asia, keeping financial conditions tight and exert downward pressures on growth. A delayed reopening in China could impact China's growth trajectory with adverse spillover implications for the rest of the region. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or a colleague today.

Jan 05, 2023
Michael Zezas: Gridlock in the House of Representatives
00:03:24

The House of Representatives continues its struggle to appoint a new Republican Speaker. What should investors consider as this discord sets the legislative tone for the year?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, January 4th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


The focus in D.C. this week has been on choosing the new speaker of the House of Representatives. Choosing this leader, who largely sets the House's voting and workflow agenda, is a necessary first step to opening a new Congress following an election. This process is usually uneventful, with the party in the majority typically having decided who they'll support long before any formal vote. But this week, something happened, which hasn't in 100 years. The House failed to choose a speaker on the first ballot. As of this recording, we're now three ballots in and the Republican majority has yet to agree on its choice. 


So is this just more DC noise? Or do investors need to be concerned? While it's too early to tell, and there don't appear to be any imminent risks, we think investors should at least take it seriously. The House of Representatives will eventually find a way to choose a speaker, but the Republicans' rare difficulty in doing so suggests it's worth tracking governance risk to the U.S. economic outlook that could manifest later in the year. 


To understand this, we must consider why Republicans have had difficulty choosing a speaker. In short, there's plenty of intraparty disagreement on policy priorities and governance style. And with a thin majority, that means small groups of Republican House members can create the kind of gridlock we're seeing in the speaker's race. This dynamic certainly isn't new, but the speaker's situation suggests it may be worse than in recent years. So whoever does become the next speaker of the House could have, even by recent standards, a higher degree of difficulty keeping their own position and holding the Republican coalition together. 


That's a tricky dynamic when it comes to negotiating on politically complex but economically impactful issues, such as raising the debt ceiling and keeping the government funded, two votes that will likely take place after the summer. 


On both counts, some conservatives have in the past been willing to say they will vote against those actions and in some cases have actually followed through. But aside from the debt ceiling situation in 2011, these votes have largely been protests and did not result in key policy changes. That's still the most likely outcome this year. And as listeners of this podcast are aware, we've typically dismissed debt ceiling and shutdown risks as noise that's not worth much investor attention. But we're not ready to say that today. Because while policymakers are likely to find a path to raising the debt ceiling, this negotiation could look and feel a lot more like the one in 2011 where party disagreements appeared intractable, even if they ultimately were not. That could remind investors that the compromise involved contractionary fiscal policy, which could weigh on markets if the U.S. economy is also slowing considerably per our expectations. This is a risk both our Chief Global Economist, Seth Carpenter, and I flagged in the run up to the recent U.S. midterm election. 


Of course, it's only January, and 6 to 9 months is a lifetime in politics. So, we don't think there's anything yet for investors to do but monitor this dynamic carefully. We'll be doing the same and we'll keep you in the loop. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Jan 04, 2023
Terence Flynn: The Next Blockbuster for Pharma?
00:03:12

As new weight management medications are being developed, might the obesity market parallel the likes of hypertension or high blood pressure to become the next blockbuster Pharma category?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Terence Flynn, Head of the U.S. Pharma Sector for Morgan Stanley Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll talk about the global obesity challenge and some of the key developments we expect in 2023. It's Tuesday, January 3rd, at 4 p.m. in New York. 


If you're like most people, you're probably seeing a lot of post-holiday ads for gym memberships, diet apps and nutrition services. So this seems like a relevant time to provide an update on obesity. A few months ago, we hosted an episode on this show discussing the global obesity epidemic and how it's now reached an inflection point because of new weight management drugs that show a lot of promise and benefits. 


We continue to believe that obesity is the "new hypertension or high blood pressure", and that it looks set to become the next blockbuster pharma category. Obesity has been classified by the American Medical Association, and more recently the European Commission, as a chronic disease, and its treatment is on the cusp of moving into mainstream primary care management. Essentially, the obesity market is where the treatment of high blood pressure was in the mid to late 80's, before it transformed into a $30 Billion market by the end of the 90's. 


One of the main reasons the narrative around obesity is inflecting is because the focus is shifting to the upstream cause, as opposed to the downstream consequences of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Now, given this change in focus, we expect excess weight to become a treatment target. The World Health Organization estimates that about 650 million people are living with obesity, and the associated personal, social and economic costs are significant. Over time, we're expecting about a quarter of obese individuals will engage with physicians, up from about 7% currently. Now, this compares to approximately 80% for high blood pressure and diabetes. Furthermore, well over 300 million of these people could potentially receive a new anti-obesity medicine. 


Looking back historically, previous medicines for obesity had minimal efficacy and were plagued by safety issues, which also contributed to limited reimbursement coverage. In our view, this is all poised to change as the more efficacious GLP-1 drugs are adopted and utilized and the companies begin to generate outcomes data to support the derivative benefits of these drugs beyond weight loss. 


Of course, as with biopharma, there are many de-risking clinical, regulatory and commercial steps in the development of the obesity market. This year, we're most focused on a key phase three outcomes trial called "SELECT", which we expect to read out this summer to conclude that "weight management saves lives". 


Furthermore, we think the innovation wave should continue as companies are working on a next generation of injectable combo drugs that could come to the market later this decade for obesity and Type two diabetes. And beyond the possibility of turning the tide on the obesity epidemic, it's also exciting to see room in the markets for multiple players and investment opportunities in a market that could reach over $50 billion by 2030. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Jan 03, 2023
End-of-Year Encore: 2023 Global Macro Outlook - A Different Kind of Year
00:11:31

Original Release on November 15th, 2022: As we look ahead to 2023, we see a divergence away from the trends of 2022 in key areas across growth, inflation, and central bank policy. Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Global Chief Economist Seth Carpenter discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's chief cross-asset strategist. 


Seth Carpenter: And I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's global chief economist. 


Andrew Sheets: And on the special two-part episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing Morgan Stanley's Global Year Ahead outlook for 2023. Today, we'll focus on economics, and tomorrow we'll turn our attention to strategy. It's Tuesday, November 15th at 3 p.m. in London. 


Seth Carpenter: And it's 10 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So, Seth I think the place to start is if we look ahead into 2023, the backdrop that you and your team are forecasting looks different in a number of important ways. You know, 2022 was a year of surprisingly resilient growth, stubbornly high inflation and aggressively tightening policy. And yet as we look ahead, all three of those elements are changing. I was hoping you could comment on that shift broadly and also dig deeper into what's changing the growth outlook for the global economy into next year. 


Seth Carpenter: You're right, Andrew, this year, in 2022, we've seen growth sort of hang in there. We came off of last year in 2021, a super strong year for growth recovering from COVID. But the theme this year really has been a great deal of inflation around the world, especially in developed markets. And with that, we've seen a lot of central banks everywhere start to raise interest rates a great deal. So what does that mean as we end this year and go into next year? Well, we think we'll start to see a bit of a divergence. In the developed market world where we've seen both a lot of inflation and a lot of central bank hiking, we think we get a great deal of slowing and in fact a bit of contraction. For the euro area and for the U.K, we're writing down a recession starting in the fourth quarter of this year and going into the beginning of next year. And then after that, any sort of recovery from the recession is going to be muted by still tight monetary policy. For the US, you know, we're writing down a forecast that just barely skirts a recession for next year with growth that's only slightly positive. That much slower growth is also the reflection of the Federal Reserve tightening policy, trying to wrench out of the system all the inflation we've seen so far. In sharp contrast, a lot of EM is going to outperform, especially EM Asia, where the inflationary pressures have been less so far this year, and central banks, instead of tightening aggressively to get restrictive and squeeze inflation out, they're actually just normalizing policy. And as a result, we think they'll be able to outperform. 


Andrew Sheets: And Seth, you know, you mentioned inflation coming in hot throughout a lot of 2022 being one of the big stories of the year that we've been in. You and your team are forecasting it to moderate across a number of major economies. What drives a change in this really important theme from 2022? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. We do realize that inflation is going to continue to be a very central theme for all sorts of markets everywhere. And the fact that we have a forecast with inflation coming down across the world is a really important part of our thesis. So, how can we get any comfort on the idea that inflation is going to come down? I think if you break up inflation into different parts, it makes it easier to understand when we're thinking about headline inflation, clearly, we have food, commodity prices and we've got energy prices that have been really high in part of the story this year. Oil prices have generally peaked, but the main point is we're not going to see the massive month on month and year on year increases that we were seeing for a lot of this year. Now, when we think about core inflation, I like to separate things out between goods and services inflation. For goods, the story over the past year and a half has been global supply chains and we know looking at all sorts of data that global supply chains are not fixed yet, but they are getting better. The key exception there that remains to be seen is automobiles, where we have still seen supply chain issues. But by and large, we think consumer goods are going to come down in price and with it pull inflation down overall. I think the key then is what goes on in services and here the story is just different across different economies because it is very domestic. But the key here is if we see the kind of slowing down in economies, especially in developed market economies where monetary policy will be restrictive, we should see less aggregate demand, weaker labor markets and with it lower services inflation. 


Andrew Sheets: How do you think central banks respond to this backdrop? The Fed is going to have to balance what we see is some moderation of inflation and the ECB as well, with obvious concerns that because forecasting inflation was so hard this year and because central banks underestimated inflation, they don't want to back off too soon and usher in maybe more inflationary pressure down the road. So, how do you think central banks will think about that risk balance and managing that? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. We have seen some surprises, the upside in terms of commodity market prices, but we've also been surprised at just the persistence of some of the components of inflation. And so central banks are very well advised to be super cautious with what's going on. As a result. What we think is going to happen is a few things. Policy rates are going to go into restrictive territory. We will see economies slowing down and then we think in general. Central banks are going to keep their policy in that restrictive territory basically over the balance of 2023, making sure that that deceleration in the real side of the economy goes along with a continued decline in inflation over the course of next year. If we get that, then that will give them scope at the end of next year to start to think about normalizing policy back down to something a little bit more, more neutral. But they really will be paying lots of attention to make sure that the forecast plays out as anticipated. However, where I want to stress things is in the euro area, for example, where we see a recession already starting about now, we don't think the ECB is going to start to cut rates just because they see the first indications of a recession. All of the indications from the ECB have been that they think some form of recession is probably necessary and they will wait for that to happen. They'll stay in restrictive territory while the economy's in recession to see how inflation evolves over time. 


Andrew Sheets: So I think one of the questions at the top of a lot of people's minds is something you alluded to earlier, this question of whether or not the US sees a recession next year. So why do you think a recession being avoided is a plausible scenario indeed might be more likely than a recession, in contrast maybe to some of that recent history? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. Let's talk about this in a few parts. First, in the U.S. relative to, say, the euro area, most of the slowing that we are seeing now in the economy and that we expect to see over time is coming from monetary policy tightening in the euro area. A lot of the slowing in consumer spending is coming because food prices have gone up, energy prices have gone up and confidence has fallen and so it's an externally imposed constraint on the economy. What that means for the U.S. is because the Fed is causing the slowdown, they've at least got a fighting chance of backing off in time before they cause a recession. So that's one component. I think the other part to be made that's perhaps even more important is the difference between a recession or not at this point is almost semantic. We're looking at growth that's very, very close to zero. And if you're in the equity market, in fact, it's going to feel like a recession, even if it's not technically one for the economy. The U.S. economy is not the S&P 500. And so what does that mean? That means that the parts of the U.S. economy that are likely to be weakest, that are likely to be in contraction, are actually the ones that are most exposed to the equity market and so for the equity market, whether it's a recession or not, I think is a bit of a moot point. So where does that leave us? I think we can avoid a recession. From an economist perspective, I think we can end up with growth that's still positive, but it's not going to feel like we've completely escaped from this whole episode unscathed. 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks, Seth. So I maybe want to close with talking about risks around that outlook. I want to talk about maybe one risk to the upside and then two risks that might be more serious to the downside. So, one of the risks to the upside that investors are talking about is whether or not China relaxes zero COVID policy, while two risks to the downside would be that quantitative tightening continues to have much greater negative effects on market liquidity and market functioning. We're going through a much faster shrinking of central bank balance sheets than you know, at any point in history, and then also that maybe a divided US government leads to a more challenging fiscal situation next year. So, you know, as you think about these risks that you hear investors citing China, quantitative tightening, divided government, how do you think about those? How do you think they might change the base case view? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. I think there are two-way risks as usual. I do think in the current circumstances, the upside risks are probably a little bit smaller than the downside risks, not to sound too pessimistic. So what would happen when China lifts those restrictions? I think aggregate demand will pick back up, and our baseline forecast that happens in the second quarter, but we can easily imagine that happening in the first quarter or maybe even sometime this year. But remember, most of the pent-up demand is on domestic spending, especially on services and so what that means is the benefit to the rest of the global economy is probably going to be smaller than you might otherwise think because it will be a lot of domestic spending. Now, there hasn't been as much constraint on exports, but there has been some, and so we could easily see supply chains heal even more quickly than we assume in the baseline. I think all of these phenomena could lead to a rosier outlook, could lead to a faster growth for the global economy. But I think it's measured just in a couple of tenths. It's not a substantial upside. In contrast, you mentioned some downside risks to the outlook. Quantitative tightening, central banks are shrinking their balance sheets. We recently published on the fact that the Fed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will all be shrinking their balance sheet over the next several months. That's never been seen, at least at the pace that we're going to see now. Could it cause market disruptions? Absolutely. So the downside risk there is very hard to gauge. If we see a disruption of the flow of credit, if we see a generalized pullback in spending because of risk, it's very hard to gauge just how big that downside is. I will say, however, that I suspect, as we saw with the Bank of England when we had the turmoil in the gilt market, if there is a market disruption, I think central banks will at least temporarily pause their quantitative tightening if the disruption is severe enough and give markets a chance to settle down. The other risk you mentioned is the United States has just had a mid-term election. It looks like we're going to have divided government. Where are the risks there? I want to take you back with me in time to the mid-term elections in 2010, where we ended up with split government. And eventually what came out of that was the Budget Control Act of 2011. We had split government, we had a debt limit. We ended up having budget debates and ultimately, we ended up with contractionary fiscal policy. I think that's a very realistic scenario. It's not at all our baseline, but it's a very realistic risk that people need to pay attention to. 


Andrew Sheets: Seth, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Seth Carpenter: Andrew, I always like getting a chance to talk to you. 


Andrew Sheets: And thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in for part two of this episode where Seth and I will discuss Morgan Stanley's year ahead. Strategy Outlook. If you enjoy thoughts of the market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share this podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Dec 30, 2022
End-of-Year Encore: Global Thematics - What’s Behind India’s Growth Story?
00:07:31

Original Release on December 7th, 2022: As India enters a new era of growth, investors will want to know what’s driving this growth and how it may create once-in-a-generation opportunities. Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas and Chief India Equity Strategist Ridham Desai discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Ridham Desai: And I'm Ridham Desai, Morgan Stanley's Chief India Equity Strategist. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss India's growth story over the next decade and some key investment themes that global investors should pay attention to. It's Wednesday, December 7th, at 7 a.m. in New York. 


Michael Zezas: Our listeners are likely well aware that over the past 25 years or so, India's growth has lagged only China's among the world's largest economies. And here at Morgan Stanley, we believe India will continue to outperform. In fact, India is now entering a new era of growth, which creates a once in a generation shift in opportunities for investors. We estimate that India's GDP is poised to more than doubled to $7.5 trillion by 2031, and its market capitalization could grow 11% annually to reach $10 trillion. Essentially, we expect India to drive about a fifth of global growth in the coming decade. So Ridham, what in your view are the main drivers behind India's growth story? 


Ridham Desai: Mike, the full global trends of demographics, digitalization, decarbonization and deglobalization that we keep discussing about in our research files are favoring this new India. The new India, we argue, is benefiting from three idiosyncratic factors. The first one is India is likely to increase its share of global exports thanks to a surge in offshoring. Second, India is pursuing a distinct model for digitalization of its economy, supported by a public utility called India Stack. Operating at population scale India stack is a transaction led, low cost, high volume, small ticket size system with embedded lending. The digital revolution has already changed the way India handles documents, the way it invests and makes payments and it is now set to transform the way it lends, spends and ensures. With private credit to GDP at just 57%, a credit boom is in the offing, in our view. The third driver is India's energy consumption and energy sources, which are changing in a disruptive fashion with broad economic benefits. On the back of greater access to energy, we estimate per capita energy consumption is likely to rise by 60% to 1450 watts per day over the next decade. And with two thirds of this incremental supply coming from renewable sources, well in short, with this self-help story in play as you said, India could continue to outperform the world on GDP growth in the coming decade. 


Michael Zezas: So let's dig into some of the specifics here. You mentioned the big surge in offshoring, which has resulted in India's becoming "the office of the world". Will this continue long term? 


Ridham Desai: Yes, Mike. In the post-COVID environment, global CEOs appear more comfortable with work from home and also work from India. So the emergence of distributed delivery models, along with tighter labor markets globally, has accelerated outsourcing to India. In fact, the number of global in-house captive centers that opened in India over the past two years was double of that in the prior four years. During the pandemic years, the number of people employed in this industry in India rose by almost 800,000 to 5.1 million. And India's share in global services trade rose by 60 basis points to 4.3%. In the coming decade we think the number of people employed in India for jobs outside the country is likely to at least double to 11 million. And we think that global spending on outsourcing could rise from its current level of U.S. dollar 180 billion per year to about 1/2 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030. 


Michael Zezas: In addition to being "the office of the world", you see India as a "factory to the world" with manufacturing going up. What evidence are we seeing of India benefiting from China moving away from the global supply chain and shifting business activity away from China? 


Ridham Desai: We are anticipating a wave of manufacturing CapEx owing to government policies aimed at lifting corporate profits share and GDP via tax cuts, and some hard dollars on the table for investing in specific sectors. Multinationals are more optimistic than ever before about investing in India, and that's evident in the all-time high that our MNC sentiment index shows, and the government is encouraging investments by building both infrastructure as well as supplying land for factories. The trends outlined in Morgan Stanley's Multipolar World Thesis, a document that you have co authored, Mike, and the cheap labor that India is now able to offer relative to, say, China are adding to the mix. Indeed, the fact is that India is likely to also be a big consumption market, a hard thing for a lot of multinational corporations to ignore. We are forecasting India's per capita GDP to rise from $2,300 USD to about $5,200 USD in the next ten years. This implies that India's income pyramid offers a wide breadth of consumption, with the number of rich households likely to quintuple from 5 million to 25 million, and the middle class households more than doubling to 165 million. So all these are essentially aiding the story on India becoming a factory to the world. And the evidence is in the sharp jump in FDI that we are already seeing, the daily news flows of how companies are ramping up manufacturing in India, to both gain access to its market and to export to other countries. 


Michael Zezas: So given all these macro trends we've been discussing, what sectors within India's economy do you think are particularly well-positioned to benefit both short term and longer term? 


Ridham Desai: Three sectors are worth highlighting here. The coming credit boom favors financial services firms. The rise in per capita income and discretionary income implies that consumer discretionary companies should do well. And finally, a large CapEx cycle could lead to a boom for industrial businesses. So financials, consumer discretionary and industrials. 


Michael Zezas: Finally, what are the biggest potential impediments and risks to India's success? 


Ridham Desai: Of course, things could always go wrong. We would include a prolonged global recession or sluggish growth, adverse outcomes in geopolitics and/or domestic politics. India goes to the polls in 2024, so another election for the country to decide upon. Policy errors, shortages of skilled labor, I would note that as a key risk. And steep rises in energy and commodity prices in the interim as India tries to change its energy sources. So all these are risk factors that investors should pay attention to. That said, we think that the pieces are in place to make this India's decade.


Michael Zezas: Ridham, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Ridham Desai: Great speaking with you, Mike. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people find the show.

Dec 29, 2022
End-of-Year Encore: Ellen Zentner - Is the U.S. Headed for a Soft Landing?
00:04:53

Original Release on December 2nd, 2022: While 2022 saw the fastest pace of policy tightening on record, has the Fed’s hiking cycle properly set the U.S. economy up for a soft landing in 2023?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley's Chief U.S. Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss our 2023 outlook for the U.S. economy. It's Friday, December 2nd, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Let's start with the Fed and the role higher interest rates play in the overall growth outlook. The Fed has delivered the fastest pace of policy tightening on record and now feels comfortable to begin slowing the pace of interest rate increases. We expect it to step down the pace to 50 basis points at its meeting later this month and then deliver a final hike in January to a peak rate of between 4.5 and 4.75%. But in order to keep inflation on a downward trajectory, the Fed will likely keep rates at that peak level for most of next year. This shift to a more cautious stance from the Fed we think will help the U.S. economy narrowly miss recession in 2023. And we think only in the back half of 2024 will the pace of growth pick back up as the Fed gradually reduces the policy rate back toward neutral, which is around 2.5%. Altogether, we forecast 2023 GDP growth of just 0.3% before rebounding modestly to 1.4% in 2024. 


One bright spot in the outlook is that inflation seems to have reached a turning point. Mounting evidence points to a slowing in housing prices and rents, though they continue to drive above target inflation. Core goods inflation should turn to disinflation as supply chains normalize and demand shifts to services and away from goods. Used vehicle prices are a big contributor to lower overall inflation in our forecast, as our motor vehicle analysts believe that used car prices could be down as much as 10 to 20% next year. So overall, we expect core PCE - or personal consumption expenditures inflation - to slow from 5% this year, to 2.9% in 2023, and further to 2.4% in 2024. 


Throughout 2022, rising interest rates have raised borrowing costs, which has weighed on consumption. And we expect that to continue into 2023 as the cumulative effects of past policy hikes continue to flow through to households. On the income side, we expect a rebound in real disposable income growth in 23, because inflation pressures abate while job growth continues to be positive. So if I put those together, slower consumption and rising incomes should lift the savings rate from 3.2% this year, to 5.1% in 2023, and 6.2% in 2024. So households will start to rebuild that cushion. 


Now we're in the midst of a sharp housing correction, and we expect a double digit decline in residential investment to continue. But we don't expect a commensurate drop in home valuations. Our housing strategies predict just a 4% drop in national home prices in 2023, and further price declines are likely in the years ahead, but that's a much milder drop in home valuations compared with the magnitude of the drop off in housing activity. So we think that residential wealth, real estate wealth will continue to be a strong backdrop for household balance sheets. Now going forward, mortgage rates will start to fall again after reaching these peaks around 7%. And with healthy job gains, and that increase in real disposable income growth affordability should begin to ease somewhat, we think starting in the back half of 2024. 


Turning to the labor market, while signs of falling inflation is important to the Fed, so are signs that the labor market is softening and we expect softer demand for labor and further labor supply gains to create the slack in the labor market the Fed is looking for. So we expect job growth will likely fall below the replacement rate by the second quarter of 2023, pushing up the unemployment rate to 4.3% by the end of next year and 4.4% by the end of 2024. 


In sum, we think the U.S. economy is at a turning point, but not a turning point toward recession, a turning point toward what is likely to prove to be two sluggish years of growth in the economy. The Fed's hiking cycle is working as it should. The labor market is softening. The inflation rate is coming down. And we think that puts the U.S. economy on track for a soft landing in 2023. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Dec 28, 2022
End-of-Year Encore: U.S. Outlook - What Are The Key Debates for 2023?
00:10:17

Original Release on November 22nd, 2022: The year ahead outlook is a process of collaboration between strategists and economists from across the firm, so what were analysts debating when thinking about 2023, and how were those debates resolved? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Head of Fixed Income Research Vishy Tirupattur discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's Chief Cross Asset Strategist. 


Vishy Tirupattur: And I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Head of Fixed Income Research. 


Andrew Sheets: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing some of the key debates underpinning Morgan Stanley's 2023 year ahead outlook. It's Tuesday, November 22nd at 3 p.m. in London. 


Vishy Tirupattur: And 10 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So Vishy, within Morgan Stanley research we collaborate a lot, but I think it's not an exaggeration to say that when we sit down to write our year ahead outlooks for strategy and economics, it's probably one of the most collaborative exercises that we do. Part of that is some pretty intense debate. So that's what I was hoping to talk to you about, kind of give listeners some insight into what are the types of things that Morgan Stanley research analysts were debating when thinking about 2023 and how we resolved some of those issues. And I think maybe the best place to start is just this question of inflation, right? Inflation was the big surprise of 2022. We underestimated it. A lot of forecasters underestimated inflation. As we look into 2023, Morgan Stanley's economists are forecasting inflation to come down. So, how did that debate go? Why do we have conviction that this time inflation really is going to moderate? 


Vishy Tirupattur: Thanks, Andrew. And it is absolutely the case that challenging each other's view is critically important and not a surprise that we spent a lot of time on inflation. Given that we have many upside surprises to inflation throughout the year, you know, there was understandable skepticism about the forecasts that US inflation will show a steady decline over the course of 2023. Our economists, clearly, acknowledge the uncertainty associated with it, but they took some comfort in a few things. One in the base effect. Two, normalizing supply chains and weaker labor markets. They also saw that in certain goods, certain core goods, such as autos, for example, they expect to see deflation, not just disinflation. And there's also a factor of medical services, which has a reset in prices that will exert a steady drag on the core inflation. So all said and done, there is significant uncertainty, but there are still clearly some reasons why our economists expect to see inflation decline. 


Andrew Sheets: I think that's so interesting because even after we published this outlook, it's fair to say that a lot of investor skepticism has related to this idea that inflation can moderate. And another area where I think when we've been talking to investors there's some disagreement is around the growth outlook, especially for the U.S. economy. You know, we're forecasting what I would describe as a soft landing, i.e., U.S. growth slows but you do not see a U.S. recession next year. A lot of investors do expect a U.S. recession. So why did we take a different view? Why do we think the U.S. economy can kind of avoid this recessionary path? 


Vishy Tirupattur: I think the key point here is the U.S. economy slows down quite substantially. It barely skirts recession. So a 0.5% growth expectation for 2023 for the U.S. is not exactly robust growth. I think basically our economists think that the tighter monetary policy will stop tightening incrementally early in 2023, and that will play out in slowing the economy substantially without outright jumping into contraction mode. Although we all agree that there is a considerable uncertainty associated with it. 


Andrew Sheets: We've talked a bit about U.S. inflation and U.S. growth. These things have major implications for the U.S. dollar. Again, I think an area that was subject to a lot of debate was our forecast that the dollar's going to decline next year. And so, given that the U.S. is still this outperforming economy, that's avoiding a recession, given that it still offers higher interest rates, why don't we think the dollar does well in that environment? 


Vishy Tirupattur: I think the key to this out-of-consensus view on dollar is that the decline in inflation, as our economists forecast and as we just discussed, we think will limit the potential for US rates going much higher. And furthermore, given that the monetary policy is in restrictive territory, we think there is a greater chance that we will see more downside surprises in individual data points. And while this is happening, the outlook for China, right, even though it is still challenging, appears to be shifting in the positive direction. There's a decent chance that the authorities will take steps towards ending the the "zero covid" policy. This would help bring greater balance to the global economy, and that should put less upward pressure on the dollar. 


Andrew Sheets: So Vishy, another question that generated quite a bit of debate is that next year you continue to see quantitative tightening from the Fed, the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve is shrinking, it's owning fewer bonds and yet we're also forecasting U.S. bond yields to fall. So how do you square those things? How do you think it's consistent to be forecasting lower bond yields and yet less Federal Reserve support for the bond market? 


Vishy Tirupattur: Andrew, there are two important points here. The first one is that when QT ends, really, history is really not much of a guide here. You know, we really have one data point when QT ended, before rate cuts started happening. And the thinking behind our thoughts on QT is that the Fed sees these two policy tools as being independent. And stopping QT depends really on the money market conditions and the bank demand for reserves. And therefore, QT could end either before or after December 2023 when we anticipate normalization of interest rate policy to come into effect. So, the second point is that why we think that the interest rates are going to rally is really related to the expectation of significant slowing in the economic growth. Even though the U.S. economy does not go into a contraction mode, we expect a significant slowing of the U.S. economy to 0.5% GDP growth and the economy growing below potential even into 2024 as the effects of the tighter monetary policy conditions begin to play out in the real economy. So we think the rally in U.S. rates, especially in the longer end, is really a function of this. So I think we need to keep the two policy tools a bit separate as we think about this. 


Andrew Sheets: So Vishy, I wanted us to put our credit hats on and talk a little bit about our expectations for default rates. And I think here, ironically, when we've been talking to investors, there's been disagreement on both sides. So, you know, we're forecasting a default rate for the U.S. of around 4-4.5% Next year for high yield, which is about the historical average. And you get some investors who say, that expectation is too cautious and other investors who say, that's too benign. So why is 4-4.5% reasonable and why is it reasonable in the context of those, you know, investor concerns? 


Vishy Tirupattur: It's interesting, Andrew, when you expect that some some people will think that the our expectations are too tight and others think that they are too wide and we end up somewhat in the middle of the pack, I think we are getting it right. The key point here is that the the maturity walls really are pretty modest over the next two years. The fundamentals, in terms of coverage ratios, leverage ratio, cash on balance sheets, are certainly pretty decent, which will mitigate near-term default pressures. However, as the economy begins to slow down and the earnings pressures come into play, we will expect to see the market beginning to think about maturity walls in 2025 onwards. All that means is that we will see defaults rise from the extremely low levels that we are at right now to long-term average levels without spiking to the kinds of default rates we have seen in previous economic slowdowns or recessions. 


Andrew Sheets: You know, we've had this historic rise in mortgage rates and we're forecasting a really dramatic drop in housing activity. And yet we're not forecasting nearly as a dramatic drop in U.S. home prices. So Vishy, I wanted to put this question to you in two ways. First, how do we justify a much larger decrease in housing activity relative to a more modest decrease in housing prices? And then second, would you consider our housing forecast for prices bullish or bearish relative to the consensus? 


Vishy Tirupattur: So, Andrew, the first point is pretty straightforward. You know, as mortgage rates have risen in response to higher interest rates, affordability metrics have dramatically deteriorated. The consequence of this, we think, is a very significant slowing of housing activity in terms of new home sales, housing starts, housing permits, building permits and so on. The decline in those housing activity metrics would be comparable to the kind of decline we saw after the financial crisis. However, to get the prices down anywhere close to the levels we saw in the wake of the financial crisis, we need to see forced sales. Forced sales through foreclosures, etc. that we simply don't expect to see happen in the next few years because the mortgage lending standards after the financial crisis had been significantly tighter. There exists a substantial equity in many homes today. And there's also this lock-in effect, where a large number of current mortgage holders have low mortgage rates locked in. And remember, US mortgages are predominantly fixed rate mortgages. So the takeaway here is that housing activity will drop dramatically, but home prices will drop only modestly. So relative to the rest of the street, our home price forecast is less negative, but I think the key point is that we clearly distinguish between what drives home pricing activity and what drives housing activity in terms of builds and starts and sales, etc.. And that key distinction is the reason why I feel pretty confident about our housing activity forecast and home price forecast. 


Andrew Sheets: Vishy, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Vishy Tirupattur: Always a pleasure talking to you, Andrew. 


Andrew Sheets: Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Thoughts on the Market. We have passed yet another exciting milestone: over 1 million downloads in a single month. I wanted to say thank you for continuing to tune in and share the show with your friends and colleagues. It wouldn't be possible without you, our listeners. 

Summary

The year ahead outlook is a process of collaboration between strategists and economists from across the firm, so what were analysts debating when thinking about 2023, and how were those debates resolved? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Head of Fixed Income Research Vishy Tirupattur discuss.

Dec 27, 2022
End-of-Year Encore: U.S. Housing - How Far Will the Market Fall?
00:07:25

Original Release on November 17th, 2022: With risks to both home sales and home prices continuing to challenge the housing market, investors will want to know what is keeping the U.S. housing market from a sharp fall mirroring the great financial crisis? Co-heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research Jim Egan and Jay Bacow discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Jim Egan: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jim Egan, Co-head of U.S. Securitized Products Research here at Morgan Stanley. 


Jay Bacow: And I'm Jay Bacow, the other Co-head of U.S. Securities Products Research. 


Jim Egan: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing our year ahead outlook for the U.S. housing market for 2023. It's Thursday, November 17th, at 1 p.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: So Jim, it's outlook season. And when we think about the outlook for the housing market, we’re not just looking in 2023, people live in their houses for their whole lives.


Jim Egan: Exactly. We are contemplating what's going to happen to the housing market, not just in 23, but beyond in this year's version of the outlook. But just to remind the listeners, we have talked about this on this podcast in the past, but our view for 2023 hasn't changed all that much. What we think we're going to see is a bifurcation narrative in the housing market between activity, so home sales and housing starts, and home prices. The biggest driver of that bifurcation, affordability. Because of the increase in prices, because of the incredible increase in mortgage rates that we've seen this year, affordability has been deteriorating faster than we've ever seen it. That's going to bring sales down. But the affordability for current homeowners really hasn't changed all that much. We're talking about deterioration for first time homebuyers, for prospective homebuyers. Current homeowners in a lot of instances have locked in very low 30 year fixed rate mortgages. We think they're just incentivized to keep their homes off the market, they're locked into their current mortgage, if you will. That keeps supply down, that also means they're not buying a home on the follow, so it means that sales fall even faster. Sales have outpaced the drop during the great financial crisis. We think that continues through the middle of next year. We think sales ultimately fall 11% next year from an already double digit decrease in 2022 on a year over year basis. But we do think home prices are more protected. We think they only fall 4% year over year next year, but when we look out to 2024, it's that same affordability metric that we really want to be focused on. And, home prices plays a role, but so do mortgage rates. Jay, how are we thinking about the path for mortgage rates into 2024? 


Jay Bacow: Right. So obviously the biggest driver of mortgage rates are first where Treasury rates are and then the risk premium between Treasury rates and mortgages. The drive for Treasury rates, among other things, is expectations for Fed policy. And our economists are expecting the Fed to cut rates by 25 basis points in every single meeting in 2024, bringing the Fed rate 200 basis points lower. When you overlay the fact that the yield curve is inverted and our interest rate strategists are expecting the ten year note to fall further in 2023, and risk premia on mortgages is already pretty wide and we think that spread can narrow. We think the mortgage rate to the homeowner can go from a peak of a little over 7% this year to perhaps below 6% by 2024. Jim, that should help affordability right, at least on the margins. 


Jim Egan: It should. And that is already playing a role in our sales forecasts and our price forecasts. I mentioned that sales are falling faster than they did during the great financial crisis. We think that that pace of change really inflects in the second half of next year. Not that home sales will increase, we think they'll still fall, they're just going to fall on a more mild or more modest pace. Home prices, the trajectory there also could potentially be more protected in this improved affordability environment because I don't get the sense that inventories are really going to increase with that drop in mortgage rates. 


Jay Bacow: Right. And when we look at the distribution of mortgage rates in America right now, it's not uniformly distributed. The average mortgage rate is 3.5%, but right now when we think how many homeowners have at least 25 basis points of incentive to refinance, which is generally the minimum threshold, it rounds to 0.0%. If mortgage rates go down to 4%, about 2.5 points below where they are right now, we're still only at about 10% of the universe has incentive to refinance. So while rates coming down will help, you're not going to get a flood of supply. 


Jim Egan: We think that’s important when it comes to just how far home prices can fall here. The lock in effect will still be very prevalent. And we do think that that continues to support home prices, even if they are falling on a year over year basis as we look out beyond 2023 into 2024 and further than that. Now, the biggest pushback we get to this outlook when we talk to market participants is that we're too constructive. People think that home prices can fall further, they think that home prices can fall faster. And one of the reasons that tends to come up in these conversations is some anchoring to the great financial crisis. Home prices fell about 30% from peak to trough, but we think it's important to note that that took over five years to go from that peak to that trough. In this cycle home prices peaked in June 2022, so December of next year is only 18 months forward. The fastest home prices ever fell, or the furthest they ever fell over a 12 month period, 12.7% during the great financial crisis. And that took a lot of distress, forced sellers, defaults and foreclosures to get to that -12.7%. We think that without that distress, because of how robust lending standards have been, the down 4% is a lot more realistic for what we could be over the course of next year. Going further out the narrative that we'll hear pretty frequently is, well, home prices climbed 40% during the pandemic, they can reverse out the entirety of that 40%. And we think that that relies on kind of a faulty premise that in the absence of COVID, if we never had to deal with this pandemic for the past roughly three years, that home prices would have just been flat. If we had this conversation in 2019, we were talking about a lot of demand for shelter, we were talking about a lack of supply of shelter. Not clearly the imbalance that we saw in the aftermath of the pandemic, but those ingredients were still in place for home prices to climb. If we pull trend home price growth from 2015 to 2019, forward to the end of 2023, and compare that to where we expect home prices to be with the decrease that we're already forecasting, the gap between home prices and where that trend price growth implies they should have been, 9%. Till the end of 2024 that gap is only 5%. While home prices can certainly overcorrect to the other side of that trend line, we think that the lack of supply that we're talking about because of the lock in effect, we think that the lack of defaults and foreclosures because of how robust lending standards have been, we do think that that leaves home prices much more protected, doesn't allow for those very big year over year decreases. And we think peak to trough is a lot more control probably in the mid-teens in this cycle. 


Jay Bacow: So when we think about the outlook for the U.S. housing market in 2023 and beyond, home sale activity is going to fall. Home prices will come down some, but are protected from the types of falls that we saw during the great financial crisis by the lock in effect and the better outlook for the credit standards in the U.S. housing market now than they were beforehand. 


Jay Bacow: Jim, always greatv talking to you. 


Jim Egan: Great talking to you, too, Jay. 


Jay Bacow: And thank you all for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcasts app, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today. 

Dec 23, 2022
Andrew Sheets: Which Economic Indicators are the Most Useful?
00:03:13

When attempting to determine what the global economy looks like, some economic indicators at an investors disposal may be more useful, while others lag behind.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Thursday, December 22nd at 2 p.m. in London. 


At the heart of investment strategy is trying to determine what the global economy will look like and what that could mean to markets. But this question has a catch. Market prices often move well ahead of the economic data, partly because markets are anticipatory and partly because it takes time to collect that economic data, creating lags. When thinking about all the economic indicators that an investor can look at, a consistent question is which of these are most and least useful in divining the future? 


One early indicator we think has relatively powerful forecasting properties is the yield curve, specifically the difference between short term and long term government borrowing costs. These differences can tell us quite a bit about what the bond market thinks the economy and monetary policy is going to do in the future, and can move before broader market pricing. One example of this, as we discussed on the program last week, is that an inverted yield curve like we see today tends to mean that the end of Fed rate hikes are less helpful to global stock markets than they would be otherwise. 


But at the other end of the spectrum is data on the labor market, which tends to be much more lagging. At first glance, that seems odd. After all, jobs and wages are very important to the economy, why aren't they more effective in forecasting cross-asset returns? 


But drill deeper and we think the logic becomes a little bit more clear. As the economy initially weakens, most businesses try to hang on to their workers for as long as possible, since firing people is expensive and disruptive. As such, labor markets often respond later as growth begins to slow down. And the reverse is also true, coming out of a recession corporate confidence is quite low, making companies hesitant to add new workers even as conditions are recovering. Indeed, with hindsight, one of the ironies of market strategy is it's often been best to sell stocks when the labor market is at its strongest, and buy them when the labor market is weakest. 


And then there's wages. Wage growth is currently quite high, and there's significant concern that high wage growth will lead to excess inflation, forcing the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates aggressively. While that's possible, history actually points in a different direction. In 2001, 2007, and 2019, the peak in U.S. wage growth occurred about the same time that the Federal Reserve was starting to cut interest rates. In other words, by the time that wage growth on a year over year basis hit its zenith, other parts of the economy were already showing signs of slowing, driving a shift towards easier central bank policy. 


Investors face a host of economic indicators to follow. Among all of these, we think the yield curve is one of the most useful leading indicators, and labor market data is often some of the most lagging. 


Happy holidays from all of us here at Thoughts on the Market. We'll be back in the new year with more new episodes. And thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Dec 22, 2022
Michael Zezas: Legislation to Watch in 2023
00:02:33

As congress wraps up for 2022, and we look towards a divided government in 2023, there are a few possible legislative moves on the horizon that investors will want to be prepared for.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, December 21st at 11 a.m. in New York. 


As Congress wraps up its business for the year, it's a good time to level-set on what investors should watch out for out of D.C. in 2023. While it's not an election year, and a divided government means legislative achievements will be tough to come by, it's always a good idea to be prepared. So here's three things to watch for. 


First, cryptocurrency regulations. Turmoil in the crypto market seems to have accelerated lawmaker interest in tackling the thorny issue. And even if Democrats and Republicans can't come together on regulation, the Biden administration has been studying how regulators could use existing laws to roll out new rules. For investors, the most tangible takeaway from our colleagues is that crypto regulation could support large cap financials by evening the regulatory playing field with the crypto firms. 


Second, watch for permitting reform on oil and gas exploration. While a late year effort led by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin didn't muster enough votes for passage. It's possible Republicans may be willing to revisit the issue in 2023 when they control the House of Representatives. If this were to pass, watch the oil markets, which might be sensitive to perceptions of future increased supply, supporting the recent downtrend in prices. 


Lastly, keep an eye out for the U.S. to raise more non-tariff barriers with regard to China. While we're not aware of any specific deadlines in play, many of the laws passed in recent years that augment potential actions like export controls put the U.S. government on a sustained path toward drawing up more tariff barriers. Hence the continued momentum toward restricting many types of trade around semiconductors. We'll be particularly interested in 2023 if the U.S. takes actions that start to relate to other industries, which would reflect a broadening scope of U.S. intentions and the US-China trade conflict. That is potentially a challenge to our strategists' currently constructive view on China equities. 


Of course, these aren't the only three things out of D.C. that investors should watch for, and history tells us to expect the unexpected. We'll do just that and keep you in the loop here. In the meantime, happy holidays and have a safe and blessed new year. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Dec 21, 2022
Global Thematics: A Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion
00:08:04

With the recent breakthrough in fusion energy technology, the debate around the feasibility of nuclear fusion as a commercialized energy source may leave investors wondering, is it a holy grail or a pipe dream? Global Head of Sustainability Research and North American Clean Energy Research Stephen Byrd and Head of Thematic Research in Europe Ed Stanley discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Stephen Byrd: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Sustainability Research and North American Clean Energy Research. 


Ed Stanley: And I'm Ed Stanley, Morgan Stanley's Head of Thematic Research in Europe. 


Stephen Byrd: And on the special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss the potential of nuclear fusion technology in light of a key recent breakthrough in the space. It's Tuesday, December 20th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Ed Stanley: And 2 p.m. in London. 


Stephen Byrd: Ed, you recently came to this podcast to discuss your team's work on "Earthshots", technologies that can accelerate the pace of decarbonization and mitigate some of the climate change that's occurring as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, trapping the sun's heat. In a sense, Earthshots can be defined as urgent solutions to an intensifying climate crisis and nuclear fusion as one of these potential radical decarbonization technologies. So, Ed, I wondered if you could just start by explaining how nuclear fusion fits into your excellent Earthshots framework. 


Ed Stanley: Absolutely. So in Earthshots we laid out six technologies we thought could be truly revolutionary and changed the course of decarbonization. Three of those were environmental and three were biological innovations. In order of investability, horizon carbon capture was first, smart grids were next, and then further out was nuclear fusion on the environmental side. In early December the U.S. Department of Energy announced the achievement of fusion ignition at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. So Steve, passing back to you, can you give us a sense of why this was considered such an important moment? 


Stephen Byrd: Yeah Ed, you know, as you mentioned, ignition was achieved at the government lab. And this is very exciting because this shows the potential for fusion to create net energy as a result of achieving fusion. So essentially what happened was two megajoules of energy went into the process of creating the ignition, and three megajoules of energy were produced as a result. So a very exciting development. But as we'll discuss, a lot of additional milestones yet to achieve. 


Ed Stanley: And there's been significant debates around nuclear fusion in recent days caused by this. And from the perspective of a seasoned utilities analyst, but also with your ESG hat on, is fusion the Holy Grail it's often touted to be, or do you think it's more of a pipe dream? And compared to nuclear fission, how much of a step change would it be? 


Stephen Byrd: You know, that's a fascinating question in terms of the long term potential of fusion. I do see immense long term potential for fusion, but I do want to emphasize long term. I think, again, we have many steps to achieve, but let's talk fundamentally about what is so exciting about fusion energy. The first and foremost is abundant energy. As I mentioned, you know, small amount of energy in produces a greater amount of energy out, and this can be scaled up. And so this could create plentiful energy that's exciting. It's no carbon dioxide, that's also very exciting. No long live radioactive waste, add that to the list of exciting things. A very limited risk of proliferation, because fusion does not employ fissile materials like uranium, for example. So tremendous potential, but a long way to go likely until this is actually put into the field. So in the meantime, we have to be looking to other technologies to help with the energy transition. So Ed, just building on what we're going to really need to achieve the energy transition and thinking through the development of fusion, what are some of the upcoming milestones and technology advancements that you're thinking about for the development and deployment of fusion energy? 


Ed Stanley: The technology milestones to watch for, I think, are generally known and ironically, actually relatively simple for this topic. We need more power out than in, and we need more controlled energy output, and certain technology breakthroughs can help with that. But we also need more time, more money, more computation, more facilities with which to try this technology out. But importantly, I think the next ten years is going to look very different from the last ten years in terms of these milestones and breakthroughs. I think that's going to be formed by four different things: the frequency, geographically, disciplinary and privately. And by those I mean on frequency it took about 25 years for JET in 2020 to break its own output record that it set in 1995. And then all of a sudden in 2021, 22, we saw four more notable records broken. Geographically, two of those records broken were in China, which is incredibly interesting because it shows that international competition is clearly on the rise. Third, we're seeing interdisciplinary breakthroughs to your point on integrating new types of technology. And finally, the emergence of increasingly well-funded private facilities. And this public private competition can and should accelerate the breakthroughs occurring in unexpected locations. But Stephen, I suppose if we cut to the chase on the when, how long do you think commercial scale fusion will take to come to fruition? 


Stephen Byrd: You know, it's a great question Ed. I think the Department of Energy officials that gave the press release on this technology development highlighted some of the challenges ahead. Let me talk through three big technology challenges that will need to be overcome. The first is what I think of as sort of true net energy production. So I mentioned before that it just took two mega jewels to ignite the fuel and then the output was three megajoules. That's very exciting. However, the total energy needed to power the lasers was 300 megajoules, so a massive amount. So we need to see tremendous efficiency improvements, that's the first challenge. The second challenge would be what we think of as repeatable ignition. That relates to creating a consistent, stable set of fusion, which to date has not been possible. Lastly, for Tokamak Technologies, Tokamaks are essentially magnetic bottles. The crucial element for commercialization is making these high temperature superconducting magnets stronger. That would enable everything else to be smaller and that would lead to cost improvements. So I think we have a long way to go. So Ed, just building on that idea of commercialization, you know, with the economics of fusion technologies looking more attractive now than previously given this breakthrough that we've seen at the U.S. DOE lab, what's happening on the policy and regulatory side. Do you see support for nuclear fusion? And if you do, in which countries do you see that support? 


Ed Stanley: I mean, it's a great question. And governments and electorates around the world, particularly in Europe, where I'm sitting, have what can only be described as a complicated relationship with nuclear energy. But on support for fusion broadly, yes, I think there is tentative support. It depends on the news flow and I think excitement last week shows exactly that. But personally, I think we are still too early to worry too much about policy and regulation. In simple terms, you can't actually regulate and promote and subsidize something where the technology isn't actually ready yet, which is part of the point you've made throughout. But that question also reminds me of a time about 15 years ago when I received national security clearance to visit the U.K.'s Atomic Energy Authority in Europe. And at that time, they were the clear global leader in fusion research. Obviously, that was hugely exciting as a young teenager. But something that the lead scientist said to me at that point struck me and it remains true today, that no R&D project on the planet receives as much funding relative to its frequency of breakthroughs as Fusion does. Which tells you just how committed that governments and now corporates around the world are in trying to unlock carbon free nuclear waste, free energy. But as you have said, quite rightly, that has taken and it will continue to take patience. 


Stephen Byrd: That's great. Ed, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Ed Stanley: It's great speaking with you, Stephen. 


Stephen Byrd: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Dec 20, 2022
Mike Wilson: Have Markets Fully Priced an Earnings Decline?
00:03:58

As focus begins to shift from inflation and interest rates to a possible oncoming earnings recession, what has the market already priced in? And what should investors be looking at as risk premiums begin to rise?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, December 19th, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


While many commentators blame last week's selloff in stocks on the Fed, we think it was more about the equity market looking ahead to the oncoming earnings recession that we think is getting worse. The evidence for this conclusion is last week's drop in valuations, which was driven exclusively by a rising equity risk premium as 10 year yields remain flat. In fact, since mid-November, the equity risk premium has risen 50 basis points to 2.5%. While still very low relative to where we think it will eventually settle out next year, it's a good step in the right direction that tells us the equity market is at least contemplating the earnings risk. Until now, all of the bear market valuation compression has been about inflation, the Fed's reaction to it and the rise in interest rates. 


While we called for the end of the tactical rally two weeks ago, last week's price action provided the technical reversal to confirm it. Specifically, the softer than expected inflation report on Tuesday drove the equity markets up sharply in the morning, only to fail at the key resistance levels we highlighted two weeks ago. More importantly, the price action left a negative tactical pattern that looks like the mere image of the pattern back in October, when the September inflation report came in hotter than expected. We made our tactical rally call on the back of that positive technical action in October and last week provides the perfect bookend to our trade. 


Seasonally, the setup is now bearish too. At the end of every calendar quarter, many asset managers play a game of chasing markets higher or lower to protect or enhance their relative year to date performance. Most years, the equity markets tend to drift higher into year end, as liquidity dries up, asset managers are able to push prices higher of the stocks they own. However, in down years like 2022, the ability and/or willingness to do that is lower, which reduces the odds of a year end rally lasting all the way until December 31st. This is the other reason we pulled the plug on our tactical rally call. With last week's technical reversal so clear, we think the set up is now more bearish than bullish. Meanwhile, we are feeling more confident about our 2023 forecast for S&P 500 earnings per share of $195. This remains well below both the bottoms up consensus of $231 and the top down forecasts of $215. In fact, the leading macro survey data has continued to weaken. I bring this up because we often hear from clients that everyone knows earnings are too high next year, and therefore the market has priced it. However, we recall hearing similar things in August of 2008, the last time the spread between our earnings model and the street consensus was this wide. 


The good news is that we don't expect a balance sheet recession next year or systemic financial risk. Nevertheless, the earnings recession by itself could be similar to what transpired in 2008 and 09. The main message of today's podcast is don't assume the market prices this negative of an earnings outcome until it happens. Secondarily, if our earnings forecast proves to be correct, the price declines for equities will be much worse than what most investors are expecting. Based on our conversations, the consensus view on the buy side is now that we won't make new lows on the S&P 500 next year, but will instead defend the October levels or the 200 week moving average, approximately 3500 to 3600 on the S&P 500. We remain decidedly in the 3000 to 3300 camp with a bias toward the low end given our view on earnings. With the year end Santa Claus rally now fading, there is reason to believe the decline from last week is the beginning of the move lower into the first quarter for stocks that we've been expecting, and when a more sustainable low is likely to be made. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Dec 19, 2022
Andrew Sheets: What Will the End of Rate Hikes Mean?
00:03:28

As cross-asset performance has continued to be weak, there is hope that the end of the Fed’s rate hiking cycle could give markets the boost they need, but does history agree with these investor’s hopes?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, December 16th, at 3 p.m. in London. 


We expect the Federal Reserve to make its last rate hike in the first quarter of next year. What does that mean? Aggressive rate increases from the Fed this year have corresponded to weak cross-asset performance, leading to a lot of hope that the end of these rate hikes will provide a major boost to markets, especially to riskier, more volatile assets like stocks and high yield bonds. 


But the lessons of history are more complicated. While on average, both stocks and bonds do well once the Fed stops raising rates, there's an important catch. Stock performance is weaker in the handful of instances where the Fed has stopped while short term yields are higher than long term yields. That so-called inverted yield curve is exactly what we see today and suggests it's not so straightforward to say that the end of rate hikes means that stocks outperform. 


Specifically, we can identify 11 instances since 1980 when the Federal Reserve was raising rates and then stopped. In most of these instances, the yield curve was flat and slightly upward sloping, which means 2 year yields were a little bit lower than 10 year yields. That means  the market thought that interest rates at the time of the last Fed rate hike could stay at those levels for some time, applying that they were in a somewhat stable equilibrium and that the economy wouldn't see major change. Unsurprisingly, the markets seemed to like that stability, with global equities up about 15% over the next year in these instances. 


But there's another, somewhat rare set of observations where the last Fed rate hike has occurred with short term interest rates higher than expected rates over the long term. That happened in 1980, 1981, 1989, and the year 2000, and suggests that the market at that time thought that interest rates were not in a stable equilibrium, would not stay at current levels, and might need to adjust down rather significantly. That's more consistent of bond markets being concerned about slower growth. And in these four instances, global equity markets did much worse, falling about 3% over the following 12 month period. 


We see a couple of important implications for that. First, as we sit today, the yield curve is inverted, suggesting that that rarer but more challenging set of scenarios could be at work. My colleague Mike Wilson, Morgan Stanley's Chief U.S. Equity Strategist and CIO, is forecasting S&P 500 to end 2023 at similar levels to where it is today, suggesting that the equity outlook isn't as simple as the market rallying after the Fed stops raising rates. 


Secondly, for bond markets, returns are more consistently strong after the last Fed rate hike, whether the yield curve is inverted or not. From a cross-asset perspective, we continue to prefer investment grade bonds over equities in both the U.S. and Europe. 


Questions of when the Fed stops raising rates and what this means remains a major debate for the year ahead. While an end to rate hikes is often a broad based positive, this impact isn't as strong when the yield curve is inverted like it is today. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Dec 16, 2022
Sarah Wolfe: Are Consumers Going to Pull Back on Spending?
00:04:02

While the consumer has been a pillar of strength this year, continued high inflation, household debt and slowing payroll growth could pose challenges to consumer spending. 


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Sarah Wolfe from Morgan Stanley's U.S. Economics Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I will give you a year end 2022 update on the U.S. consumer with a bit of our outlook for 2023. It's Thursday, December 15th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


So it's very clear the consumer has been a pillar of strength this year amid a very tough macro environment, but as rates keep rising and the labor market slows, consumers will likely need to find ways to cut costs. We are already seeing some weakness in subprime consumers and trade down among middle and higher income households. 


While the wallet shift away from goods and towards services is definitely playing out, we continue to see relatively more strength than expected from consumers across both categories. This is because households have lowered their savings rates significantly as they draw down excess savings. We do not expect a material drawdown in excess savings, however, into next year as savings dwindle. We are already seeing it this morning in the November retail sales data, where spending slowed down fairly dramatically across most goods categories. We're talking about home furnishing, electronics and appliances, sporting goods, motor vehicles. On the other hand, the one category of retail sales that reflects the services side of the economy, dining out, was very strong in the retail sales report and has continued to be very strong. 


Looking at the trends that will  force consumers to spend less, rising interest rates are lifting the direct costs of new borrowing and slowly feeding through into higher overall debt service costs. For example, new car loan rates are at their highest level since 2010, mortgage rates are at 20 year highs, they've come off a little bit,  and commercial bank interest rates on credit card plans are at 30 year highs. It takes time for new debt issued at higher rates to lift household debt service costs, especially as over 90% of outstanding household debt is locked in at a fixed rate. But it's happening. 


Looking at the data by household income shows more stress from higher rates among subprime borrowers. Credit card delinquencies are modestly below pre-COVID levels, but are accelerating at the fastest pace since the financial crisis. In the auto space, delinquencies across subprime auto ABS surpassed 2019 levels earlier this year and have stabilized at relatively high rates over the last six months. 


Lower income households are also most affected by the combination of higher interest rates and higher inflation. They rely more heavily on higher interest rate loan products and variable rate credit card lines. Consider this, the bottom 20% income quintile spend 94% of their disposable income on essential items, including food, energy and shelter. This compares to only 20% of disposable income for the top 20% income quintile. As such, higher inflation on essential items weighs more heavily on lower income households. Higher inflation is also pushing lower income households to buy fewer full price items and wait for promotions. They are also choosing smaller items, value packs, or less expensive brands. 


While price inflation has turned a corner, it's not enough to ease the pressure on consumers from elevated price levels, rising rates and additionally a decelerating labor market. We expect labor income growth to slow next year alongside a weakening labor market, troughing in mid 2023, in line with sharply slower payroll growth and softer wage gains. Wage pressures are coming off in industries that saw the largest wage gains over the past year due to labor shortages, including leisure and hospitality and wholesale trade. But for the moment, with jobs still growing, consumer spending remains positive as well. Together, our base case for real spending is a weak 1% year over year growth in 2023, down from 2.6% this year. In the end, the extent that consumers pull back spending will hinge on how the labor market fares. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Dec 15, 2022
Global Thematics: Earthshots Take on Climate Change
00:09:20

While “Moonshots” attempt to address climate concerns with disruptive technology, more immediate solutions are needed, so what are “Earthshots”? And which ones should investors pay attention to? Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas and Head of Thematic Research in Europe Ed Stanley discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Ed Stanley: And I'm Ed Stanley, Morgan Stanley's Head of Thematic Research in Europe. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss the potential of "Earthshots" as an investment theme in the face of intensifying climate concerns. It's Wednesday, December 14th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Ed Stanley: And 3 p.m. in London. 


Michael Zezas: While climate continues to be a key political and economic debate, it's clear we're moving into a new phase of climate urgency. There's a significant mismatch between the pace of climate technology adoption, and the planet's need for those solutions. Here at Morgan Stanley we've done work around "Moonshots", ambitious and radical solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems using disruptive technology. There are some big hurdles with moonshots, however. First, they require significant political support. Also, the process of gradual, iterative decarbonization technology adoption will occur more slowly than investors expect. Given this backdrop, there's a growing need for urgent solutions. Enter what we call "Earthshots". 


Michael Zezas: Ed, can you maybe start by explaining what Earthshots are and what the framework for identifying these Earthshots is relative to Moonshots? 


Ed Stanley: So a Moonshot is an early stage technology with high uncertainty, but also high potential to solve a very difficult problem. And for Moonshots, the key investments are in R&D and proof of concept. An Earthshot, on the other hand, is more of a middle stage technology with generally lower uncertainty, proven potential and Earthshots the key investment here is really around scaling the technology quickly and cheaply. And Earthshots are more radical alternatives to otherwise slow and steady status quo in the decarbonization world. And we think about them broadly in two sets. Some are nearer term decarbonization accelerants, and others are longer term warming mitigations and adaptations. And I guess we can get into a bit more detail on examples in a minute. But to your question on frameworks, it's exactly the same framework that we used in Moonshots, and that is academia, patenting, venture capital and then public markets. Academia around breaking new ground and how quickly that's happening. Patenting to protect that intellectual property. Then venture steps in to provide some proof of concept for that idea. And then public investment is typically needed to scale it. And you can track almost any invention over time using that sequence of events all the way back to the patent for the light bulb in 1880, all the way up to carbon capture today. 


Michael Zezas: Ed, what types of specific problems are Earthshots trying to solve, and which ones should investors pay particular attention to, both near-term and longer term? 


Ed Stanley: So if you look at the nearly 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions that we put into the atmosphere every year and you split it by industry, our Earthshot technologies catered to over 80% of those emissions. Be it electrification, manufacturing, food emissions, there's a radical Earthshot technology for decarbonizing each of those. But if we break them down into two categories, we have environmental Earthshots and biological Earthshots. On the environmental side, we have carbon capture, smart grids, fusion energy. And on the biological, we have cell based meat, synthetic biology and disease re-engineering. If we go into a bit more detail on the environmental Earthshots, there's been a lot of noise in fusion in recent days. But I think carbon capture for now is where investors need to focus. And for those thinking how is carbon capture an Earthshot, we've been hearing about this technology for years now, well, the unit economics and tech maturity are only really now getting to that critical balance where it can scale. And the 21 facilities globally that are doing this only capture around 0.1% of global emissions. The largest project in Iceland annually captures around 3 seconds worth of global emissions. So we're still very early days and it's all about scale, scale, scale now. On the biological side, I think the $4 trillion TAM in synthetic biology, which is the harnessing of biology and molecules to create net carbon negative products, is truly fascinating. But the one that piqued my interest the most doing this research, and has actually seen comparatively negligible funding is disease re-engineering. And if the planet does continue to warm, despite our best efforts in decarbonizing and carbon capture, then another 720 million people by 2050 will be in zones that are susceptible to malaria, mainly in Europe and the U.S. And companies using gene editing are having great success. There's a 99.9% efficiency and efficacy of wiping out malaria in the zones that these trials have taken place. Perhaps less pressing immediately than carbon capture, but from a social perspective, with half a million people dying per year from malaria and that number set to grow if warming grows, I don't think it's a theme that investors can ignore for very much longer. 


Michael Zezas: Got it. And Ed, it's often said that each decade has one investment theme that outpaces others. And while this decade's in its early innings, there's several contenders. There's the new commodity supercycle, there's digitalized assets and cybersecurity. Another theme in the running is Clean Transition Technologies. How does Earthshots fit into the investment megatrends for the next decade? 


Ed Stanley: I mean, that's absolutely fair. Markets move in ebbs and flows of macro themes and micro themes being the winning investment each decade. We had gold in the seventies, oil in the 2000, and then interspersed with that Japanese equities and U.S. Tech in the eighties and nineties respectively. And we do appreciate it's rare when you look back in time for hard assets, which clean tech and Earthshot technologies typically are, for hard assets to win that secular theme crown, so to speak. But we're already seeing a changing of the guards in private markets away from long secular bets on technology, SAS, fintech towards hard assets and security infrastructure. So that is the shift in investing from bits to atoms, which is well underway. And that's happening because not since the Industrial Revolution really have we been so uniformly mobilized to transition to a new paradigm in such a short space of time. But opposing that, I guess we should ask where could we be wrong? Well, for climate tech to be the winning investment trade of the next ten years, the irony is that this trade no longer lies in the tech proving itself necessarily or reaching cost parity. I think we've done that in many cases, that is in the bag. The success or otherwise of this being the secular investment theme for the 2020s will lie much more in reducing permitting bottlenecks, for example, and skills bottlenecks around the installation of some of this Earthshot technology. And that, too, actually is where investors can find opportunities in vast reskilling that's needed. But on balance, yes, this, in my view anyway, is the secular trade of the next decade. 


Michael Zezas: And you've argued that a challenging macro environment is precisely the time to dig into Moonshots. It seems that would even be truer of Earthshots, would you agree? 


Ed Stanley: I think that's a reasonable assumption, yes. If you look at companies over time, over 30% of Fortune 500 companies were founded during recession years, and many more of those were founded coming out of recessions as well. And crudely, the reasons are twofold. One, product market fit and unit economics have to be ideal in a downturn when you have consumers feeling the pinch and business customers reining back on spending. But secondly, investors pull back on their duration and risk appetite, clearly, and capital becomes more concentrated, and the R&D bang for your buck you get in downturns, ironically, is better. But when you add on to that current stimulus packages like the IRA in the US, you have all of the component parts you need for innovation breakthrough. And I would actually stress even more simply, we need some of these breakthroughs, more physical world breakthroughs than digital ones. Because without these breakthroughs, we simply won't have enough lithium for the EV rollout, for example, we'll be 22% light. It's not just will this happen in a downturn, it has to happen in a downturn, irrespective of the macro. So, yes, now I think is an excellent time to be looking at Earthshots and not simply just at the peak of frothy markets. 


Michael Zezas: Well, Ed, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Ed Stanley: It's great speaking with you, Mike. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show. 

Dec 14, 2022
Ravi Shanker: A Bullish Outlook for Airlines
00:03:08

Over the past few years, the airline industry has faced fluctuations between too hot and too cold across demand, capacity and costs. Could conditions in 2023 be just right for increased profitability?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ravi Shankar, Morgan Stanley's Freight Transportation and Airlines Analyst. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss our 2023 outlook for the airline space and some key takeaways for investors. 


As 2022 draws to a close, the outlook for airlines going into next year continues to be bullish. We think that 2023 is going to be what we call a "Goldilocks" year for the airlines, simply because we go from three years of conditions being either too cold during the pandemic, or too hot last year, to conditions being just right. This should be enough for the airlines to remain stable and to top 2019 levels in terms of profitability. However, the biggest question in the space is about the macro backdrop and consumer resilience. 


Everything we are seeing so far suggests that there are no real cracks in terms of the demand environment. We expect a slight cool down on the leisure side, but some uptick on the corporate and international side going into next year. 


As for pricing, when the irresistible force of demand met the immovable object of capacity restrictions in 2022, the net result was a significant increase in price, which was up 20 to 25% above pre-pandemic levels. This is arguably the biggest debate between the bulls and the bears in the space, regarding where the industry eventually ends up. We believe the pricing environment will cool slightly sequentially as capacity incrementally returns, but will stabilize well above 2019 levels. In addition, the return of corporate and international travel will be a mixed tailwind to yield in 2023. 


Costs have been another big debate for the space over the last 18 to 24 months. New pilot contracts are one of the things that we are closely tracking. And we do think that inflation should start to moderate in the back half of the year as we lap some really difficult comps in the cost side, but also as airlines get a little more capacity in the sky with the delivery of new, larger gauge planes and the return of some pilots. There might be some risk for the space in 2024 and beyond, but for 23 we still think that capacity is going to be relatively constrained in the first half of the year, and only start to really ease up in the second half of the year. 


And lastly, jet fuel has been very volatile for much of 2022. Given this, we model jet fuel flat versus current levels, but continue to expect volatility in price and note that current levels already imply a year over year tailwind for most of 2023. 


So all in all, we do expect that 2023 earnings will be above 2019 levels. And we point out that the market has not yet priced this into the airline stocks, which are currently trading at roughly year end 2020 levels. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share thoughts on the market with a friend or colleague today.

Dec 13, 2022
2023 Emerging Markets Outlook: Brighter Days Ahead
00:05:33

Looking to 2023, Emerging Markets and fixed income assets are forecasted to outperform, so what should investors pay close attention to in the new year? Head of FX and EM Strategy James Lord and Global Head of EM Sovereign Credit Strategy Simon Waever discuss.


----- Transcript -----


James Lord: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm James Lord, Morgan Stanley's Head of FX and EM Strategy. 


Simon Waever: And I'm Simon Waever, Global Head of EM Sovereign Credit Strategy. 


James Lord: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing our 2023 outlook for global emerging markets and fixed income assets and what investors should pay close attention to next year. 


Simon Waever: It's Monday, December 12th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


James Lord: A big theme from Morgan Stanley's year ahead outlook is the outperformance we're expecting to see from emerging markets. This isn't just about emerging market fixed income, though, which is what Simon and I focus on, but also equities. So across the board, we're expecting much brighter days ahead for EM assets. 


Simon Waever: And of course, the dollar is always key and it has been extremely strong this year. But what about next year? What do you think? 


James Lord: Yeah. So we are expecting the dollar to head down over 2023. In fact, it's already losing ground against a variety of G10 and EM currencies, and we're expecting this process to continue. So why do we think that? Well, there are a few key reasons. First, U.S. CPI should fall significantly over the next 12 months. This is because economic growth should slow as the rate hikes delivered this year by the U.S. Fed begin to bite. Supply chains are also finally normalizing as the world is getting back to normal following the pandemic. This should also help the Fed to stop hiking rates, and this has been a big reason for the dollar's rally this year. 


Simon Waever: Right. So that's in the U.S., but what about the rest of the world? And what about China specifically? 


James Lord: Yeah so, inflation is expected to fall across the whole world as well. And that is going to be a stepping stone towards a global economic recovery. Global economic recovery is usually something that helps to push the dollar down. So this is something that will be very helpful for our call. And third, we see growth outside of the U.S. doing better than the U.S. itself. This is something that will be led by China and other emerging markets. China is moving away from its zero-covid strategy and as they do so over the coming quarters, economic activity should rebound, benefiting a whole range of different economies, emerging markets included. So all of that points us in the direction of U.S. dollar weakness and EM currency strength over 2023. Simon, how does EM look from your part of the world? 


Simon Waever: Right, so away from effects, the main way to invest in EM fixed income are sovereign bonds and they can be either in local currency or hard currency. And the hard currency bond asset class is also known as EM sovereign credit, and these are bonds denominated in U.S. dollar or euro. We think sovereign credit will do very well in 2023 and we kept our bullish view that we've had since August. I would say external drivers were key this year in explaining why the asset class was down 27% at its worst. So that included hawkish global central banks, higher U.S. real yields, wider U.S. credit spreads and a stronger dollar. We think the same external factors will be key next year, but now they're going to be much more supportive as a lot of them reverses. 


James Lord: What about fundamentals, Simon? How are they looking in emerging markets? 


Simon Waever: Right. They do deserve a lot of focus themselves as well because after all, debt is very high across EM, far from all have access to financing and growth is not what it used to be. But they're also very dispersed across countries. For instance, you have the investment grade countries that despite not growing as high as they used to, still have resilient credit profiles and only smaller external imbalances this time around. Then you have the oil exporters that clearly benefit from high oil prices. Of course, there are issues in particularly those countries that have borrowed a lot in dollars but now have lost market access due to the very high cost. Some have, in fact, already defaulted, but on the other hand, a lot are also being helped by the IMF. And if we look ahead to 2023, there are actually not that many debt maturities for the riskiest countries. 


James Lord: And what about valuation, Simon? Is the asset class still cheap? 


Simon Waever: Yeah, I would say the asset class is still cheap despite the recent rebound, and that's both outright and versus other credit asset classes. We also see positioning as light, which is a result of the significant outflows from EM this year and investors having moved into safer and higher rated countries. So putting all that together, it leaves us projecting tighter EM sovereign credit spreads, and for the asset class to outperform within global bonds. And that includes versus U.S. corporate credit and U.S. treasuries. Within the asset class, we also expect high yield to outperform investment grade. But that's it for the hard currency bonds, what about the local currency ones? 


James Lord: Local currency denominated bonds could be a great way to position in emerging markets because you get both the currency and currency exposure, as well as the potential for bond prices to actually rise too. The bonds that you were just talking about Simon, are mostly dollar denominated, so you don't get that currency kicker. So not only do we think EM currencies should rally against the U.S. dollar, but yields should also come lower too, as inflation drops in emerging markets and central banks start cutting interest rates over the course of 2023, and do so much earlier than central banks in developed economies. We've also seen very little in the way of inflows into this part of the asset class over the past five years or so. So if the outlook improves, we could start seeing asset allocators taking another look, resulting in larger inflows over 2023. 


James Lord: Simon, thanks very much for taking the time to talk. 


Simon Waever: Great speaking with you, James. 


James Lord: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts' app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Dec 12, 2022
Andrew Sheets: A More Promising Start to 2023
00:03:17

2022 was an unusual year for stocks and bonds, and while the future is hard to predict, the start of 2023 is shaping up to look quite different across several metrics.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, December 9th, at 5 p.m. in London. 


We try to be forward looking on this program, but let's take a moment to appreciate just how deeply unusual this year has been. Looking back over the last 150 years of U.S. equity and long term bond performance, 2022 is currently the only year where both stocks and long term bonds are down more than 10%. 


Several factors conspired to create such an unusual outcome. To start, valuations for both stocks and bonds were expensive. Growth was weak in China, but surprisingly resilient in the developed markets. That resilient growth helped drive the highest rates of U.S. inflation in 40 years. And that high inflation invited a strong response from central banks, with the Federal Reserve's target rate rising at its fastest pace, over a 12 month period, since the early 1980s. 


Looking ahead, the next 12 months look different across all of those factors. 


First, starting valuations look different. U.S. BBB-rated corporate bonds began the year yielding just 3.3%, they currently yield 5.4%. The S&P 500 stock index began the year at 22x forward earnings, that's now fallen to 17.5x. And U.S. Treasury yields relative to inflation, the so-called real yield, have gone from -1% to positive 1.1%. 


Second, the mix of growth changes on Morgan Stanley's forecasts. After 12 months where U.S. growth outperformed China, U.S. growth should now decelerate while growth in China picks up as the country exits zero-covid. We think growth in Europe is likely to see a recession, further emphasizing a shift from developed market to emerging market leadership in global growth. 


That weaker developed market growth should mean weaker developed market inflation. After hitting 40 year highs in 2022, our forecasts show U.S. headline inflation falling sharply next year, with U.S. CPI hitting a year on year rate of just 1.9% by the end of 2023. Weaker demand, high inventories, lower commodity prices, healing supply chains, a cooler housing market, and easier year on year comparisons, are all part of Morgan Stanley's lower inflation forecast. 


As growth slows and inflation moderates, central banks will likely gain more confidence that they have taken rates high enough. After the fastest rate hiking cycle in 40 years, the next 12 months could see both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank make their final rate hike in the first quarter of 2023. 


We think different dynamics should mean different results. After a run of underperformance, we think these changes will help emerging market assets now do better and outperform developed market assets. After an unusually bad year for bonds, we continue to think that these shifts will support high grade fixed income. While the future is always hard to predict, we think investors should prepare for some very different stories. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Dec 09, 2022
2023 Chinese Economic Outlook: The Path Towards Reopening
00:06:55

As investors have kept China’s road to reopening top of mind, what comes after reopening and how might the Chinese economy and equity markets be impacted? Chief China Economist Robin Xing and Chief China Equity Strategist Laura Wang discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Laura Wang: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Laura Wang, Morgan Stanley's Chief China Equity Strategist. 


Robin Xing: I'm Robin Xing, Morgan Stanley's Chief China Economist. 


Laura Wang: On this special episode of the podcast we'll discuss our 2023 outlook for China's economy and equity market, and what investors should focus on next year. It's Thursday, December 8th at 9 a.m. in Hong Kong. 


Laura Wang: So, Robin, China's reopening is a top most investor concern as we head into next year. You've had a long standing call that China will be reopening by spring of 2023. Is that still your view, given the recent COVID policy changes? 


Robin Xing: Yes, that's still our view. In fact, recent developments have strengthened our conviction on that reopening view. After several weeks of twists and turns following the initial relaxation on COVID management on November 10th, we think policymakers have made clear their intent to stay on the reopening path. We have seen larger cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing, all relaxed COVID restrictions in last week. We have seen the top policymakers confirmed shift in the country's COVID doctrine in public communication, and COVID Zero slogan is officially removed from any press conference or official document. They started the vaccination campaign, and last but not least, we have also see a clear focus on how to shift the public perception with a more balanced assessment of the virus. All of these enhanced our conviction of a spring reopening from China. 


Laura Wang: What are some of the key risks to this view? 


Robin Xing: Well, I think the key risk is the path towards a reopening. Before full reopening in the spring, China will try to flatten the curve in this winter. That is, to prevent hospital resources being overwhelmed, thus limiting access and mortality during the reopening process. This is because the vaccination ratio among the elderly remains low, with only 40% of people aged 80 plus have received the booster shot. Meanwhile, the medical resources in China are unevenly distributed between larger cities and the lower tier areas. As a result, we do expect some lingering measures during the initial phase of reopening. Restrictions that could still tighten dynamically in lower tier cities should hospitalizations surge, but we will likely see more incremental relaxation in large cities. So cases might rise to a high level, before a more nonlinear increase occurs after the spring full reopening. So this is our timeline of reopening, basically flattening the curve in the winter when the medical system is ready, to a proper full reopening in the spring. 


Laura Wang: That's wonderful. We are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. With all of these moving parts, if China does indeed reopen on this expected timeline, what is your growth outlook for Chinese economy both near-term and longer term? 


Robin Xing: Well, given this reopening timeline, we expect that GDP growth in China to remain subpar in near term. The economy is likely to barely grow in the fourth quarter this year, corresponding to a 2.8% year over year. Growth were likely improved marginally in the spring, but still subpar as the continued fear of the virus on the part of the population will likely keep consumption at a subpar level up to early second quarter. But as normalization unfolds from the spring, the economy will rebound more meaningfully in the second half. Our full year forecast for the Chinese growth is around 5%, which is above market consensus, and that will be largely led by private consumption. We are expecting pent up demand to be unleashed once the economy is fully reopened by summertime. 


Robin Xing: So Laura, the macro backdrop we have been discussing have made for a volatile 2022 in the Chinese equity market. With widely anticipated policy shifts on the horizon, what is your outlook for Chinese equities within the global EM framework, both in near-term and the longer term? 


Laura Wang: This is actually perfect timing to discuss it as we have just upgraded Chinese equities to overweight within the global emerging market context, after staying relatively cautious for almost two years since January 2021. We now see multiple market influential factors improving at the same time, which is for the very first time in the last two years. Latest COVID policy pivot, as you just pointed out, and property market stabilization measures will help facilitate macro recovery and will also alleviate investors concerns about policy priority. Fed rate hikes cycle wrapping up will improve the liquidity environment, stronger Chinese yuan against U.S. dollar will also improve the attractiveness for Chinese assets. Meanwhile, we are also seeing encouraging signs on geopolitical tension front, as well as the regulatory reset completion front. Therefore, we believe China will start to outperform the broader emerging market again. We expect around 14% upside towards the end of the year with MSCI China Index. 


Robin Xing: How should investors be positioned in the year ahead and what effects do you think will be the biggest beneficiaries of China's reopening? 


Laura Wang: Two things to keep in mind. Number one, for the past three years, we've been overweight A-Shares versus offshore space, which had worked out extremely well with CSI 300 outperforming MSCI China by close to a 20% on the currency hedged basis over the last 12 months. We believe this is a nice opportunity for the relative performance to reverse given offshore's bigger exposure to reopening consumption, higher sensitivity to Chinese yuan strengthening and to the uplifting effect from the PCAOB positive result. Secondly, it is time to overweight consumer discretionary with focus on services and durables. Consumption recovery is on the way. 


Robin Xing: What are some of the biggest risks to your outlook for 2023, both positive and negative? 


Laura Wang: I would say the positive risks are more associated with earlier and faster reopening progress, whereas the negative risk would be more around higher fatality and bigger drag to economy, which means social uncertainty as well as bigger macro and earnings pressure will amount. And then geopolitical tension is also worth monitoring in the course of the next 12 to 24 months. 


Laura Wang: Robin, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Robin Xing: Great speaking with you, Laura. 


Laura Wang: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleagues today.

Dec 08, 2022
Global Thematics: What’s Behind India’s Growth Story?
00:07:21

As India enters a new era of growth, investors will want to know what’s driving this growth and how it may create once-in-a-generation opportunities. Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas and Chief India Equity Strategist Ridham Desai discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Ridham Desai: And I'm Ridham Desai, Morgan Stanley's Chief India Equity Strategist. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss India's growth story over the next decade and some key investment themes that global investors should pay attention to. It's Wednesday, December 7th, at 7 a.m. in New York. 


Michael Zezas: Our listeners are likely well aware that over the past 25 years or so, India's growth has lagged only China's among the world's largest economies. And here at Morgan Stanley, we believe India will continue to outperform. In fact, India is now entering a new era of growth, which creates a once in a generation shift in opportunities for investors. We estimate that India's GDP is poised to more than doubled to $7.5 trillion by 2031, and its market capitalization could grow 11% annually to reach $10 trillion. Essentially, we expect India to drive about a fifth of global growth in the coming decade. So Ridham, what in your view are the main drivers behind India's growth story? 


Ridham Desai: Mike, the full global trends of demographics, digitalization, decarbonization and deglobalization that we keep discussing about in our research files are favoring this new India. The new India, we argue, is benefiting from three idiosyncratic factors. The first one is India is likely to increase its share of global exports thanks to a surge in offshoring. Second, India is pursuing a distinct model for digitalization of its economy, supported by a public utility called India Stack. Operating at population scale India stack is a transaction led, low cost, high volume, small ticket size system with embedded lending. The digital revolution has already changed the way India handles documents, the way it invests and makes payments and it is now set to transform the way it lends, spends and ensures. With private credit to GDP at just 57%, a credit boom is in the offing, in our view. The third driver is India's energy consumption and energy sources, which are changing in a disruptive fashion with broad economic benefits. On the back of greater access to energy, we estimate per capita energy consumption is likely to rise by 60% to 1450 watts per day over the next decade. And with two thirds of this incremental supply coming from renewable sources, well in short, with this self-help story in play as you said, India could continue to outperform the world on GDP growth in the coming decade. 


Michael Zezas: So let's dig into some of the specifics here. You mentioned the big surge in offshoring, which has resulted in India's becoming "the office of the world". Will this continue long term? 


Ridham Desai: Yes, Mike. In the post-COVID environment, global CEOs appear more comfortable with work from home and also work from India. So the emergence of distributed delivery models, along with tighter labor markets globally, has accelerated outsourcing to India. In fact, the number of global in-house captive centers that opened in India over the past two years was double of that in the prior four years. During the pandemic years, the number of people employed in this industry in India rose by almost 800,000 to 5.1 million. And India's share in global services trade rose by 60 basis points to 4.3%. In the coming decade we think the number of people employed in India for jobs outside the country is likely to at least double to 11 million. And we think that global spending on outsourcing could rise from its current level of U.S. dollar 180 billion per year to about 1/2 trillion U.S. dollars by 2030. 


Michael Zezas: In addition to being "the office of the world", you see India as a "factory to the world" with manufacturing going up. What evidence are we seeing of India benefiting from China moving away from the global supply chain and shifting business activity away from China? 


Ridham Desai: We are anticipating a wave of manufacturing CapEx owing to government policies aimed at lifting corporate profits share and GDP via tax cuts, and some hard dollars on the table for investing in specific sectors. Multinationals are more optimistic than ever before about investing in India, and that's evident in the all-time high that our MNC sentiment index shows, and the government is encouraging investments by building both infrastructure as well as supplying land for factories. The trends outlined in Morgan Stanley's Multipolar World Thesis, a document that you have co authored, Mike, and the cheap labor that India is now able to offer relative to, say, China are adding to the mix. Indeed, the fact is that India is likely to also be a big consumption market, a hard thing for a lot of multinational corporations to ignore. We are forecasting India's per capita GDP to rise from $2,300 USD to about $5,200 USD in the next ten years. This implies that India's income pyramid offers a wide breadth of consumption, with the number of rich households likely to quintuple from 5 million to 25 million, and the middle class households more than doubling to 165 million. So all these are essentially aiding the story on India becoming a factory to the world. And the evidence is in the sharp jump in FDI that we are already seeing, the daily news flows of how companies are ramping up manufacturing in India, to both gain access to its market and to export to other countries. 


Michael Zezas: So given all these macro trends we've been discussing, what sectors within India's economy do you think are particularly well-positioned to benefit both short term and longer term? 


Ridham Desai: Three sectors are worth highlighting here. The coming credit boom favors financial services firms. The rise in per capita income and discretionary income implies that consumer discretionary companies should do well. And finally, a large CapEx cycle could lead to a boom for industrial businesses. So financials, consumer discretionary and industrials. 


Michael Zezas: Finally, what are the biggest potential impediments and risks to India's success? 


Ridham Desai: Of course, things could always go wrong. We would include a prolonged global recession or sluggish growth, adverse outcomes in geopolitics and/or domestic politics. India goes to the polls in 2024, so another election for the country to decide upon. Policy errors, shortages of skilled labor, I would note that as a key risk. And steep rises in energy and commodity prices in the interim as India tries to change its energy sources. So all these are risk factors that investors should pay attention to. That said, we think that the pieces are in place to make this India's decade.


Michael Zezas: Ridham, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Ridham Desai: Great speaking with you, Mike. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people find the show.

Dec 07, 2022
Matt Hornbach: Key Currency Trends for 2023
00:03:35

As bond markets appear to have already priced in what central banks will likely do in 2023, how will this path impact inflation and currencies around the world?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Matthew Hornbach, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Macro Strategy. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll talk about our 2023 outlook and how investors should view some key macro trends. It's Tuesday, December 6th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


During the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, central banks provided the global economy a safety net with uber-accommodative interest rate and balance sheet policies. In 2022, central banks started to aggressively pull away that safety net. In 2023, we expect central banks to finish the job. And in 2024, central banks will likely start to roll out that safety net again, namely by lowering interest rates. 


Bond markets, which are forward looking discounting machines, are already pricing in the final stages of what central banks will likely do in 2023. The prospect of easier central bank policies should bring with it newfound demand for long term government bonds, just at a time when supply of these bonds is falling from decade long highs seen in 2021 and 2022. 


Central bank balance sheets will continue to shrink in 2023, meaning central banks are not aggressively buying bonds - but investors shouldn't be intimidated. These expected reductions in central bank purchases are already well understood by market participants and largely in the price already. In addition, for the largest central bank balance sheets, the reductions we forecast simply take them back to the pre-pandemic trend. 


Of course, for central bank policies and macro markets alike, the path of inflation and associated expectations will exert the most influence. We think inflation will fall faster than investors expect, even if it doesn't stabilize at or below pre-pandemic run rates. 


Lower inflation around the world should allow central banks to stop their policy tightening cycles. As lower U.S. inflation brings a less hawkish Fed to bear, the markets should price lower policy rates and a weaker U.S. dollar. Lower inflation in Europe and the U.K. should encourage a less hawkish ECB and Bank of England. This should help growth expectations rebound in those vicinities as rates fall, which will result in euro and sterling currency strength. 


We do think the U.S. dollar has already peaked and will decline through 2023. A fall in the U.S. dollar is usually something that reflects, and also contributes to, positive outcomes in the global economy. Typically, the U.S. dollar falls during periods of rising global growth and rising global growth expectations. 


As we anticipate the dollar's decline through 2023, it's worth noting that in emerging markets, U.S. dollar weakness and EM currency strength actually tend to loosen financial conditions within emerging market economies, not tighten them. Emerging markets that have U.S. dollar debt will also see their debt to GDP ratios fall as their currencies rise, further helping to lower borrowing costs and, in turn, boosting growth. 


In a nutshell, we see the negative feedback loops that were in place in 2022 reversing, at least somewhat in 2023 via virtuous cycles led by lower U.S. inflation, lower U.S. interest rates, and a weaker U.S. dollar. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Dec 06, 2022
Mike Wilson: Why Did Treasury Bonds Rally?
00:03:52

The tactical rally in stocks has continued and treasury bonds have experienced their own rally, leaving investors to wonder when this bear market might run out of steam.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, December 5th, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it.  


Last week, the tactical rally in stocks took another step forward after Fed Chair Jay Powell's speech at the Brookings Institution. After his comments and interview, long term Treasury yields came down sharply and continued into the end of the week. This sparked a similar boost higher in equities, led by the most interest rate sensitive and heavily shorted stocks. This fits nicely with our view from a few weeks ago, which suggests that any further rally would require lower long term interest rates. It also makes sense in the context of what we think has been driving this tactical rally in the first place - the growing hope for a Fed pivot that kick saves the economic cycle from a recession. 


So maybe the biggest question is why did Treasury bonds rally so much? First, we think it mostly had to do with Powell now pushing back on the recent loosening of financial conditions. Many investors we spoke with early last week thought Powell would try to cool some of the recent excitement, to help the Fed get inflation under control. Furthermore, investors seem positioned for that kind of hawkish rhetoric, so when that didn't happen we were off to the races in both bonds and stocks. 


Second, the jobs data on Friday were stronger than expected, which sparked a quick sell off in bonds and stocks on Friday, but neither seemed to gain any momentum to the downside. Instead, bonds rallied back sharply, with longer term bonds ending up on the day. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 held its 200 day moving average after briefly looking like a failed breakout on Friday morning. In short, the surprising strength in the labor market did not scare away the newly minted bond bulls, which is more focused on growth slowing next year and the Fed pausing its rate hikes. 


A few weeks ago, we highlighted how breadth in the equity market has improved significantly since the rally began in October. In fact, breath for all the major averages is now well above the levels reached during the summer rally. This is a net positive that cannot be ignored. It's also consistent with our view that even if the S&P 500 makes a new low next year as we expect, the average stock likely will not. This is typically how bear markets end with the darlings of the last bull finally underperforming to the degree that is commensurate with their outperformance during the prior bull market. Third quarter earnings season was just the beginning of that process, in our view. In other words, improving breadth isn't unusual at the end of a bear market. 


Given our negative outlook for earnings next year, even if we skirt an economic recession, the risk reward of playing for any further upside in U.S. equities is poor. This is especially true when considering we are now right into the original resistance levels of 4000 to 4150 we projected when we made the tactically bullish call seven weeks ago. 


Bottom line, the bear market rally we called for seven weeks ago is running out of steam. While there could be some final vestiges of strength in the year end, the risk reward of trying to play forward is deteriorating materially given our confidence in our well below consensus earnings forecast for next year. From a very short term perspective, we think 4150 is the upside this rally can achieve and we would not rule that out over the next week or so. Conversely, a break of last week's low, which coincides with the 150 day moving average around 3940, would provide some confirmation that the bear market is ready to reassert the downtrend in earnest. 


Defensively oriented stocks should continue to outperform until more realistic earnings expectations for next year are better discounted. We expect that to occur during the first quarter and possibly into the spring. At that point, we will likely pivot more bullish structurally. Until then, bonds and defensively oriented bond proxies like defensive stocks should prove to be the best harbor for this storm. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Dec 05, 2022
Ellen Zentner: Is the U.S. Headed for a Soft Landing?
00:04:43

While 2022 saw the fastest pace of policy tightening on record, has the Fed’s hiking cycle properly set the U.S. economy up for a soft landing in 2023?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley's Chief U.S. Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss our 2023 outlook for the U.S. economy. It's Friday, December 2nd, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Let's start with the Fed and the role higher interest rates play in the overall growth outlook. The Fed has delivered the fastest pace of policy tightening on record and now feels comfortable to begin slowing the pace of interest rate increases. We expect it to step down the pace to 50 basis points at its meeting later this month and then deliver a final hike in January to a peak rate of between 4.5 and 4.75%. But in order to keep inflation on a downward trajectory, the Fed will likely keep rates at that peak level for most of next year. This shift to a more cautious stance from the Fed we think will help the U.S. economy narrowly miss recession in 2023. And we think only in the back half of 2024 will the pace of growth pick back up as the Fed gradually reduces the policy rate back toward neutral, which is around 2.5%. Altogether, we forecast 2023 GDP growth of just 0.3% before rebounding modestly to 1.4% in 2024. 


One bright spot in the outlook is that inflation seems to have reached a turning point. Mounting evidence points to a slowing in housing prices and rents, though they continue to drive above target inflation. Core goods inflation should turn to disinflation as supply chains normalize and demand shifts to services and away from goods. Used vehicle prices are a big contributor to lower overall inflation in our forecast, as our motor vehicle analysts believe that used car prices could be down as much as 10 to 20% next year. So overall, we expect core PCE - or personal consumption expenditures inflation - to slow from 5% this year, to 2.9% in 2023, and further to 2.4% in 2024. 


Throughout 2022, rising interest rates have raised borrowing costs, which has weighed on consumption. And we expect that to continue into 2023 as the cumulative effects of past policy hikes continue to flow through to households. On the income side, we expect a rebound in real disposable income growth in 23, because inflation pressures abate while job growth continues to be positive. So if I put those together, slower consumption and rising incomes should lift the savings rate from 3.2% this year, to 5.1% in 2023, and 6.2% in 2024. So households will start to rebuild that cushion. 


Now we're in the midst of a sharp housing correction, and we expect a double digit decline in residential investment to continue. But we don't expect a commensurate drop in home valuations. Our housing strategies predict just a 4% drop in national home prices in 2023, and further price declines are likely in the years ahead, but that's a much milder drop in home valuations compared with the magnitude of the drop off in housing activity. So we think that residential wealth, real estate wealth will continue to be a strong backdrop for household balance sheets. Now going forward, mortgage rates will start to fall again after reaching these peaks around 7%. And with healthy job gains, and that increase in real disposable income growth affordability should begin to ease somewhat, we think starting in the back half of 2024. 


Turning to the labor market, while signs of falling inflation is important to the Fed, so are signs that the labor market is softening and we expect softer demand for labor and further labor supply gains to create the slack in the labor market the Fed is looking for. So we expect job growth will likely fall below the replacement rate by the second quarter of 2023, pushing up the unemployment rate to 4.3% by the end of next year and 4.4% by the end of 2024. 


In sum, we think the U.S. economy is at a turning point, but not a turning point toward recession, a turning point toward what is likely to prove to be two sluggish years of growth in the economy. The Fed's hiking cycle is working as it should. The labor market is softening. The inflation rate is coming down. And we think that puts the U.S. economy on track for a soft landing in 2023. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Dec 02, 2022
Jonathan Garner: A Bullish Turn on Asia and Emerging Markets
00:04:15

As Asia and Emerging Markets move from a year of major adjustment in 2022 towards a less daunting 2023, investors may want to change their approach for the beginning of a new bull market.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jonathan Garner, Chief Asia and Emerging Market Equity Strategist at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, in this episode on our 2023 outlook, I'll focus on why we recently turned more bullish on our coverage. It's Thursday, 1st of December at 8 a.m. in Singapore. 


2022 was a year of major adjustment, with accelerating geopolitical shifts towards a multipolar world, alongside macro volatility caused by a surge in developed markets inflation, and the sharpest Fed tightening cycle since the Paul Volcker era 40 years ago. This took the U.S. dollar back to early 1980s peaks in real terms, and global equities fell sharply, with most markets down by double digit percentages. North Asian markets performed worse as a slowdown in tech spending, and persistently weak growth in China, weighed on market sentiment. But structural improvement in macro stability and governance frameworks was rewarded for Japan equities, as well as markets in Brazil, India and Indonesia. 


Our 2023 global macro outlook paints a much less daunting picture for equity markets, despite a slower overall GDP growth profile globally than in 2022. Current market concerns are anchored on inflation and that central banks will keep hiking until the cycle ends with a deep recession, a financial accident en route, or perhaps worse - that they leave the job half done. But, and crucially, our economists forecast that U.S. core PCE inflation will fall to 2.5% annualized in the second half of next year. Alongside slowing labor market indicators, our team sees January as the last Fed hike, with rates cuts coming as soon as the fourth quarter of 2023, down to a rate of 2.375% at the end of 2024. 


Meanwhile, inflation pressures in Asia remain more subdued than elsewhere. This top down outlook of growth, inflation and interest rates all declining in the U.S. and continued reasonable growth and inflation patterns in Asia should lead to a weaker trend in the U.S. dollar, which tends to be associated with better performance from Asia and emerging market equities.


Meanwhile, for the China economy, we think a gradual easing of COVID restrictions and credit constraints on the property sector deliver a cyclical recovery, which drives growth reacceleration from 3.2% in 2022 to 5.0% in 2023. Consumer discretionary spending, which is well represented in the offshore China equity markets, should show the greatest upturn year on year as 2023 progresses. Crucially, this means that we expect corporate return on equity in China, which has declined in both absolute and relative terms in recent years, to pick up on a sustained basis from the current depressed level of 9.5%. 


We also think that end market weakness in semiconductors and technology spending, consequent upon the reversal of the COVID era boom, should gradually abate. Our technology and hardware teams expect PC and server end markets to trough in the fourth quarter of this year, whereas smartphone has already bottomed in the third quarter. They recommend looking beyond the near-term weakness to recognize upside risks, with valuations for the sector now at prior market troughs and the current pain and fundamentals priced in by recent earnings estimates downgrades in our view. We therefore upgraded Korea and Taiwan and the overall Asia technology sector in early October and expect these parts of our coverage to lead the new bull market into 2023. 


Finally, given greater GDP growth resilience and less sector exposure to global downturns, Southeast Asian markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, collectively ASEAN, tend to outperform emerging markets in Asia during bear markets, but underperform in bull markets given their low beta nature. Having seen a sharp spike in ASEAN versus Asia, relative performance in the prior bear market, which we think is now ending, our view is that the trend should reverse from here. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and recommend Thoughts on the Market to a friend or colleague today. 

Dec 01, 2022
Michael Zezas: What Will China’s Reopening Mean for the U.S.?
00:02:27

As China tries to smooth out its COVID caseload, investors should take note of the impacts those COVID policies have on global economies and key markets.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, November 30th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Investors remain intently focused on China's COVID policies, as the tightening and loosening of travel and quarantine policies has implications for key drivers of markets. Namely the outlook for global inflation, monetary policy and global growth. We're paying close attention, and here's what we think you need to know. 


Importantly, our China economics team thinks that China's restrictive COVID zero policy will be a thing of the past come spring of 2023, but there will be many fits and starts along the way. Increased vaccination, availability of medical treatment and public messaging about the lessening of COVID dangers will be signposts for a full reopening of China, but we should expect episodic returns to restrictions in the meantime as China tries to smooth out its COVID caseload. 


This dynamic is important to understand for its implications to the outlook for the global economy and key markets. For example, the economic growth story for Asia should be weak in the near term, but begin to improve and outperform the rest of the world from the second quarter of 2023 through the balance of the year. In the U.S., the reopening of the China economy should help ease inflation as the supply of core goods picks up with supply chains running more smoothly. This, in turn, supports the notion that the Fed will be able to slow and eventually pause its rate hikes in 2023, even if headline inflation sees a rebound via higher gas prices from higher China demand for oil. And where might this overall economic dynamic be most visible to investors? Look to the foreign exchange markets. China's currency should relatively benefit, particularly if reopening leads investors back to its equity markets. The U.S. dollar, however, should peak, as the Fed approaches pausing its interest rate hikes and, accordingly, ceasing the increase in the interest rate advantage for holding U.S. dollar assets versus the rest of the world. 


Of course, the evolution of the COVID pandemic has been anything but straightforward. So we'll keep monitoring the situation with China and adjust our market views as needed. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Nov 30, 2022
Stephen Byrd: A New Approach to ESG
00:03:41

Traditional ESG investing strategies highlight companies with top scores across ESG metrics, but new research shows value in focusing instead on those companies who have a higher rate of change as they improve their ESG metrics.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Sustainability Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll focus on our new approach to identifying opportunities that can generate both Alpha and ESG impact. It's Tuesday, November 29th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


On previous episodes of this podcast we've discussed how, although sustainable investing has been a trend over the past decade, it has faced significant pushback from critics arguing that ESG strategies - or environmental, social and governance - sacrifice long term returns in favor of the pursuit of certain ESG objectives. We have done some new work here at Morgan Stanley, suggesting that it is possible to identify opportunities that can deliver excess returns, or alpha, and make an ESG impact. 


Our research found that what we call "ESG rate of change", companies that are leaders on improving ESG metrics, should be a critical focus for investors looking to identify companies that meet both criteria. What do we mean by "ESG rate of change"? Traditional ESG screens focus on "ESG best-in-class" metrics. That is, companies that are already scoring well on sustainability factors. But there is a case to be made for companies that are making significant improvements. For example, we find that there are companies using innovative technologies that can reduce costs and improve efficiency. These companies, which we call deflation enablers, generally screen very favorably on a range of ESG metrics and are reaping the financial benefits of improved efficiency. A surprisingly broad range of technologies are dropping in cost to such an extent that they offer significant net benefits, both financial and ESG oriented. Some examples of such technologies are very cheap solar, wind and clean hydrogen, energy storage cost reductions, cheaper carbon capture, improved molecular plastics recycling, more efficient electric motors, a wide range of recycling technologies, and a range of increasingly inexpensive waste to energy technology. 


To get even more specific, as we look at these various technologies and the sectors they touch, we think the utility sector is arguably the most advantaged among the carbon heavy sectors in terms of its ESG potential. Why is that? Because many utilities have the potential to create an "everybody wins" outcome in which customer bills are lower, CO2 emissions are reduced, and utility earnings per share growth is enhanced. This is a rare combination. In the U.S. utility sector many management teams are shutting down expensive coal fired power plants and building renewables, energy storage and transmission, which achieve superior earnings per share growth. Many of these stocks would screen negatively on classic ESG metrics such as carbon intensity, but these ESG improvers may be positioned to deliver superior stock returns and play a critical role in the transition to clean energy. 


As with most things, applying this new strategy we're proposing isn't simply a matter of looking at companies with improving ESG metrics. It's about really understanding what's driving these changes. Here's where sector specific expertise is key. In fact, we believe that in the absence of fundamental insight, ESG criteria can be misapplied and could lead to unintended outcomes. The potential for enhanced performance, in our view, comes from a true marriage of ESG investing principles and deep sector expertise. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Nov 29, 2022
2023 European Outlook: Recession & Beyond
00:07:06

As we head into a new year, Europe faces multiple challenges across inflation, energy and financial conditions, meaning investors will want to keep an eye on recession risk, the ECB, and European equities. Chief European Equity Strategist Graham Secker and Chief European economist Jens Eisenschmidt discuss.


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Graham Secker Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Graham Secker, Morgan Stanley's Chief European Equity Strategist.


Jens Eisenschmidt And I'm Jens Eisenschmidt, Morgan Stanley's Chief European Economist.


Graham Secker And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll discuss our 2023 outlook for Europe's economy and equity market, and what investors should pay close attention to next year. It's Monday, November the 28th, at 3 p.m. in London.


Graham Secker So Jens, Europe faces multiple challenges right now. Inflation is soaring, energy supply is uncertain, and financial conditions are tightening. This very tricky environment has already impacted the economy of the euro area, but is Europe headed into a recession? And what is your growth outlook for the year ahead?


Jens Eisenschmidt So yes, we do see a recession coming. In year-on-year terms we see negative growth of minus 0.2% next year. There's heterogeneity behind that, Germany is most affected of the large countries, Spain is least affected. In general, the drivers are that you mentioned, we have inflation that eats into real disposable income that is bad for consumption. We have the energy situation, which is highly uncertain, which is not great for investment. And we do have monetary policy that's starting to get restrictive, leading to a tightening in financial conditions which is actually already priced into markets. And, you know, that's the transmission lack of monetary policy. So that leads to lower growth predominantly in 23 and 24.


Graham Secker And maybe just to drill into the inflation side of that a little bit more. Specifically, do you expect inflation to rise further from here? And then when you look into the next 12 months, what are the key drivers of your inflation profile?


Jens Eisenschmidt So inflation will rise, according to our forecast, a little bit further, but not by an awful lot. We really see it peaking in December on headline terms. Just to remind you, we had an increase to 10.7 in October that was predominantly driven by energy and food inflation, so around 70% of that was energy and food. And of course, it's natural to look into these two components to see what's going to happen in the future. Here we think food inflation probably has still some time to go because there is some delayed response to the input prices that have peaked already at some point past this year. But energy is probably flat from here or maybe even slightly falling, which then gets you some base effects which will lead and are the main driver of our forecast for a lower headline inflation in the next year. Core inflation will be probably more sticky. We see 4% this year and 4% next. And here again, we have these processes like food inflation, services inflation that react with some lag to input prices coming down. So, it will take some time. Further out in the profile, we do see core inflation remaining above 2% simply because there will be a wage catch up process.


Graham Secker And with that core inflation profile, what does that mean for the ECB? What are your forecasts for the ECB's monetary policy path from here?


Jens Eisenschmidt We really think that the ECB needs to have seen the peak in inflation, and that's probably you're right, both core and headline. We see a peak, as I said, in December, core similarly, but at a high level and, you know, convincingly only coming down afterwards. So, the ECB will have to see it in the rear mirror and be very, very clear that inflation now is really falling before they can stop their rate hike cycle, which we think will be April. So, we see another 50 basis point increase in December 25, 25 in February, in March for the ECB then to really stop its hiking cycle in April having reached 2.5% on the deposit facility rate, which is already in restrictive territory. So, Graham, turning to you, bearing in mind all that just said about the macro backdrop, how will it impact European equities both near-term and longer term?


Graham Secker Having been bearish on European equities for much of this year, at the beginning of October we shifted to a more neutral stance on European equities specifically. But we've had pretty strong rally over the course of the last couple of months, which sets us up, we think, for some downside into the first quarter of next year. In my mind, I really have the profile that we saw in 2008, 2009 around the global financial crisis. Then equity valuations, the price to earnings ratio troughed in October a weight, the market rallies for a couple of months, but then as the earnings downgrades kicked in the start of 2009, the actual index itself went back down to the lows. So, it was driven by earnings and that's what we can see happening again now. So perhaps Europe's PE ratio troughed at the end of September. But once the earnings downgrades start in earnest, which we think probably happens early in 2023, we can see that taking European equities back down towards the lows again. On a 12-month view from here we see limited upside. We have 1-2% upside to our index target by the end of next year. But obviously, hopefully if we do get that correction in the first quarter, then there'll be more to play for. We just got a time entry point.


Jens Eisenschmidt Right. So how should I, as an investor, be positioned then in the year ahead?


Graham Secker From a sector perspective, we would be underweight cyclicals. We think European earnings next year will fall by about 10% and we think cyclicals will be the key area of earnings disappointment. So, we want to be underweight the cyclicals until we get much closer to the economic and earnings trough. Having been positive on defensives for much of this year, we've recently moved them to neutral. We've upgraded the European tech sector, the medtech sector, and also luxury goods as well.


Jens Eisenschmidt So what are the biggest risks then to your outlook for 23, both on the positive and the negative side?


Graham Secker So on the positive side, I'd highlight two. Firstly, we have the proverbial soft landing when it comes to the economic backdrop, whether that's European and or global. That would be particularly helpful for equities, if that was accompanied by a bigger downward surprise on inflation. So, if inflation falls more quickly and growth holds up, that would be pretty positive for equity markets. A second positive would be any form of geopolitical de-escalation that would be very helpful for European risk appetites. And then on the negative side, the first one would be a bigger profit recession. If earnings do fall 10% next year, which is our projection, that would be very mild in the context of previous downturns. So in our base case, we see European earnings falling 20%, not the 10% decline that we see in that base case. The other negatives that I think a little bit about is whether or not what we've seen in the UK over the last couple of months could happen elsewhere. I.e., interest rates start to put more and more pressure on government finances and budget deficits, and we start to see a shift in that environment. So that could be something that could weigh on markets next year as well.


Graham Secker But, Jens, thanks for taking the time to talk today.


Jens Eisenschmidt Great speaking with you, Graham.


Graham Secker And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 28, 2022
Michelle Weaver: A Very Different Holiday Shopping Season
00:03:07

As we enter the holiday shopping season, the challenges facing consumers and retailers look quite different from 2021, so how will inflation and high inventory impact profit margins?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michelle Weaver from the Morgan Stanley's U.S. Equity Strategy Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss our outlook for holiday spending in the U.S. It's Friday, November 25th, at 1 p.m. in New York. 


With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, we collaborated with the Morgan Stanley U.S. economics team and several of the consumer teams, namely airlines, consumer goods, e-commerce and electronics, to analyze our consumer survey data around holiday spending. The big takeaway is that this year's holiday shopping season is going to be quite different from the one we had last year. 


In 2021, we saw major supply chain malfunctions that impacted inventories and caused shoppers to start buying much earlier in the season. Limited supplies also gave companies a lot of pricing power, and this year the situation looks like it is shaping up to be the exact opposite. High inventory levels should push stores to offer discounts as they attempt to clear merchandise off shelves. Companies offering the biggest discounts will be able to grab the largest wallet share, but this will likely be a hit to their profit margins. 


Additionally, inflation has weighed heavily on consumers throughout the year, and it remains their number one concern heading into the holiday shopping season. This year, we're likely to see a very bargain savvy consumer. Our survey showed that 70% of shoppers are waiting for stores to offer discounts before they begin their holiday shopping, and the majority are waiting to see deals in excess of 20%. Additionally, consumers are likely to be more price sensitive this year. About a third of consumers said they would buy a lot less gifts and holiday products if stores raise prices. 


U.S. consumers are largely expecting to spend about the same amount on holiday gifts and products this year versus last year. So retailers will be competing for a similarly sized pool of revenue as last year, and will have to offer competitive prices to get shoppers to choose their products. This creates a really tough environment for profit margins. 


We also asked consumers specifically if they are planning to spend more or less this year in a variety of popular gift areas. The biggest spending declines are expected for luxury gifts, sports equipment, home and kitchen and electronics, all areas where we saw overconsumption during lockdown. 


Looking at the industry implications, services are expected to hold up better than goods overall. Department stores and specialty retailers, consumer durable goods, large volume retailers and tech hardware are all likely to face a more challenging season. On the other hand, demand for travel and flights remains very strong, and the Morgan Stanley transportation team remains bullish on the U.S. airlines overall, as they believe travel interest remains resilient despite consumer and macro fears. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 25, 2022
Michael Zezas: Mixed News from the U.S./China Meeting
00:02:50

While the recent meeting between U.S. President Biden and China’s President Xi has signaled near term stability for the relationship between the two countries, investors will need to understand what this means for future economic disconnection.


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Welcome to Thoughts on  the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, November 23rd, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Last week, many of my colleagues and I were in Singapore meeting with clients for Morgan Stanley's annual Asia Pacific Summit. Top of mind for many was the recent meeting between U.S. President Biden and China's President Xi. In particular, there was much Thanksgiving that the two sides seemed to agree on a few points that would create some near-term stability in the relationship. But we caution investors not to read more into their meeting beyond that, and accordingly continue to prepare for a multipolar world where the U.S. and China disassociate in key economic areas. 


True, there were statements of respect for each other's position on Taiwan, a return to key policy dialogs, and a recognition on both sides of the importance of the bilateral relationship to the well-being of the wider world. But that doesn't mean the two sides found a way to remain interconnected economically. Rather, it just signals that economic disconnection may be orderly and spread out as opposed to disorderly and quick. Look beyond the soothing statements from the meeting, and you see policies on both sides showing work toward economic disconnection with industrial policies and trade barriers aimed at creating separate economic and technological ecosystems. An orderly transition to this state may be costly, but it need not be disruptive. 


This dynamic still leaves plenty of cross-currents for markets. It's good news overall for the macroeconomic outlook as it takes a potential growth shock off the table. It's also good for key geographies that will benefit from investment towards supply chain realignment, such as Mexico, as we recently highlighted in collaborative research with our Mexico strategist. But it poses challenges for companies that will be compelled to take on higher labor and CapEx costs as the U.S. seeks distance from China on key technologies. Semiconductors have been and will continue to be a key space to watch as the sector incrementally shifts production to higher cost areas in order to comply with U.S. regulatory demands. 


So bottom line, we should all feel a bit better about the outlook for markets following the Biden/Xi meeting, but just a bit. The U.S.-China relationship isn't going back to its inter-connected past, and the cost of disconnecting in key areas is sure to hurt some investments and help others. 


With Thanksgiving this week, I want to take a moment to thank you, our listeners, for sharing this podcast with your friends and colleagues. As we pass another exciting milestone of 1 million downloads in a single month, we hope you continue to tune in to thoughts on the market as we navigate our ever changing world. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Morgan Stanley.

Nov 23, 2022
U.S. Outlook: What Are The Key Debates for 2023?
00:10:08

The year ahead outlook is a process of collaboration between strategists and economists from across the firm, so what were analysts debating when thinking about 2023, and how were those debates resolved? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Head of Fixed Income Research Vishy Tirupattur discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's Chief Cross Asset Strategist. 


Vishy Tirupattur: And I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Head of Fixed Income Research. 


Andrew Sheets: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing some of the key debates underpinning Morgan Stanley's 2023 year ahead outlook. It's Tuesday, November 22nd at 3 p.m. in London. 


Vishy Tirupattur: And 10 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So Vishy, within Morgan Stanley research we collaborate a lot, but I think it's not an exaggeration to say that when we sit down to write our year ahead outlooks for strategy and economics, it's probably one of the most collaborative exercises that we do. Part of that is some pretty intense debate. So that's what I was hoping to talk to you about, kind of give listeners some insight into what are the types of things that Morgan Stanley research analysts were debating when thinking about 2023 and how we resolved some of those issues. And I think maybe the best place to start is just this question of inflation, right? Inflation was the big surprise of 2022. We underestimated it. A lot of forecasters underestimated inflation. As we look into 2023, Morgan Stanley's economists are forecasting inflation to come down. So, how did that debate go? Why do we have conviction that this time inflation really is going to moderate? 


Vishy Tirupattur: Thanks, Andrew. And it is absolutely the case that challenging each other's view is critically important and not a surprise that we spent a lot of time on inflation. Given that we have many upside surprises to inflation throughout the year, you know, there was understandable skepticism about the forecasts that US inflation will show a steady decline over the course of 2023. Our economists, clearly, acknowledge the uncertainty associated with it, but they took some comfort in a few things. One in the base effect. Two, normalizing supply chains and weaker labor markets. They also saw that in certain goods, certain core goods, such as autos, for example, they expect to see deflation, not just disinflation. And there's also a factor of medical services, which has a reset in prices that will exert a steady drag on the core inflation. So all said and done, there is significant uncertainty, but there are still clearly some reasons why our economists expect to see inflation decline. 


Andrew Sheets: I think that's so interesting because even after we published this outlook, it's fair to say that a lot of investor skepticism has related to this idea that inflation can moderate. And another area where I think when we've been talking to investors there's some disagreement is around the growth outlook, especially for the U.S. economy. You know, we're forecasting what I would describe as a soft landing, i.e., U.S. growth slows but you do not see a U.S. recession next year. A lot of investors do expect a U.S. recession. So why did we take a different view? Why do we think the U.S. economy can kind of avoid this recessionary path? 


Vishy Tirupattur: I think the key point here is the U.S. economy slows down quite substantially. It barely skirts recession. So a 0.5% growth expectation for 2023 for the U.S. is not exactly robust growth. I think basically our economists think that the tighter monetary policy will stop tightening incrementally early in 2023, and that will play out in slowing the economy substantially without outright jumping into contraction mode. Although we all agree that there is a considerable uncertainty associated with it. 


Andrew Sheets: We've talked a bit about U.S. inflation and U.S. growth. These things have major implications for the U.S. dollar. Again, I think an area that was subject to a lot of debate was our forecast that the dollar's going to decline next year. And so, given that the U.S. is still this outperforming economy, that's avoiding a recession, given that it still offers higher interest rates, why don't we think the dollar does well in that environment? 


Vishy Tirupattur: I think the key to this out-of-consensus view on dollar is that the decline in inflation, as our economists forecast and as we just discussed, we think will limit the potential for US rates going much higher. And furthermore, given that the monetary policy is in restrictive territory, we think there is a greater chance that we will see more downside surprises in individual data points. And while this is happening, the outlook for China, right, even though it is still challenging, appears to be shifting in the positive direction. There's a decent chance that the authorities will take steps towards ending the the "zero covid" policy. This would help bring greater balance to the global economy, and that should put less upward pressure on the dollar. 


Andrew Sheets: So Vishy, another question that generated quite a bit of debate is that next year you continue to see quantitative tightening from the Fed, the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve is shrinking, it's owning fewer bonds and yet we're also forecasting U.S. bond yields to fall. So how do you square those things? How do you think it's consistent to be forecasting lower bond yields and yet less Federal Reserve support for the bond market? 


Vishy Tirupattur: Andrew, there are two important points here. The first one is that when QT ends, really, history is really not much of a guide here. You know, we really have one data point when QT ended, before rate cuts started happening. And the thinking behind our thoughts on QT is that the Fed sees these two policy tools as being independent. And stopping QT depends really on the money market conditions and the bank demand for reserves. And therefore, QT could end either before or after December 2023 when we anticipate normalization of interest rate policy to come into effect. So, the second point is that why we think that the interest rates are going to rally is really related to the expectation of significant slowing in the economic growth. Even though the U.S. economy does not go into a contraction mode, we expect a significant slowing of the U.S. economy to 0.5% GDP growth and the economy growing below potential even into 2024 as the effects of the tighter monetary policy conditions begin to play out in the real economy. So we think the rally in U.S. rates, especially in the longer end, is really a function of this. So I think we need to keep the two policy tools a bit separate as we think about this. 


Andrew Sheets: So Vishy, I wanted us to put our credit hats on and talk a little bit about our expectations for default rates. And I think here, ironically, when we've been talking to investors, there's been disagreement on both sides. So, you know, we're forecasting a default rate for the U.S. of around 4-4.5% Next year for high yield, which is about the historical average. And you get some investors who say, that expectation is too cautious and other investors who say, that's too benign. So why is 4-4.5% reasonable and why is it reasonable in the context of those, you know, investor concerns? 


Vishy Tirupattur: It's interesting, Andrew, when you expect that some some people will think that the our expectations are too tight and others think that they are too wide and we end up somewhat in the middle of the pack, I think we are getting it right. The key point here is that the the maturity walls really are pretty modest over the next two years. The fundamentals, in terms of coverage ratios, leverage ratio, cash on balance sheets, are certainly pretty decent, which will mitigate near-term default pressures. However, as the economy begins to slow down and the earnings pressures come into play, we will expect to see the market beginning to think about maturity walls in 2025 onwards. All that means is that we will see defaults rise from the extremely low levels that we are at right now to long-term average levels without spiking to the kinds of default rates we have seen in previous economic slowdowns or recessions. 


Andrew Sheets: You know, we've had this historic rise in mortgage rates and we're forecasting a really dramatic drop in housing activity. And yet we're not forecasting nearly as a dramatic drop in U.S. home prices. So Vishy, I wanted to put this question to you in two ways. First, how do we justify a much larger decrease in housing activity relative to a more modest decrease in housing prices? And then second, would you consider our housing forecast for prices bullish or bearish relative to the consensus? 


Vishy Tirupattur: So, Andrew, the first point is pretty straightforward. You know, as mortgage rates have risen in response to higher interest rates, affordability metrics have dramatically deteriorated. The consequence of this, we think, is a very significant slowing of housing activity in terms of new home sales, housing starts, housing permits, building permits and so on. The decline in those housing activity metrics would be comparable to the kind of decline we saw after the financial crisis. However, to get the prices down anywhere close to the levels we saw in the wake of the financial crisis, we need to see forced sales. Forced sales through foreclosures, etc. that we simply don't expect to see happen in the next few years because the mortgage lending standards after the financial crisis had been significantly tighter. There exists a substantial equity in many homes today. And there's also this lock-in effect, where a large number of current mortgage holders have low mortgage rates locked in. And remember, US mortgages are predominantly fixed rate mortgages. So the takeaway here is that housing activity will drop dramatically, but home prices will drop only modestly. So relative to the rest of the street, our home price forecast is less negative, but I think the key point is that we clearly distinguish between what drives home pricing activity and what drives housing activity in terms of builds and starts and sales, etc.. And that key distinction is the reason why I feel pretty confident about our housing activity forecast and home price forecast. 


Andrew Sheets: Vishy, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Vishy Tirupattur: Always a pleasure talking to you, Andrew. 


Andrew Sheets: Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Thoughts on the Market. We have passed yet another exciting milestone: over 1 million downloads in a single month. I wanted to say thank you for continuing to tune in and share the show with your friends and colleagues. It wouldn't be possible without you, our listeners. 

Nov 22, 2022
Mike Wilson: When Will Market Volatility Subside?
00:03:34

While the outlook for 2023 may seem relatively unexciting, investors will want to prepare for a volatile path to get there, and focus on some key inflection points.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, November 21st, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Last week, we published our 2023 U.S. equities outlook. In it, we detail the path to our 2023 year end S&P 500 price target of 3900. While the price may seem unexciting relative to where we're currently trading, we think the path will be quite volatile with several key inflection points investors will need to trade to make above average returns next year. The main pushback in focus from investors has centered around the first inflection - the near-term tactical upside call we made about a month ago.


Let's review a few key points of the call as we discuss how the rest of the year may play out. First, the primary tactical driver to our bullish call was simply respecting the 200 week moving average. As noted when we made the call last month, the 200 week moving average does not give way for the S&P 500 until a recession is undeniable. In short, until it is clear we are going to have a full blown labor cycle where the unemployment rate rises by at least 1-1.5%, the S&P 500 will give the benefit of the doubt to the soft landing outcome. A negative payroll release also does the trick. 


Second, in addition to the 200 week moving averages key support, falling interest rate volatility led to higher equity valuations that are driving this rally. Much like with the 200 week moving average, though, this factor can provide support for the higher PE's achieved over the past month, but is no longer arguing for further upside. In other words, both the 200 week moving average and the interest rate volatility factors have run their course, in our view. 


However, a third factor market breadth has emerged as a best tactical argument for higher prices before the fundamentals take over again. Market breadth has improved materially over the past month. As noted last week, both small caps and the equal weighted S&P 500 have outperformed the market weighted index significantly during this rally. In fact, the equal weighted S&P 500 has been outperforming since last year, while the small caps have been outperforming since May. Importantly, such relative moves by the small caps and average stocks did not prevent the broader market from making a new low this fall. However, the improvement in breadth is a new development, and that indicator does argue for even higher prices in the broader market cap weighted S&P 500 before this rally is complete. 


Bottom line tactically bullish calls are difficult to make, especially when they go against one's fundamental view that remains decidedly bearish. When we weigh the tactical evidence, we remain positive for this rally to continue into year end even though the easy money has likely been made. From here, we expect more choppiness and misdirection with respect to what's leading. For example, from the October lows it's been a cyclical, smallcap led rally with the longer duration growth stocks lagging. If this rally is to have further legs, we think it will have to be led by the Nasdaq, which has been the laggard. 


In the end, investors should be prepared for volatility to remain both high intraday and day to day with swings in leadership. After all, it's still a bear market, and that means it's not going to get any easier before the fundamentals take over to complete this bear market next year. 


As we approach the holiday, I want to say a special thank you to our listeners. We've recently passed an exciting milestone of over 1 million downloads in a single month, and it's all made possible by you tuning in and sharing the podcast with friends and colleagues. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

Nov 21, 2022
Robin Xing: China’s 20th Party Congress Commits to Growth
00:04:11

At the recent 20th Party Congress in China, policy makers made economic growth a top priority, but what are the roadblocks that may be of concern to global investors?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Robin Xing, Morgan Stanley's Chief China Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I will discuss the outlook for China after the 20th Party Congress. It's Friday, November 18th, at 8 a.m. in Hong Kong. 


China's Communist Party convenes a national Congress every five years to unveil mid to long term policy agenda and reshuffle its leadership. The one concluded two weeks ago marks the 20th Congress since the party's founding in 1921. One of the key takeaways is that economic growth remains the Chinese government's top priority, even as national security and the supply chain self-sufficiency have gained more importance. The top leadership's goal is to grow China to an income level on par with medium developed country by 2035. We think this suggests a per capita GDP target of $20,000, up from $12,000 today, and it would require close to 4% average growth in GDP in the coming decade. 


Well, this growth target is achievable, but only with continued policy focus on growth. While China's economy has grown 6.7% a year over the last decade, its potential growth has likely entered a downward trajectory, trending toward 3% at the end of this decade, there is aging of the Chinese population, which is a main structure headwind. That could reduce labor input and the pace of capital accumulation. Meanwhile, productivity growth might also slow as geopolitical tensions increase the trend towards what Morgan Stanley terms slowbalization. The result of which is reduced foreign direct investment, particularly among sectors considered sensitive to national security. In this context, we believe Beijing will remain pragmatic in dealing with geopolitical tensions because of its reliance on key commodities and the fact exports account for a quarter of Chinese employment. So China is very intertwined with global economy and it relies a lot on the access to global market. 


Another issue of concern to global investors is China's regulatory reset since 2020 and its impact on the private sector. It seems to have entered a more stable stage. We don't expect major regulatory surprises from here considering that the party Congress didn't identify any new areas with major challenges domestically, except for population aging and the self-sufficiency of supply chain. 


As investors adopt a "seeing is believing" mentality towards their long term concerns around China's growth, policy, geopolitics, the more pressing near-term risk remains COVID zero. This is likely the biggest overhang on Chinese economic growth and the news flow around reopening have tended to trigger market volatility. We see rising urgency for an exit from COVID zero in the context of its economic cost, including lower income growth, elevated youth unemployment and even fiscal sustainability risks. We think Beijing will likely aim for a calibrated COVID exit, and the three key signposts are necessary to facilitate a smooth reopening, elderly vaccination, availability of domestic COVID treatment pills and facilities, and continued effort to steer public opinion away from fear of the virus. 


Considering it could take 3 to 6 months for the key signposts to play out, we expect a full reopening next spring at the earliest. This underpins our forecast of a modest recovery starting in the second quarter of 2023, led by private consumption. Before a full reopening, we see growth continue to muddle through at the subpar level, sustained mainly by public CapEx. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 18, 2022
U.S. Housing: How Far Will the Market Fall?
00:07:16

With risks to both home sales and home prices continuing to challenge the housing market, investors will want to know what is keeping the U.S. housing market from a sharp fall mirroring the great financial crisis? Co-heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research Jim Egan and Jay Bacow discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Jim Egan: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jim Egan, Co-head of U.S. Securitized Products Research here at Morgan Stanley. 


Jay Bacow: And I'm Jay Bacow, the other Co-head of U.S. Securities Products Research. 


Jim Egan: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing our year ahead outlook for the U.S. housing market for 2023. It's Thursday, November 17th, at 1 p.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: So Jim, it's outlook season. And when we think about the outlook for the housing market, we’re not just looking in 2023, people live in their houses for their whole lives.


Jim Egan: Exactly. We are contemplating what's going to happen to the housing market, not just in 23, but beyond in this year's version of the outlook. But just to remind the listeners, we have talked about this on this podcast in the past, but our view for 2023 hasn't changed all that much. What we think we're going to see is a bifurcation narrative in the housing market between activity, so home sales and housing starts, and home prices. The biggest driver of that bifurcation, affordability. Because of the increase in prices, because of the incredible increase in mortgage rates that we've seen this year, affordability has been deteriorating faster than we've ever seen it. That's going to bring sales down. But the affordability for current homeowners really hasn't changed all that much. We're talking about deterioration for first time homebuyers, for prospective homebuyers. Current homeowners in a lot of instances have locked in very low 30 year fixed rate mortgages. We think they're just incentivized to keep their homes off the market, they're locked into their current mortgage, if you will. That keeps supply down, that also means they're not buying a home on the follow, so it means that sales fall even faster. Sales have outpaced the drop during the great financial crisis. We think that continues through the middle of next year. We think sales ultimately fall 11% next year from an already double digit decrease in 2022 on a year over year basis. But we do think home prices are more protected. We think they only fall 4% year over year next year, but when we look out to 2024, it's that same affordability metric that we really want to be focused on. And, home prices plays a role, but so do mortgage rates. Jay, how are we thinking about the path for mortgage rates into 2024? 


Jay Bacow: Right. So obviously the biggest driver of mortgage rates are first where Treasury rates are and then the risk premium between Treasury rates and mortgages. The drive for Treasury rates, among other things, is expectations for Fed policy. And our economists are expecting the Fed to cut rates by 25 basis points in every single meeting in 2024, bringing the Fed rate 200 basis points lower. When you overlay the fact that the yield curve is inverted and our interest rate strategists are expecting the ten year note to fall further in 2023, and risk premia on mortgages is already pretty wide and we think that spread can narrow. We think the mortgage rate to the homeowner can go from a peak of a little over 7% this year to perhaps below 6% by 2024. Jim, that should help affordability right, at least on the margins. 


Jim Egan: It should. And that is already playing a role in our sales forecasts and our price forecasts. I mentioned that sales are falling faster than they did during the great financial crisis. We think that that pace of change really inflects in the second half of next year. Not that home sales will increase, we think they'll still fall, they're just going to fall on a more mild or more modest pace. Home prices, the trajectory there also could potentially be more protected in this improved affordability environment because I don't get the sense that inventories are really going to increase with that drop in mortgage rates. 


Jay Bacow: Right. And when we look at the distribution of mortgage rates in America right now, it's not uniformly distributed. The average mortgage rate is 3.5%, but right now when we think how many homeowners have at least 25 basis points of incentive to refinance, which is generally the minimum threshold, it rounds to 0.0%. If mortgage rates go down to 4%, about 2.5 points below where they are right now, we're still only at about 10% of the universe has incentive to refinance. So while rates coming down will help, you're not going to get a flood of supply. 


Jim Egan: We think that’s important when it comes to just how far home prices can fall here. The lock in effect will still be very prevalent. And we do think that that continues to support home prices, even if they are falling on a year over year basis as we look out beyond 2023 into 2024 and further than that. Now, the biggest pushback we get to this outlook when we talk to market participants is that we're too constructive. People think that home prices can fall further, they think that home prices can fall faster. And one of the reasons that tends to come up in these conversations is some anchoring to the great financial crisis. Home prices fell about 30% from peak to trough, but we think it's important to note that that took over five years to go from that peak to that trough. In this cycle home prices peaked in June 2022, so December of next year is only 18 months forward. The fastest home prices ever fell, or the furthest they ever fell over a 12 month period, 12.7% during the great financial crisis. And that took a lot of distress, forced sellers, defaults and foreclosures to get to that -12.7%. We think that without that distress, because of how robust lending standards have been, the down 4% is a lot more realistic for what we could be over the course of next year. Going further out the narrative that we'll hear pretty frequently is, well, home prices climbed 40% during the pandemic, they can reverse out the entirety of that 40%. And we think that that relies on kind of a faulty premise that in the absence of COVID, if we never had to deal with this pandemic for the past roughly three years, that home prices would have just been flat. If we had this conversation in 2019, we were talking about a lot of demand for shelter, we were talking about a lack of supply of shelter. Not clearly the imbalance that we saw in the aftermath of the pandemic, but those ingredients were still in place for home prices to climb. If we pull trend home price growth from 2015 to 2019, forward to the end of 2023, and compare that to where we expect home prices to be with the decrease that we're already forecasting, the gap between home prices and where that trend price growth implies they should have been, 9%. Till the end of 2024 that gap is only 5%. While home prices can certainly overcorrect to the other side of that trend line, we think that the lack of supply that we're talking about because of the lock in effect, we think that the lack of defaults and foreclosures because of how robust lending standards have been, we do think that that leaves home prices much more protected, doesn't allow for those very big year over year decreases. And we think peak to trough is a lot more control probably in the mid-teens in this cycle. 


Jay Bacow: So when we think about the outlook for the U.S. housing market in 2023 and beyond, home sale activity is going to fall. Home prices will come down some, but are protected from the types of falls that we saw during the great financial crisis by the lock in effect and the better outlook for the credit standards in the U.S. housing market now than they were beforehand. 


Jay Bacow: Jim, always greatv talking to you. 


Jim Egan: Great talking to you, too, Jay. 


Jay Bacow: And thank you all for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcasts app, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today. 

Nov 17, 2022
2023 Global Strategy Outlook: Big Shifts in Dynamics
00:09:59

In looking ahead to 2023, the big dynamics of this year are poised to shift and investors will want to look for safety amidst the coming uncertainty. Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Global Chief Economist Seth Carpenter discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Seth Carpenter: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's global chief economist. 


Andrew Sheets: And I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's chief cross-asset strategist. 


Seth Carpenter: And on part two of this special two-part episode of the podcast, we're going to focus on Morgan Stanley's Year Ahead strategy outlook. It's Wednesday, November 16th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: And 3 p.m. in London. 


Seth Carpenter: Andrew, on the first part of this, you spent a bunch of time asking me questions about the outlook for the global economy. I'm going to turn the tables on you and start to ask you questions about how investors should be thinking about different asset prices going forward. There really was a big change this year, we came out of last year with big growth, things slowed down, but inflation surprised everyone to the upside. Central banks around the world started hiking rates aggressively. We've seen massive moves in FX markets, especially in the dollar. Things look very, very different. If you were to say, looking forward from here to the next year, what the biggest conviction call you have in terms of asset allocation, what would it be? 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks, Seth. It's that high grade bonds do very well. You know, I think this is a backdrop where 2022 was defined by surprisingly resilient growth, surprisingly high inflation, and surprisingly hawkish monetary policy relative to where I think a lot of investors thought the year would start. And, you know, if I think about 2023 and what you and the economics team are forecasting, it's big shifts to all three of those dynamics. It's much softer growth, it's softer inflationary pressure. And it's central banks pausing their tightening cycles and then ultimately easing as we look further ahead. So, you know, 2022 is exceptionally bad for high grade bonds, investment grade rated bonds, whether they're governments or mortgages or securitized bonds or municipals. So as the economy slows, as investors are looking for some safety amidst all that economic uncertainty, we think high grade bonds will be the place to be. 


Seth Carpenter: What is it that's so special about investment grade bonds as opposed to, for example, high yield bonds? And what is it about fixed income securities instead of equities that you think is so attractive? 


Andrew Sheets: Yeah. Thanks, Seth. So I do think there's an important distinction here because, you know, if I think about a lot of different assets in the market, I think there are a lot of assets that are primarily concerned at the moment with rate uncertainty or policy uncertainty. When will the ECB finally stop hiking rates? When will the Fed finally stop hiking rates? How high will Fed funds go? Now there's another group of assets, and I think you could put the S&P 500 here, U.S. high yield bonds here that are concerned about those questions of interest rates. Obviously, interest rates matter for these markets, but those markets are also concerned about the economic slowdown and how much will the economy slow. So I think when people look into the year ahead, what you want to focus on are assets that are much more about whether or not rate uncertainty falls than they are about how much will the economy decelerate. So we think of high grade bonds as a perfect example of an asset class that cares quite a bit about interest rate uncertainty while being a lot less vulnerable to the risk that the economy slows. And I think emerging market assets are also an example of an asset class that's really sensitive, maybe more sensitive to the question of how high will the Fed hike rates? And just given where it's currently priced, given how much it's already declined this year, might be a lot less sensitive of that question of, you know, whether or not the U.S. goes into recession or whether or not Europe goes into recession. So good for high grade bonds and then we think good for emerging market assets. 


Seth Carpenter: Okay. That makes a lot of sense. High grade bonds, fixed income, obviously, you talked a little bit about where some of the risks are. And whenever I think about fixed income securities and I think about risk, how are you advising clients to think about market-based risks around the world as we're going into the next year?  


Andrew Sheets: I think you a point that you and your team have made that central banks, especially the Fed, are very aware of the liquidity risks around quantitative tightening and might modify it if they felt it was starting to lead to less functional markets. I think that's important. I think if that's our assumption, then investors shouldn't avoid these markets simply because there's a possibility that they could have a more liquidity challenge backdrop. Secondly, and I think this is also an important point, while central banks are going to be backing away from the government bond markets, we think there's a good chance that households and other investors will be moving towards these markets. So, you know, we think that there's actually some pretty good potential for households to do a little bit of reallocation, to have less money in equities, to have a little bit more money in bonds, and that the much higher yields that these households are seeing could be a catalyst for that. 


Seth Carpenter: We're sitting here having a conversation, looking around the world. One of the natural topics to get on to if you're thinking globally is about currencies and exchange rates. How should we be thinking about where currency markets will be going from here forward into next year? What's the outlook for different currencies? Is there a set of currencies that might outperform? Are there ones where investors still need to be very wary? 


Andrew Sheets: Yeah. So I think when talking about currencies, we have to start with the dollar, which in some ways is the benchmark against which everything else is measured. And you know, our foreign exchange strategists do think the dollar has peaked. Looking into next year, if we see slower growth, less inflation, less hawkish policy, you know, we think that will be less good for the dollar, maybe even negative for the dollar. So we see the dollar peaking and declining over the course of 2023. We think the euro does better, as we do think investors will look to reengage in European assets next year and so investment flows can be more supportive. We do think some of the more cyclical currencies, things like the Australian dollar and New Zealand dollar can do a little bit better as the market gets maybe a little bit more optimistic about better Chinese growth next year. And we think some of the large EM currencies can also outperform relative to their forward. 


Seth Carpenter: That makes a lot of sense. I guess the other point that you and I discussed in the first part of this podcast is about inflation and how commodity prices have factored into the evolution of inflation over the past couple of years. How should we be thinking about commodities for investors going into 2023 as a place to step back from risk? What do you think? 


Andrew Sheets: So commodities were an asset class that we liked at this time last year when we wrote our 2022 outlook. It was an asset class that we were overweight and we maintained that position through this year. But I think that picture is changing a little bit. You know, first, the attractiveness of other asset classes is now better because those other asset classes have fallen a lot relative to commodities over the course of 2022. And, you know, commodities are an asset class that can be sensitive to when growth actually slows. They tend to be less anticipatory. And so they've held up well, I think even as other asset classes have become more worried about the prospect of a recession. And so if the odds of a recession are rising, even if they're not the base case in the US and then they are the base case in Europe, maybe that presents a little bit more danger. But that needs to be balanced against the fact that commodities do have a number of attractive properties. They provide a hedge against inflation and some commodities, especially energy commodities, pay a quite high carry or a quite high yield for holding them, buying them on a forward basis and holding them to maturity. In the case of oil, we think prices will come in well ahead, more than 20% ahead of where kind of the market is implying the price next year. So it's a more nuanced story. It's a story where we think energy continues to outperform metals within the commodities complex, but more of a relative value story than a directional story for the year ahead. 


Seth Carpenter: So what I'm taking away from what you've told me so far, that if a shift to a year of fixed income, maybe the dollar has peaked, and then a more nuanced story when it comes to commodities, what would you leave our listeners with as a closing story? Where would you want to wrap things up in terms of leaving our listeners with advice? Where do they need to be the most cautious? And are we going to go into a year where volatility finally comes down from the sort of tumult that we've seen this year? 


Andrew Sheets: So I think this idea that we might not have an all clear on recession risk in the US kind of well into the start of 2023, the idea that Europe will be in recession at the start of 2023, I think that makes us a little bit cautious to buy cyclical assets here and I think that applies to things like metals, copper, that applies to high yield bonds and loans. And then we think the S&P 500 will also be tricky. So we think the S&P 500 is probably worse risk reward than other asset classes. It doesn't fall over the course of the year on our forecasts, but it has a very choppy range. And when we think about sector and style, I think it's being open to having different preferences depending on where you're looking. And we think EM assets will be on the leading edge of any recovery. That is where we're more favorable towards early cycle sectors like tech and tech hardware. You know, in Europe you're kind of in the middle. That's where we like banks and energy kind of deep value sectors that have quite high dividend yields. And in the US we're more defensive. But you know, something that links all of those themes is that both US defensive, equities, banks and energy in Europe, and tech and semis and Asia, they're all quite high yielding sectors. And so we do think this is a backdrop where the idea of gaining income is not just about high grade bonds, that there are a lot of different pockets of the market where, you know, this is a year to look for the more solid income candidate and income strategy on a cross asset basis. You know, don't swing for the fences yet in terms of buying cyclicality, and we think we'll wait for a better opportunity to do that as we move into 2023. 


Seth Carpenter: All right, Andrew. Well, I have to say, that was a great summary at the end. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk. 


Andrew Sheets: Great speaking with you, Seth. 


Seth Carpenter: And thank you to our listeners. If you enjoy thoughts on the market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 17, 2022
2023 Global Macro Outlook: A Different Kind of Year
00:11:20

As we look ahead to 2023, we see a divergence away from the trends of 2022 in key areas across growth, inflation, and central bank policy. Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Global Chief Economist Seth Carpenter discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's chief cross-asset strategist. 


Seth Carpenter: And I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's global chief economist. 


Andrew Sheets: And on the special two-part episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing Morgan Stanley's Global Year Ahead outlook for 2023. Today, we'll focus on economics, and tomorrow we'll turn our attention to strategy. It's Tuesday, November 15th at 3 p.m. in London. 


Seth Carpenter: And it's 10 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So, Seth I think the place to start is if we look ahead into 2023, the backdrop that you and your team are forecasting looks different in a number of important ways. You know, 2022 was a year of surprisingly resilient growth, stubbornly high inflation and aggressively tightening policy. And yet as we look ahead, all three of those elements are changing. I was hoping you could comment on that shift broadly and also dig deeper into what's changing the growth outlook for the global economy into next year. 


Seth Carpenter: You're right, Andrew, this year, in 2022, we've seen growth sort of hang in there. We came off of last year in 2021, a super strong year for growth recovering from COVID. But the theme this year really has been a great deal of inflation around the world, especially in developed markets. And with that, we've seen a lot of central banks everywhere start to raise interest rates a great deal. So what does that mean as we end this year and go into next year? Well, we think we'll start to see a bit of a divergence. In the developed market world where we've seen both a lot of inflation and a lot of central bank hiking, we think we get a great deal of slowing and in fact a bit of contraction. For the euro area and for the U.K, we're writing down a recession starting in the fourth quarter of this year and going into the beginning of next year. And then after that, any sort of recovery from the recession is going to be muted by still tight monetary policy. For the US, you know, we're writing down a forecast that just barely skirts a recession for next year with growth that's only slightly positive. That much slower growth is also the reflection of the Federal Reserve tightening policy, trying to wrench out of the system all the inflation we've seen so far. In sharp contrast, a lot of EM is going to outperform, especially EM Asia, where the inflationary pressures have been less so far this year, and central banks, instead of tightening aggressively to get restrictive and squeeze inflation out, they're actually just normalizing policy. And as a result, we think they'll be able to outperform. 


Andrew Sheets: And Seth, you know, you mentioned inflation coming in hot throughout a lot of 2022 being one of the big stories of the year that we've been in. You and your team are forecasting it to moderate across a number of major economies. What drives a change in this really important theme from 2022? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. We do realize that inflation is going to continue to be a very central theme for all sorts of markets everywhere. And the fact that we have a forecast with inflation coming down across the world is a really important part of our thesis. So, how can we get any comfort on the idea that inflation is going to come down? I think if you break up inflation into different parts, it makes it easier to understand when we're thinking about headline inflation, clearly, we have food, commodity prices and we've got energy prices that have been really high in part of the story this year. Oil prices have generally peaked, but the main point is we're not going to see the massive month on month and year on year increases that we were seeing for a lot of this year. Now, when we think about core inflation, I like to separate things out between goods and services inflation. For goods, the story over the past year and a half has been global supply chains and we know looking at all sorts of data that global supply chains are not fixed yet, but they are getting better. The key exception there that remains to be seen is automobiles, where we have still seen supply chain issues. But by and large, we think consumer goods are going to come down in price and with it pull inflation down overall. I think the key then is what goes on in services and here the story is just different across different economies because it is very domestic. But the key here is if we see the kind of slowing down in economies, especially in developed market economies where monetary policy will be restrictive, we should see less aggregate demand, weaker labor markets and with it lower services inflation. 


Andrew Sheets: How do you think central banks respond to this backdrop? The Fed is going to have to balance what we see is some moderation of inflation and the ECB as well, with obvious concerns that because forecasting inflation was so hard this year and because central banks underestimated inflation, they don't want to back off too soon and usher in maybe more inflationary pressure down the road. So, how do you think central banks will think about that risk balance and managing that? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. We have seen some surprises, the upside in terms of commodity market prices, but we've also been surprised at just the persistence of some of the components of inflation. And so central banks are very well advised to be super cautious with what's going on. As a result. What we think is going to happen is a few things. Policy rates are going to go into restrictive territory. We will see economies slowing down and then we think in general. Central banks are going to keep their policy in that restrictive territory basically over the balance of 2023, making sure that that deceleration in the real side of the economy goes along with a continued decline in inflation over the course of next year. If we get that, then that will give them scope at the end of next year to start to think about normalizing policy back down to something a little bit more, more neutral. But they really will be paying lots of attention to make sure that the forecast plays out as anticipated. However, where I want to stress things is in the euro area, for example, where we see a recession already starting about now, we don't think the ECB is going to start to cut rates just because they see the first indications of a recession. All of the indications from the ECB have been that they think some form of recession is probably necessary and they will wait for that to happen. They'll stay in restrictive territory while the economy's in recession to see how inflation evolves over time. 


Andrew Sheets: So I think one of the questions at the top of a lot of people's minds is something you alluded to earlier, this question of whether or not the US sees a recession next year. So why do you think a recession being avoided is a plausible scenario indeed might be more likely than a recession, in contrast maybe to some of that recent history? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. Let's talk about this in a few parts. First, in the U.S. relative to, say, the euro area, most of the slowing that we are seeing now in the economy and that we expect to see over time is coming from monetary policy tightening in the euro area. A lot of the slowing in consumer spending is coming because food prices have gone up, energy prices have gone up and confidence has fallen and so it's an externally imposed constraint on the economy. What that means for the U.S. is because the Fed is causing the slowdown, they've at least got a fighting chance of backing off in time before they cause a recession. So that's one component. I think the other part to be made that's perhaps even more important is the difference between a recession or not at this point is almost semantic. We're looking at growth that's very, very close to zero. And if you're in the equity market, in fact, it's going to feel like a recession, even if it's not technically one for the economy. The U.S. economy is not the S&P 500. And so what does that mean? That means that the parts of the U.S. economy that are likely to be weakest, that are likely to be in contraction, are actually the ones that are most exposed to the equity market and so for the equity market, whether it's a recession or not, I think is a bit of a moot point. So where does that leave us? I think we can avoid a recession. From an economist perspective, I think we can end up with growth that's still positive, but it's not going to feel like we've completely escaped from this whole episode unscathed. 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks, Seth. So I maybe want to close with talking about risks around that outlook. I want to talk about maybe one risk to the upside and then two risks that might be more serious to the downside. So, one of the risks to the upside that investors are talking about is whether or not China relaxes zero COVID policy, while two risks to the downside would be that quantitative tightening continues to have much greater negative effects on market liquidity and market functioning. We're going through a much faster shrinking of central bank balance sheets than you know, at any point in history, and then also that maybe a divided US government leads to a more challenging fiscal situation next year. So, you know, as you think about these risks that you hear investors citing China, quantitative tightening, divided government, how do you think about those? How do you think they might change the base case view? 


Seth Carpenter: Absolutely. I think there are two-way risks as usual. I do think in the current circumstances, the upside risks are probably a little bit smaller than the downside risks, not to sound too pessimistic. So what would happen when China lifts those restrictions? I think aggregate demand will pick back up, and our baseline forecast that happens in the second quarter, but we can easily imagine that happening in the first quarter or maybe even sometime this year. But remember, most of the pent-up demand is on domestic spending, especially on services and so what that means is the benefit to the rest of the global economy is probably going to be smaller than you might otherwise think because it will be a lot of domestic spending. Now, there hasn't been as much constraint on exports, but there has been some, and so we could easily see supply chains heal even more quickly than we assume in the baseline. I think all of these phenomena could lead to a rosier outlook, could lead to a faster growth for the global economy. But I think it's measured just in a couple of tenths. It's not a substantial upside. In contrast, you mentioned some downside risks to the outlook. Quantitative tightening, central banks are shrinking their balance sheets. We recently published on the fact that the Fed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank will all be shrinking their balance sheet over the next several months. That's never been seen, at least at the pace that we're going to see now. Could it cause market disruptions? Absolutely. So the downside risk there is very hard to gauge. If we see a disruption of the flow of credit, if we see a generalized pullback in spending because of risk, it's very hard to gauge just how big that downside is. I will say, however, that I suspect, as we saw with the Bank of England when we had the turmoil in the gilt market, if there is a market disruption, I think central banks will at least temporarily pause their quantitative tightening if the disruption is severe enough and give markets a chance to settle down. The other risk you mentioned is the United States has just had a mid-term election. It looks like we're going to have divided government. Where are the risks there? I want to take you back with me in time to the mid-term elections in 2010, where we ended up with split government. And eventually what came out of that was the Budget Control Act of 2011. We had split government, we had a debt limit. We ended up having budget debates and ultimately, we ended up with contractionary fiscal policy. I think that's a very realistic scenario. It's not at all our baseline, but it's a very realistic risk that people need to pay attention to. 


Andrew Sheets: Seth, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Seth Carpenter: Andrew, I always like getting a chance to talk to you. 


Andrew Sheets: And thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in for part two of this episode where Seth and I will discuss Morgan Stanley's year ahead. Strategy Outlook. If you enjoy thoughts of the market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share this podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 16, 2022
Mike Wilson: Dealing With the Late Cycle Stage
00:04:20

As we transition away from our fire and ice narrative and into the late cycle stage, investors will want to change up their strategies as we finish one cycle and begin another.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, chief investment officer and chief U.S. equity strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, November 14th, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Last year's fire and ice narrative worked so well, we decided to dust off another Robert Frost jewel to describe this year's outlook, with The Road Not Taken. As described by many literary experts, and Frost himself, the poem presents the dilemma we all face in life that different choices lead to different outcomes, and while the road taken can be a good one, these choices create doubt and even remorse about the road not taken. For the year ahead, we think investors will need to be more tactical with their views on the economy, policy, earnings and valuation. This is because we are closer to the end of the cycle at this point, and that means that trends in these key variables can zig and zag before the final path is clear. In other words, while flexibility is always important to successful investing, it's critical now. 


In contrast, the set-up was so poor a year ago that the trends in all of the variables mentioned above were headed lower in our view. Therefore, the right choice or strategy was about managing or profiting from the new downtrend. After all, Fire and Ice the poem is not a debate about the destination, it's about the path to that destination. In the case of our bear market call, it was a combination of both fire and ice - inflation and slowing growth, a bad combination for stocks. As it turned out, the cocktail has been just as bad for bonds, at least so far. However, as the ice overtakes the fire and inflation cools off, we're becoming more confident that bonds should beat stocks in this final verse that has yet to fully play out. That divergence can create new opportunities and confusion about the road we are on, and why we have recently pivoted to a more bullish tactical view on equities. 


In the near term, we maintain our tactically bullish call as we transition from fire to ice, a window of opportunity when long term interest rates typically fall prior to the magnitude of the slowdown being reflected in earnings estimates. This is the classic late cycle period between the Fed's last hike and the recession. Historically, this period is a profitable one for stocks. Three months ago, we suggested the Fed's pause would coincide with the arrival of a recession this cycle, given the extreme inflation dynamics. In short, the Fed would not be able to pause until payrolls were negative, the unequivocal indicator of a recession, but too late to kick save the cycle or the downtrend for stocks. However, the jobs market has remained stronger for longer, even in the face of weakening earnings. More importantly, this may persist into next year, leaving the window open for a period when the Fed can slow or pause rate hikes before we see an unemployment cycle emerge. That's what we think is behind the current rally, and we think it can go higher. We won't have evidence of the hard freeze for a few more months, and markets can dream of a less hawkish Fed, lower interest rates and resilient earnings in the interim. Last week's softer than expected inflation report was a critically necessary data point to fuel that dream for longer. We expect long duration growth stocks to lead the next phase of this rally as interest rates fall further. That means Nasdaq should catch up to the Dow's outsized move higher so far. 


Unfortunately, we have more confidence today than we did a few months ago in our well below consensus earnings forecast for next year, and that means the bear market will likely resume once this rally is finished. Bottom line, the path forward is much more uncertain than a year ago and likely to bring several twists and periods of remorse for investors wishing they had traded it differently. If one were to take our 12 month S&P 500 bear, base and bull targets of 3500, 3900, and 4200 at face value, they might say it looks like we are expecting a generally boring year. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we would argue the past 12 months have been boring because a bear market was so likely we simply set our defensive strategy and stayed with it. That strategy has worked well all year, even during this recent rally. But that kind of strategy won't work over the next 12 months, in our view. Instead, investment success will require one to turn over the portfolio more frequently as we finish one cycle and begin another. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Nov 14, 2022
Global Tech: What’s Next for EdTech?
00:05:06

Education technology, or EdTech, saw significant adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet opportunity remains in this still young industry if one looks long-term. Head of Products for European Equity Research Paul Walsh and Head of the European Internet Services Team Miriam Josiah discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Paul Walsh:] Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Paul Walsh, Morgan Stanley's Head of Products for European Equity Research. 


Miriam Josiah: And I'm Miriam Josiah, Head of the European Internet Services Team within Morgan Stanley Research. 


Paul Walsh: And on this very special episode of the podcast series, we'll be talking about the long-term outlook for education technology, or EdTech. It's Friday, it's the 11th of November, and it's 2 p.m. here in London. 


Paul Walsh: So Miriam, next week you'll be heading to Barcelona for Morgan Stanley's annual Tech, Media and Telecom Conference, which focuses on key debates and trends in these industries. EdTech, while still in its infancy, is a segment where your team sees a lot of potential for growth. But before we get there, let's please start with the basics. What exactly is EdTech? 


Miriam Josiah: So people often think of it as online learning for K-12 or university students. But we found EdTech to be quite a broad term for the digitalization of learning. So there are actually dozens of segments within EdTech. One of them is workforce education, which we think is particularly interesting and underappreciated. 


Paul Walsh: And certainly many of us got a firsthand look at EdTech during COVID-19 lockdowns, whether through our children—as was the case for me personally—work related training or for our own amusement. And not surprisingly, companies in the education technology space saw a huge spike from pandemic-driven demand. So what's happening now that schools and businesses have reopened? 


Miriam Josiah: So here's one of the reasons our team looked closely at EdTech. Essentially, even as we've returned to in-person training and education, the demand for remote learning hasn't dropped off. Yes, COVID 19 accelerated industry growth by about two years, but the global EdTech market, currently valued at $300 billion, is still expected to grow at an annual rate of 16% to reach $400 billion by 2025. So this demand is here to stay. 


Paul Walsh: It sounds like it, and that's tremendously interesting. So can you explain why that is, please? 


Miriam Josiah: So we think there are a few reasons EdTech demand will continue to grow. Firstly, the pandemic changed our behaviors in many ways, including how we think about learning. For example, in many classrooms, students watch the lecture on their own time and use the classroom for more hands-on learning. This is one reason demand is still growing, particularly within K-12 education. 


Paul Walsh: And if we take a step back, Miriam, does a challenging macroeconomic environment help or hurt the outlook for EdTech? And can you help us understand why? 


Miriam Josiah: So, in many ways, we think it helps. You have global teacher shortages, rising school costs and, in the case of workplace, there's a need to reskill and upskill workers. So these are a few of the important drivers. Meanwhile, there's a few other positives for EdTech, such as a growing global population and lower penetration rates. To put things in perspective, global spending on education is around $6.5 trillion a year and even with double digit growth over the next few years, EdTech will only represent around 5% of total education spending in 2025. Suffice to say, we are in the very early stages of growth. 


Paul Walsh: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like it. And thinking about stock valuations, they soared for companies that saw surging demand during the pandemic. And since then, we've seen that trend reverse, in some cases really quite dramatically. So where does that leave us today? 


Miriam Josiah: So one thing to note is that this segment is very fragmented with many small companies, some of which are not publicly traded. Among the larger players in the space, we've seen a similar trend with stock prices soaring and now correcting. And so valuations are attractive. And we think this is a good entry point for investors, especially if they have a longer time horizon. At the same time, the market's seeing a fair bit of M&A activity, which may present opportunities for upside for investors. 


Paul Walsh: Absolutely no doubt. Industries that are fragmented, hard to define and still in their infancy can really be fertile ground for investors who have the time and the wherewithal to research and invest in individual companies. So what are the biggest risks to your growth outlook for the EdTech industry? 


Miriam Josiah: So firstly, as I mentioned, a lot of the sector is made up of private companies and a lot of these are loss-making startups. So in an environment of tighter access to capital, this may be a growth inhibitor for some of the startups and we're already seeing companies starting to trim headcount as a way to cut costs. Another risk is government budget cuts. Remember, education spending is around 4% of GDP, and so cuts here could impact the B2B market in particular. The counter is that tighter budgets could lead to schools turning to EdTech instead, but this still does remain a risk. And then finally, the consumer willingness to pay is also being questioned in a recessionary environment. 


Paul Walsh: Miriam, that's really clear. I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk. It's obviously been quite educational. Good luck with the TMT Conference in Barcelona next week. 


Miriam Josiah: Thank you. Great chatting with you, Paul. 


Paul Walsh: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.  

Nov 11, 2022
Michael Zezas: The Midterm Elections’ Market Impact
00:02:08

It’s almost two full days after the midterm elections in the U.S. and while we still don’t know the outcome, markets may know enough to forecast its impact.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Jesus, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Thursday, November 10th, at 3 p.m. in New York. 


It's nearly two full days after polls closed across America, and we still don't know which party will control Congress. But for investors, we very likely know all we need to know at this point. Let me explain. 


It may take several days, maybe weeks to determine which party will control the Senate. But knowing which party controls the Senate won't matter much if Republicans gain a majority in the House of Representatives, as they appear likely to do as of this recording. That's because Republicans controlling at least one chamber of Congress is enough to yield a divided government, meaning that the party in control of the White House is not also in control of Congress and so can't unilaterally choose its legislative path. 


For bond markets, this is a mostly friendly outcome. It takes off the table the scenario that could have led to fiscal policy from Congress that would cut against the Fed's inflation goals. That scenario would have been one where Democrats keep control of the House and expand their Senate majority. That outcome might have suggested inflation was less a political and electoral concern than previously thought, and through a broader Senate majority, given Democrats more room to legislate. If markets perceived that combination of a willingness and ability to legislate as increasing the probability of enacting spending measures, like a child tax credit, that would support aggregate demand in the US economy, then investors would also have to price in the possibility of a higher than expected peak Fed funds rate, pushing Treasury yields higher. Of course, this appears not to be what happened. 


So, the bottom line, the election outcome is important and still up in the air, but markets may know enough to move on. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

Nov 10, 2022
Stephan Kessler: What Does the Future Hold for ESG Investing?
00:03:29

Critics of sustainable investing have said that Environmental, Social, and Governance strategies require investors to sacrifice long-term returns, but is this really the case?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Stephan Kessler, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Quantitative Investment Strategies. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss the value of a quantitative approach to low carbon investing. It's Wednesday, November 9th, at 2 p.m. in London. 


Sustainable investing has been a hot trend over the past decade, and most recently the new Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. has brought it into even sharper focus. Short for environmental, social and governance, ESG covers a broad range of topics and themes, for example, carbon emissions, percentage of waste recycled, employee engagement scores, human rights policies, independent board members, and shareholder rights. This breadth, however, has made defining sustainable investing a key challenge for investors. Furthermore, critics of ESG have also pushed back, arguing that ESG strategies sacrifice long term performance in favor of alignment with what has been disparagingly termed "woke capitalism". 


This ongoing market debate shows no sign of abating any time soon, and so investors are looking for rigorous ways to assess ESG factors, with decarbonization being top of mind. In some recent work by quant analyst Jacob Lorenzen and myself, we decided to focus on climate change and more specifically carbon emissions as the key metric. Our systematic approach uses mathematic modeling to analyze how investors can integrate a low carbon tilt in various strategy portfolios and what kind of results they can expect. 


So what did this analysis tell us? Essentially, we found little evidence that incorporating an ESG tilt substantially affects a risk adjusted performance of equity portfolios, positively or negatively. While potentially disappointing to investors looking for outperformance via ESG overlays, this conclusion may be encouraging to others because it suggests that investors can create low carbon portfolios without sacrificing performance. In other words, our results for equity benchmark, smart beta and long/short portfolios argue that environmentally aware investing could be considered one of the few "free lunches" in finance. 


Our framework focused on carbon reduction portfolios, but also takes other ESG aspects into account. When screening companies for environmental harm, fossil fuel revenue, or non ESG climate considerations, our results are robust. This result is important as it shows that investors can focus on a broad range of ESG criteria or carbon alone- in all cases, the performance impact on portfolios is minimal. Thus, investors can adapt our framework to their objectives without needing to worry about returns. 


And so what does the future hold for ESG investing? While overall we find ESG to have a minor impact on performance, their investment strategies and time periods of the past decade where it did matter and created positive returns. One possible explanation for this effect is a build up of an ESG valuation premium. ESG may have been riding its own wave as global investors increasingly incorporated ESG into their investments, whether for value alignment or in search of outperformance. As we look ahead, the long run outperformance of broad ESG strategies may be more muted. In fact, ESG guidelines and requirements may even require companies causing significant environmental harm to pay a premium for market access. However, we do believe there are potential alpha opportunities using specialized screens, or in specific industries such as utilities and clean tech. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Nov 09, 2022
U.S. Media: Will Streaming Overtake Traditional Cable?
00:06:21

Increasingly, consumers are moving from traditional cable and satellite subscriptions to connected TV devices, so where do the advertisers go from here? U.S. Media Analyst Ben Swinburne and U.S. Internet Analyst Brian Nowak discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Ben Swinburne: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ben Swinburne, Morgan Stanley's U.S. Media Analyst. 


Brian Nowak: And I'm Brian Nowak, Morgan Stanley's U.S. Internet Analyst. 


Ben Swinburne: On this special episode of the podcast we'll focus on connected TV and the changing television space. It's Tuesday, November 8th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Ben Swinburne: Consumer behavior in the television space has been changing rapidly over the past decade, and the COVID pandemic further accelerated this trend. While most people still watch traditional linear TV through their cable and satellite subscription, consumers are shifting to streaming at a rapid pace. In fact, most of our listeners probably use some sort of connected TV, or CTV device at home that allows their television to support video content streaming. As our media analyst, I've watched how this has led to widespread "cord cutting", as an increasing number of customers cancel their traditional subscriptions in favor of only using these streaming or video on demand formats. So let's dig into the opportunities and challenges within the connected TV space and particularly interconnected TV advertising. Brian, let's start with some definitions. What is CTV advertising, what's so great about it? 


Brian Nowak: CTV advertising is nothing more than adding advertising to all that streaming engagement that you mentioned earlier. You talked about how people are increasingly watching connected television through streaming devices, through their televisions. The idea of showing ads around it is CTV advertising. As far as what's so great about it, for years traditional linear television has largely been driven by branded advertising to reach people. The hope with connected television over time is that not only will connected television enable you to have reach and strong branding capabilities, but also the potential for better targeting, a more direct link between an advertising dollar and an actual transaction from those ads. And the vision of connected television advertising over time is we may be able to have broad based performance advertising across all of the streaming television engagement. So with that as a backdrop Ben, who benefits in your view, from connected television? And which companies may be most at risk from this transition? 


Ben Swinburne: Well Brian, you talked about both targeting and performance ads, things that are not typically associated with broadcast or linear television advertising. So I have to say the biggest beneficiary of the shift to connected TV from an advertising point of view are marketers. Not only are marketers looking for ways to spend their money with a better return on an advertising spend, but they're facing rapidly declining audiences, meaning it's harder and harder to reach the audiences that they want to reach. Connected TV brings the promise of both greater audience, particularly "cord cutters", but also reaching them more effectively with performance based and targeting tools that don't exist in linear. Speaking of which, when we think about who may be at risk, well we don't think it's a complete zero sum game. And we do think connected TV expands the television ad market over the long term. We think the largest area of market share risk is linear television. 


Brian Nowak: So let's dig a little more into your point about linear television Ben. How do you think about the market share between linear television and connected television the next 5 to 10 years? And what role do sports and live sports play into that overall market share? 


Ben Swinburne: So we expect connected TV advertising to reach and ultimately surpass linear television by the end of the decade. It could happen faster, particularly we're focused on local markets, which right now connected TV doesn't really reach. And it it could also happen faster if sports moves quickly over from linear into streaming. Right now, live sports really dominates linear television. It is the by far source of the largest audiences, and those audiences are live, and it's really holding up the linear bundle more than any other kind of programing. But we are certainly starting to see sports content leak out into streaming services, which has both the potential to erode those live audiences that advertisers value so much, but also bring them into a streaming environment which would create more opportunities to use targeting and performance based tools. Brian, what are some of the challenges of connected TV advertising relative to linear? 


Brian Nowak: In the near term macro. Over the longer term proof that the technology works. As with any new, less proven advertising media, weaker macro backdrops can prove to be challenging. It is more difficult for advertisers to move large amounts of experimental dollars into new media when macro times are weaker. And if we think 2023 will be a more challenging macro backdrop, that could lead to slower overall adoption within the connected TV space. Over the long term, the technology has to be proven to work. We talked earlier about proving performance based advertising better, more directly linking advertising dollars to transactions. That technology has to be proven and built out. When you see an ad and you see an ad for a product directly linking that ad to the person actually buying that product is something that still has to be developed by some of the connected TV leaders. And so we're going to need to have better tools with more targeting, better attribution and scalability of the ad buys to really hit some of our longer term connected TV ad forecasts. 


Ben Swinburne: So Brian, you mentioned some of the macro weakness that we're seeing in the marketplace. What is the size of connected TV advertising right now, given that macro backdrop? And what's your near-term and long term outlook for online advertising more broadly and connected TV within that? 


Brian Nowak: In the United States the connected TV advertising market is currently about $17 billion. And as we look ahead, we expect the overall industry to grow at sort of a mid-teens rate, reaching $30 billion plus by 2026. And from a market share perspective, we do think that the largest four players across traditional media and big tech are going to drive a majority of that overall growth. 


Ben Swinburne: Brian, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Brian Nowak: Great speaking with you, Ben. 


Ben Swinburne: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Nov 08, 2022
Mike Wilson: Is the U.S. Equity Rally Over?
00:03:57

With the Fed continuing to focus on inflation and the upcoming midterm elections suggesting market volatility, investors may be wondering, is the U.S. equity market rally really over?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, November 7th, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Last week's pullback in major U.S. stock indices was not a surprise as the Fed remained committed to its mandate of getting inflation under control. However, if our tactical rally in U.S. stocks is going to have legs, 10 year U.S. Treasury yields will need to come down from current levels. Otherwise, it will be difficult to see higher prices for the S&P 500, given how sensitive this large cap growth index is to interest rates. Furthermore, we remain of the view that 2023 earnings forecasts are as much as 20% too high, so it will be difficult for stocks to move higher without valuations expanding. 


Does this mean the U.S. equity rally is over? We don't think so, but it's going to remain very noisy in the near term. First, we have two more important events this week to contend with: the Consumer Price Index release on Thursday and the midterm elections on Tuesday. On the former, we aren't that focused on it because it tells us little about the trajectory of inflation going forward. Nevertheless, we appreciate that the bond market remains fixated on such data points and will trade it. Therefore, it's likely to keep interest rate volatility high through Thursday. If interest rate volatility falls with the passing of these data, equity valuations can then expand further. 


In terms of interest rate levels, we think next week's midterms could play a bigger role. Should the polls prove correct, the Republicans are likely to win at least one chamber of Congress. This should throw a wrench into the aggressive fiscal spending plans the Democrats would still like to get done. Furthermore, Republican leadership has talked about freezing spending via the debt ceiling, much like they did with the Budget Control Act in 2011. This would be a sharp reversal from the past few years when budget deficits reached levels not seen since World War II. In our view, a clean sweep by the Republicans on Tuesday could greatly raise the odds of such an outcome. Such a decisive win should invoke the kind of rally and 10 year Treasury bonds to keep the equity market moving higher. One caveat to consider is that the election results may not be clear on Tuesday night, given the delay in counting mail in ballots. That means we can expect price volatility in equity markets will remain high and provide fodder for bears and bulls alike. 


Bottom line, we remain tactically bullish on U.S. equities, assuming longer term interest rate levels begin to fall. This week's midterm elections provide a potential catalyst in that regard. If the Republicans win decisive control of both the House and Senate, as some polls and betting markets are suggesting. Because this is purely a tactical trading view and not in line with our core fundamental view which remains bearish, we will remain disciplined on how much leash to give it. 


Last week we said that 3700 on the S&P 500 is our stop loss level for this rally, and markets traded exactly to that level after Friday's strong labor report before recovering nicely. For this week, we think that level could be challenged again given the uncertainty around election results. Anxiety around the Consumer Price Index Thursday morning is another reason to think both interest rate and equity volatility will remain high. Therefore, we are willing to give a bit more wiggle room to our stop loss level for next week, something like 3625 to 3650, assuming the 10 year Treasury yields don't make a new high. Conversely, if 10 year Treasury yields do trade about 4.35% and the S&P 500 tests 3625, we would suggest clients to exit bullish trades at that point. In short, the bear market rally is likely to hang around for longer than most expect if it can survive this week's test. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Nov 07, 2022
Andrew Sheets: A Swing Towards Bonds?
00:03:02

As prices for bonds go down and yields go up, investors may be asking why the price is so low, and what this shift may do to the broader market and asset allocation.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, November 4th, at 2 p.m. in London. 


The market is a funny thing. Relative to January 1st of this year, the U.S. 30 year Treasury bond is set to pay out all of the same coupons, and return the exact same amount of principal when it matures in 2052. But the market has decided that that same bond today is worth 36% less than at the start of the year. 


So what happened? Well, yields rose. That 30 year U.S. bond might be the exact same entity, but investors now need all of those future payments to yield 4.2% per year, not the 1.9% they needed on January 1st. It's another way of saying that there's been a major change in what's considered the minimal accepted return on safe assets. And that large jump in yields has led to the largest drop in bond prices that we've seen in recorded history. 


But the implications are broader. Many assets have bond-like characteristics, where you pay money today for a string of payments in the future. Whether it's an office building, a rental unit or a company with a future set of earnings, you can get very different current values for the exact same asset today by varying what sort of yield it's required to produce. And so if bonds are now priced lower to generate higher returns in the future, so should many other assets that have similar bond-like characteristics. 


For markets, we see a couple of implications. First, these rising yields have made bonds increasingly competitive relative to stocks. Currently, $100 of the S&P 500 is expected to yield about $6.25 of earnings next year. $100 of U.S. 1 to 5 year corporate bonds yields about $6 of interest, despite having just one sixth the volatility of the stock market. It's been 14 years since the earnings yield on stocks and the yield on corporate bonds has been so similar. 


Higher yields on safe assets may also shift broader asset allocation decisions. At this time last year, 30 year BBB- rated investment grade bonds yielded just 3.3%. Given such low returns, it's no wonder that many asset allocators, especially those with longer time horizons, pushed into alternative asset classes and private markets in an effort to generate higher returns. 


But that calculus now looks different. Yields on those same investment grade bonds have risen from that 3.3% to 6.3%. With public markets now offering many more opportunities for a safe, reliable, long run return, we'd expect asset allocators to start to swing back in this direction, especially favoring various forms of investment grade debt. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Nov 04, 2022
Labor: Are People Returning to Work?
00:04:57

As developed markets heal from the pandemic, labor force participation has recovered in some areas faster than others, so how will a return to work impact the broader economy in places like the U.K. and the U.S.? U.S. Economist Julian Richers and European Economist Markus Guetschow discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Julian Richers: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Julian Richers from the Morgan Stanley U.S. Economics Team. 


Markus Guetschow: And I'm Markus Guetschow from the European Economics Team. 


Julian Richers: On this special episode of the podcast, we'll focus on the issue of labor force participation across developed markets and its broader economic implications. It's Thursday, November 3rd, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Markus Guetschow: And 3 p.m. in London. 


Markus Guetschow: It's no secret that the COVID pandemic profoundly disrupted labor markets across the globe. Labor shortages, rather than unemployment, have now become the key challenge to economies everywhere, and the 'great resignation' has become a catchphrase. In the U.K. and U.S. in particular, are experiencing a slow recovery in labor participation post-COVID, which is adding to an already complex set of policy trade offs by the Fed and the Bank of England. At the same time, Europe looks like a bright spot. So Julian, 'nobody wants to work anymore' has become a punchline. What kind of picture do the data on labor supply really paint in the U.S.? 


Julian Richers: In the U.S. at least we have seen a massive decline in labor force participation at the onset of the pandemic and really an incomplete recovery so far. Less immigration and more retirements have been major contributors to that drop initially, but since then it also is that prime age workers, so workers age 25 to 54, have been slow to come back. Now in contrast to the U.S., I think your analysis shows that labor supply in the euro area has already fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. What drove that faster rebound and what's your outlook for the euro area from here? Can we learn something about what this may mean for other countries? 


Markus Guetschow: We've seen a remarkably quick bounce back in the labor market in the euro area after the pandemic recession, with participation already one percentage point above pre-pandemic levels by mid 22, and also about the level implied by pre-crisis trends. We think that furlough schemes that kept workers in the jobs during COVID were a key supporting factor here. We don't expect to return to pre-crisis labor supply growth, however, with increasing headwinds from immigration and demographics increasingly a factor in the euro area. The U.K. had a similarly generous furlough scheme, but dynamics are in many ways more similar to the U.S., with participation almost one percentage point below 4Q 19 levels in the middle of 2022. Post-Brexit migration flows are one obvious reasons, but we also point to a record number of workers out of the labor force due to health reasons. But let me turn back to the U.S. What makes the US labor market so challenging right now, and how would a potential rise in labor supply affect the economic growth outlook and the Fed's monetary policy? 


Julian Richers: Well, really, the U.S. labor market has just remained extremely resilient, even though the overall economy has clearly slowed. The U.S. economy is also now producing a lot more output with about the same amount of workers as we did before the pandemic. So structurally, labor demand is still high. At the same time, a lot of the losses in participation among older workers will not reverse. But prime age workers have been coming back and there is still more room for them to go. So prime age, labor force participation should be increasing and that will be key for some relaxation in the labor market. For the Fed that's key, right? Removing pressure from the labor market is very important to feel more confident about the inflation outlook. Wage growth has been extremely high because there still is a pretty significant shortage of workers, and workers are quitting at high rates to go to higher paying jobs. Now, as the economy slows more and labor demand begins to cool, that should lessen. But really, getting more people into the labor force is just going to be key to see wage growth moderate and the unemployment rate go up for good reasons and not for job cuts. So an expansion in labor supply in particular, if it's coming from more primary workers, is really key to manage a soft landing the Fed is looking for. Marcus, how about the ECB in the Bank of England? Maybe walk us through the thinking there and give us a sense of the outlook for the U.K. and the euro area into 2023. 


Markus Guetschow: So the ECB is facing a different set of issues altogether. Labor market supply is closely monitored, but with rates growth really rather modest to date, despite record low unemployment, much less of a focus for monetary policy. Instead, with rates still arguably in stimulating territory, the near-term focus continues to be on policy normalization, eventually also QT, while fending off concerns about fragmentation. The picture for the Bank of England is somewhat more similar to the one faced by the Fed. The more labor supply bounces back, the less the Bank of England has to lean against demand. With recession ahead and a bearish outlook on participation, most of the slackening will likely be done via the demand channel, however. 


Julian Richers: Marcus, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Markus Guetschow: Great speaking to you, Julian. 


Julian Richers: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 03, 2022
Michael Zezas: Preparing for an Uncertain Election
00:03:15

This coming Tuesday is the midterm election in the U.S., so what should investors watch out for as the results roll in? And which outcomes might influence market moves?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, November 2nd at 10 a.m. in New York. 


On Tuesday, Americans will cast their ballots for members of Congress. Well, most Americans will. Many will have already voted by mail. And that's important to know, because it means that, like in 2020, investors may have to wait days to reliably know who will control Congress. And that uncertainty could spell volatility in the bond markets, under the right conditions. Allow me to explain. 


Like in 2020, the increased use of vote by mail means that early vote counts reported may not be a good indicator of who's winning a particular race, especially in races expected to be close. Mailin ballots are typically cast more often by Democrats than Republicans, and in many jurisdictions are counted after in-person voting. That means that early reported results may look favorable to Republicans, but like in 2020, leads can vanish over time. And so we'll need to reserve judgment on which party seems poised to control Congress. 


While that uncertainty is playing out, it helps to know which outcomes would be market movers and which ones might have no immediate impact. For example, let's consider what it would mean if Republicans take back control of one or both houses of Congress, which polls and prediction markets are pointing to as the most likely outcome. We wouldn't anticipate this 'divided government' outcome being a market mover, at least not in the near term. That's because the most we can take away from this are some hypothetical concerns. A divided government tends to deliver a weaker fiscal response to a recession. And Republicans have publicly touted their intent to use the debt ceiling and government funding deadlines as negotiating points to reduce government spending in 2023 and 2024. But in recent years, markets have dismissed those types of negotiations as political theater. So perhaps these events would only matter in the moment if the economy and or markets were already showing substantial weakness. 


But what if instead Democrats do what the polling data suggests they're very unlikely to do, not only keep control of Congress, but expand their majorities. If the early vote counting makes this seem like a real possibility, perhaps because Democrats outperform in early tallies in places like Pennsylvania, then expect market gyrations, particularly in the bond market. That's because if Democrats were to pull off such an outcome, bond markets could come to see a risk  that fiscal policy will be pulling in a different direction than monetary policy, meaning the Fed could have to hike rates even more than currently expected to bring inflation down to target. Expanded Democratic majorities could be a signal that inflation was not the electoral challenge many feared. Without that political constraint, investors could equate these expanded majorities with an increased chance that Democrats would revisit many of their previously abandoned spending plans. 


So bottom line, be prepared. The polls are showing Democrats are unlikely to expand majorities, but the history of markets is rife with examples of unexpected outcomes creating market volatility. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us for a view on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

Nov 02, 2022
Private Markets: Uncertainty in the Golden Age
00:06:48

Over the last decade private markets have outperformed versus public markets, but given the recent public market volatility, will private markets continue to attract investors? Head of Brokers, Asset Managers, and the Exchanges Team Mike Cyprys and Head of European Asset Managers, Exchanges, and Diversified Financials Research Bruce Hamilton discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Mike Cyprys: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Cyprys, Morgan Stanley's Head of Brokers, Asset Managers and Exchanges Team. 


Bruce Hamilton: And I'm Bruce Hamilton, Head of European Asset Managers, the exchanges and Diversified Financials Research. 


Mike Cyprys: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll talk about our outlook on the private markets industry against an uncertain macro backdrop and market upheaval. It's Tuesday, November 1st at noon in New York. 


Bruce Hamilton: And 4 p.m. in London. 


Mike Cyprys: We spend most of our time on this podcast talking about public markets, which are stocks and bonds traded on public exchanges like Nasdaq and Euronext. But today, we're going to talk a little bit about the private markets, which are equity and debt of privately owned companies. You probably know it as private equity, venture capital and private credit, but it also encompasses private real estate and infrastructure investments, all of this largely held in funds owned by institutions such as pension funds and endowments and increasingly high net worth investors. Today, there is nearly 10 trillion of assets held across these funds globally. But despite the different structure, private markets have been faced with the same macro challenges facing public markets here in 2022. So Bruce, before we get into some of the specifics, let's maybe set the context for our listeners. How have private markets fared vis a vis public markets over the last decade? 


Bruce Hamilton: So the industry has grown at around 12% per annum on average over the past decade in terms of asset growth and a faster 17% over the past three years, driven by increasing allocations from institutional investors attracted to the historic outperformance of private markets versus public markets, a smoother ride on valuations given that assets are not mark to market, unlike public markets, and an ability to source a more diversified set of exposures, including the faster growth in earlier stage companies. 


Mike Cyprys: And what are some of the near-term specific risks facing private markets right now amidst this challenging market backdrop? 


Bruce Hamilton: The near-term concerns really focus around the implications of a tougher economic environment, impacting corporate earnings growth at the same time that increasing central bank interest rates across the globe are feeding into increased borrowing costs for these companies. This raises questions on how this will impact the profitability and investment returns from these companies and whether investors will continue to view the private markets as an attractive place to allocate capital. The uncertain economic outlook has dramatically reduced the appetite to finance new private market deals. However, there are factors that mitigate the risks forced to refinance in the short term. Secondly, corporate balance sheets are in relatively good health in terms of profits to cover interest payments or interest cover. Moreover, flexibility built into financing structures such as hedging to lock in lower interest rates should reduce the impact of rising rates. Importantly, the private market industry also has significant dry powder, or available capital, to invest in new opportunities or protect existing investments. For players active in the private markets. We think that there are undoubtedly risks in the near term, linked to congested fundraising with many private market firms seeking to raise capital from clients against a decline in public markets, which has left clients with less money in their pockets. From the performance of existing portfolio companies, given the more difficult market and economic environment and from subdued company disposal and investment activity linked to the more difficult financing markets. This has kept us pretty cautious on the sector this year. 


Bruce Hamilton: But Mike, despite these near-term risks and concerns, you remain convicted in your bullish outlook on the next five years. In a recent work, you've outlined five key themes that you see lifting private markets to your 17 trillion assets under management forecast. What are these themes and how do you see them playing out over time? 


Mike Cyprys: Look, clearly, I would echo your concerns in the short term. And I do think growth moderates after an exceptional period here. But we do see a number of growth drivers that we feel are more enduring. Specifically, five key engines of growth, if you will. First is democratization of private markets that we think can spur retail growth and unlock a $17 trillion addressable market or TAM. This is the single largest growth contributor to our outlook. Product development, investor education and technological innovation are all helping unlock access here as retail investors look to the private markets for income and capital appreciation in addition to a smooth ride with lower volatility versus the public markets. The second growth zone is private credit that we think is poised to penetrate a $23 trillion TAM as traditional bank lenders retrench, providing an opportunity for private lenders to step in. For corporate issuers, private credit offers greater flexibility on structure and terms, and provides greater certainty of execution. For investors, it can provide higher yields and diversification from public credit. The third growth zone is infrastructure investing, which we think can help solve for decades-long underinvestment and addresses a $15 trillion funding gap over the next 20 years. This is underpinned by structural tailwinds for the 3 Ds of digitization, decarbonization and deglobalization. The fourth growth zone is around liquidity solutions. As you know, the private markets are illiquid. And so as the asset class grows, we do expect some investors will want to find ways to access some degree of liquidity over time. And that's where solutions such as secondaries and NAV based lending can be helpful. The fifth and final growth zone is around impact in ESG investing. In public markets, we've seen significant asset flows into ESG and impact investing strategies as investors look to have a positive impact on society. And we expect that this will also play a role in the private markets, though it's a bit earlier days. Today we estimate about 200 billion invested in private market impact strategies, and we think that can reach about 850 billion in five years time. 


Mike Cyprys: So for investors, this does boil down to an impact on publicly traded companies. Given the specific challenges of the current environment, Bruce, which business models do you think are best positioned to succeed both near-term and longer term? And what should investors be looking at? 


Bruce Hamilton: Well, Mike, whilst we think the challenging macro conditions could continue to weigh on the sector near-term, we think that investors may want to look at companies with the best exposure to the five growth themes that you mentioned, who are building out global multi-asset investment franchises with diverse earnings streams, a high proportion of durable management fee related earnings—rather than heavy reliance or more volatile carry or performance fees—and deployment skewed to inflation protected sectors like infrastructure or real estate. 


Mike Cyprys: Bruce, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Bruce Hamilton: Great speaking with you, Mike. 


Mike Cyprys: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Nov 01, 2022
Mike Wilson: Has the Fed Gone Far Enough?
00:04:15

Despite companies beginning to report earnings misses and poor stock performance, the S&P 500 is on the rise, leading many to wonder how the Fed will react to this new data in their coming meeting.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, October 31st at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Two weeks ago, we turned tactically bullish on U.S. equities. Some clients felt this call came out of left field, given our well-established bearish view on the fundamentals. To be clear, this call is based almost entirely on technicals rather than the fundamentals which remain unsupportive of most equity prices and the S&P 500. 


Today, we will put some meat around the fundamental drivers for why this call can work for longer than most expect. Last week was the biggest one for third quarter earnings season in terms of market cap reporting. More specifically it included all of the mega-cap tech stocks that make up much of the S&P 500. On one hand, these companies did not disappoint the fundamental bears like us who've been expecting weaker earnings to finally emerge. In fact, several of these large tech stocks reported third quarter results that were even worse than we were expecting. Furthermore, the primary driver of the downside was due to negative operating leverage, which is a core part of our thesis on earnings as described in the fire and ice narrative. However, these large earnings misses and poor stock performance did not translate into negative price performance for the S&P 500 or even the NASDAQ 100. 


This price action is very much in line with our tactical bullish call a few weeks ago. In addition to the supportive tactical picture we discussed in prior notes, we fully expected third quarter results to be weak. However, we also expected most companies would punt on providing any material guidance for 2023, leaving the consensus forward 12 month earnings per share estimates relatively unchanged. This is why the primary index didn't go down in our view, and actually rose 4%. 


The other driver for why the S&P 500 rose, in our view, is tied to the upcoming Fed meeting this week. While the Fed has hawkishly surprised most investors this year, we've now reached a point where both bond and stock markets may be pricing in too much hawkishness. First, other central banks are starting to slow their rate of tightening. Second, there are growing signs the labor market is finally at risk of a downturn as earnings disappoint and job openings continue to fall. Third, the 3 month 10 year yield curve is finally inverted, and that is one item Fed Chair Jay Powell has said he's watching closely as a sign the Fed has gone far enough. 


However, the best evidence the Fed has already done enough to beat inflation comes from the simple fact that money supply growth has collapsed over the past year. Money supply is now growing just 2.5% year over year. This is down from a peak of 27% year over year back in March of 2021. A monetarist which suggests inflation is likely to fall just as rapidly as it tends to lag money supply growth by 16 months. This means longer term interest rates are likely to follow, which can serve as a driver of higher valuations until the forward earnings per share estimates fall more meaningfully. 


What this all means for equity markets is that we have a window where stocks can rally on the expectation inflation is coming down, which allows the Fed to pause its rate hikes at some point in the near future, if not this week. Moreover, this pause must occur while earnings forecasts remain high. The bottom line is that we continue to think there's further upside toward 4000 - 4150 from the current 3900 level. However, for that to happen, longer term interest rates will need to come down, and that will likely require a less hawkish message from the Fed. That puts a lot of pressure on this week's Fed meeting for our tactical call to keep working. If the Fed comes in hawkish and squashes any hopes for a pause before it's too late, the rally could very well be over. More practically, anyone who jumped on board this tactical trade should use 3700 on the S&P 500 as a stop loss for remaining bullish. Conversely, should longer term interest rates fall after Wednesday's meeting, we would gain more confidence in our 4150 upside target for the trade and even consider further upside depending on the message from the Fed. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Oct 31, 2022
U.K. Economy: Volatility's Impact Across Markets
00:09:13

As the U.K. grapples with structural, political, and economic issues, how are markets affected across assets, and what stories may look better for investors than others? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and U.K. Economist Bruna Skarica discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan stanley's Chief Cross-Asset Strategist. 


Bruna Skarica: And I'm Bruna Skarica, Morgan Stanley's U.K. Economist. 


Andrew Sheets: And on part two of this special two part edition of the podcast, we'll be talking about the market implications of the latest political, economic and market developments in the U.K. It's Friday, October. 28th at 2 p.m. in London. 


Bruna Skarica: So Andrew, we already discussed the economic outlook for the U.K., and today I'd like to turn our conversation to you and your cross asset views. Obviously the current economic and political situation in the U.K. has a very significant impact on both macro and micro markets. Let's start with one of the number one investor questions around the U.K., which is the mortgage market. Roughly one in four mortgages has a variable rate and current estimates suggest that more than a third of UK mortgage holders will see their rates rise from under two to over 6% over the next year. What is your outlook for the mortgage market and its impact on the U.K. consumer, especially amid what is already severe cost of living crisis? 


Andrew Sheets: Like the U.S. most household debt in the U.K. is held in the form of mortgages. Unlike t,vhe U.S., though, those mortgages tend to have a quite short period where the rate is fixed. The typical U.K. mortgage, the rate is only fixed for 2 to 5 years. Which means that if you bought a house in 2020 or 2021, a lot of those mortgages are coming due for a reset very soon. And that reset is large. The mortgage, when it was taken out in 2020, might have had a rate of 2%. The current rate that it will reset to is closer to 6%. So that's a tripling of the interest rate that these homeowners face. So this is a very severe consumer shock, especially if you layer it on top of higher utility bills. This is, I think, a big challenge that, as you correctly identified in our conversation yesterday, that the Bank of England is worried about. And, you know, this is one reason why we think the pound will weaken. I'm sure we'll talk about the pound more, but if rate rises in the U.K. work their way into the household much faster because the mortgage fixed period is much shorter, maybe that means the Bank of England can't hike as much as markets expect. Whereas the Fed can because the dynamics in the mortgage market are so much different. 


Bruna Skarica: Indeed. Now, aside from that, U.K. rates have also seen a historical level of volatility this year. The pound as well has been weak all year, even though it has rallied a bit recently. Perhaps let's focus on the currency first. How do you see the pound from here? Do you think the downside risks have subsided or the structural risks still remain? 


Andrew Sheets: So the pound is a very inexpensive currency. It's inexpensive on a number of the different valuation measures that we look at, purchasing power parity, a real effective exchange rate and it's certainly fallen a lot. But our view is that the pound will fall further and that this temporary bounce that the pound has enjoyed in the aftermath of another new leadership team in the country is ultimately going to be short lived. A lot of the economic challenges that were there before the mini budget are still there. Weak economic growth, a large current account deficit, trade friction coming out of Brexit. And also I think this part about the Bank of England maybe not raising rates as much as the market expects, there's that much less interest income for investors for holding the pound. We forecast a medium term level for the pound relative to the dollar, about 1.05, so still lower from here. And we do think the pound will be the underperformer across U.K. assets. 


Bruna Skarica: Now aside from the pound I've mentioned, investors have been very focused on the UK rates market where we have indeed seen a lot of volatility in recent weeks. Now what do valuations look like here after all the fiscal U-turns? And is Morgan Stanley still bearish on gilts? 


Andrew Sheets: It's common to talk about historic moves in the global market and sometimes you realize you're talking about a market that's been around for 10 years or 20 years. The U.K. bond market's been around for hundreds of years. And we saw some of the largest moves in that history over the last 2 months. So these have been really extreme moves, both up and down, as a result of the fallout from that mini budget. But going forward we think U.K. rates will rise further from here, we think bonds will underperform and there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that the real interest rate on U.K. gilts, the yield above expected inflation, it's not very high, it's about zero actually. Whereas if I invest in a U.S. inflation protected security, I get about 1.5% more than the inflation rate. And then I think you add on this challenge of it's a smaller market, you add on the challenge of there's more political uncertainty, and then you add in the the risk that inflation stays higher than the Bank of England expects, that core inflation remains more persistent. And I think all of these are reasons why the market could inject a little bit more risk premium into the gilt market. One other thing that's been highlighted by our colleagues in interest rate strategy, is just simply there's a lot of supply gilts. There's supply of gilts not just because the governments running a deficit, but there's supply because the Bank of England was a major buyer and a major holder of gilts during the year of quantitative easing and it's shifting towards quantitative tightening. So heavy supply, low real rates, and I think a potential for kind of a higher risk premium are all reasons why we think gilts underperform both bonds and treasuries. 


Bruna Skarica: Now that you mentioned quantitative tightening, of course, the Bank of England is planning to sell its credit holdings as well. What is the situation in the sterling credit market? Can you walk us through the challenges and opportunities there right now for both domestic and foreign investors? 


Andrew Sheets: Yeah. So I think the credit market in the U.K. is actually one of the better stories in this market. Now it's not particularly liquid. But I think where sterling credit has some advantages is, one, it's actually a relatively international market. Only about half of it references U.K. companies, the other half of it is global companies, including a lot of U.S. issuers. So the credit market is not a particularly domestically focused index to the extent people are worried about the U.K. domestic situation. It's a market that trades at a spread discount to the U.S., both because of some of the recent volatility and the fact it's a little bit less liquid. this is a market that yields around 6.5% - 6.75% on investment grade credit. That's, I think, a pretty good return relative to expected inflation, relative to where we think credit risk is in that market. So, you know, amidst some other more difficult stories, we think the credit market might end up being a relatively better one. 


Bruna Skarica: Finally, let's take a step back perhaps, and take a look at some of the U.K.'s structural vulnerabilities. The U.K. has a very weak net international investment position, it's reliant on foreign money to fund some of its deficit and despite the recent fiscal U-turns, the U.K.'s fiscal deficit is still relatively large. In the context of these vulnerabilities, can you maybe discuss how recent events have affected foreign investors' confidence, and how do you see things going forward? 


Andrew Sheets: Yes, so I think this is a really important issue and maybe a good one to close on. The U.K., as you just mentioned, runs a very large current account deficit. It imports much more than it exports, and when you do that you need to attract foreign capital to make up that difference. Now the U.S. also imports more than it exports, the U.S. also runs a large current account deficit, but because the U.S. is this large deep capital market, it's seen as a relative winner in the global economy in terms of both the makeup of its companies and its longer term growth it tends to have an easier time attracting that foreign capital. The U.K. has more challenges there. It's a much smaller market, it doesn't have the same sort of tech leadership that you see in the U.S. and in terms of attracting the foreign capital into the equity market, well, that's been more difficult because you've had some uncertainty over what U.K. corporate tax policy will be. The U.K. equity market also tends to be quite energy and commodity focused. So in an ESG focused world, it's more complicated to attract inward investment. And then on the bond market side, the U.K.'s bonds don't yield more than U.K. inflation at the moment. So again, that's probably worked against attracting foreign investment. So maybe one other factor there that is important and we've touched this in a glancing way throughout this conversation, is brexit. That the U.K.'s exit from the European union does still present a number of big uncertainties around how U.K. companies and the U.K. economy will operate relative to its largest trading partner. And so, again, we can see a scenario where just simply higher risk premiums or lower valuations are ultimately needed to clear the market. 


Andrew Sheets: So Bruna, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Bruna Skarica: Thanks, Andrew. 


Andrew Sheets: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Oct 28, 2022
U.K. Economy: All Eyes on the U.K.
00:08:03

As the U.K. deals with a bout of market volatility, political transitions, and sticky inflation, how will policy makers and the Bank of England respond, and where might the U.K. economy be headed from here? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and U.K. Economist Bruna Skarica discuss.


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Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's Chief Cross-Asset Strategist. 


Bruna Skarica: And I'm Bruna Skarica, Morgan Stanley's U.K. Economist. 


Andrew Sheets: And on this special two part edition of the podcast, we'll be focused on the latest political, economic and market developments in the United Kingdom and how investors should think about the situation now and going forward. It's Thursday, October 27th at 2 p.m. in London. 


Andrew Sheets: So Bruna, the world's eyes have been on the U.K. over the last couple of months, not only because it's the world's sixth largest economy, but because it's been experiencing an unprecedented level of market volatility, and it also has had an unusually large amount of political volatility. So I think a good place to start this discussion is just taking a step back. How would you currently frame the economic challenges facing the U.K.? 


Bruna Skarica: Indeed, the level of volatility has truly been historic, both in the macro space, in the market and in politics. Now, in terms of what Prime Minister Sunak has on his tray coming into number 10, first let me mention the fiscal challenges. Chancellor Hunt, who's currently in number 11, has already reversed nearly all the measures from the mini budget, which was the catalyst of all this turbulence. Still, there is more to come. We think another £30 billion of fiscal tightening will be needed to stabilize debt to GDP ratio in the medium term. So more austerity, which of course, will be negative for growth. Now, this fiscal tightening, of course, comes in order to facilitate Bank of England's monetary tightening and help return inflation to the 2% target. The Bank of England has already hiked the bank rate to 2.25%, and we expect further hikes to come. So a lot of monetary tightening weighing on growth, too. And all of this is coming in the context of a very large external shock, that is the energy price move that has led to a spike in utility bills that the state is helping to counter, but that is weighing on UK's disposable income.


Andrew Sheets: Given all of these challenges, how do you think the Bank of England is going to react? They have an upcoming meeting on November 3rd, and they’re facing a backdrop where on the one hand the U.K. has some of the highest core inflation in the developed world, and on the other hand it has a number of these risks to growth which you just outlined. How do you think they try to thread that needle and what do you think they ultimately do?


Bruna Skarica: Indeed, the Bank of England has this year had a really complicated task at its hand. What started as the energy shock to inflation first impacting headline inflation, then spread on to pretty much every part of the consumer basket. The Bank of England we think has no choice but to tighten further from here. Chief Economist Pearl, in the aftermath of the mini budget, said that there will be a significant monetary response to the fiscal news and financial market volatility. As I mentioned, the mini budget was almost entirely scrapped, volatility subsided and so we think this significant response on November 3rd will come in the form of a 75 basis point hike. And we also see clear messaging from the Bank of England next week that this should be perceived as a one off level shift and that the pace of tightening will slow from December, as a lot of monetary tightening has already been delivered. We're expecting a 50 basis point move from the bank then and then two more 25 basis points hikes in the first quarter of next year, leaving the terminal rate at 4%. 


Andrew Sheets: In the Bank of England's thinking, how does inflation come down? You know, because you still have imported inflation from a weak currency, you still have some of the higher friction cost to trade coming through from Brexit, you still have quite high core inflation. What do you think the Bank of England is looking at that gives it conviction? Alternatively, what do you think is the most likely way those predictions could be wrong? 


Bruna Skarica: Well, the first thing to mention is the energy price inflation. It is true that our in-house Morgan Stanley view is that energy prices, for example natural gas prices, will not meaningfully correct from here. However, even if they stay at their current levels, inflation itself is going to slow and that's going to be a big drag on headline inflation over the course of next year and more so into 2024 and 2025. Additionally, the U.K. has seen a very sharp increase in traded goods inflation and our Morgan Stanley in-house view is that some of this is going to come off next year in the U.S. and the DM space more broadly, which we think will help lower U.K.'s headline and core inflation over the course of next year too. We do think services inflation will remain stickier. We think it's going to average around 5% next year actually, because our labor market's very tight and wage growth will remain at levels that are not consistent with meeting the 2% inflation target. However, the traded goods and energy prices we think should help with lowering headline inflation, and that is what the Bank of England is reflecting in its forecasts.


Andrew Sheets: So Bruna you mentioned the strength of the U.K. labor market holding up despite, you know, a number of these macroeconomic challenges. What's going on there? What do you think explains the strength and how big of a problem do you think that is for the Bank of England's policy challenges? 


Bruna Skarica: That's a great question because our employment levels are actually not yet back to where they were pre-COVID. So a question arises as to why is our labor market this tight? And it's all about supply, really. The U.K.'s participation rate has been very subdued in the aftermath of the COVID shock. Some of it has to do with Brexit, a slowdown in migration flows from the EU from 2020 onwards because of course we've seen COVID and the Brexit shock coincide. However, much of it is to do with the drop in participation of U.K. born labor. For example, we now have a record high number of potential workers out with the labor force due to self-reported health issues. The health care backlog and NHS waiting lists are at an all time high and we now seem to have very limited fiscal space to address this. So we actually took down our own labor supply growth forecasts recently. This means that we do expect the slowdown in employment growth and when the recession comes shedding of employees over the course of next year, and that to be the main factor driving the rise in the unemployment rate. 


Andrew Sheets: So you have been calling for a recession around the end of the year in the U.K. and weak growth really through the middle of 2023. Is that still your forecast and what are the most likely factors that could change it? 


Bruna Skarica: Yes, that is still the case. We are looking for a 1% contraction in 2023 and for a recession to kick off in the second half of 2022. In terms of positive catalysts, I would say if natural gas prices fall further, the government will have more fiscal space to support the economy as opposed to using the funds to counter the external energy price hit. It would, of course, help with keeping the inflation somewhat lower. More resilient consumer spending, perhaps as some of those pandemic excess savings are spent, is another upside risk. But we see a very low probability of this happening. And finally, a more aggressive global disinflation, something I've mentioned when it comes to global traded goods inflation, leading to a faster return to positive real income growth, that's another factor to think about, and that would be beneficial for consumers and of course for overall U.K. GDP growth. So those are the main positive factors, I would say. 


Andrew Sheets: Bruna, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Bruna Skarica: Great speaking with you, Andrew. 


Andrew Sheets: And thanks for listening. Be sure to tune in for the upcoming Part two of our conversation about the U.K. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Oct 27, 2022
Seth Carpenter: The Next Steps for the Bank of England
00:03:35

As the U.K. attempts stabilize its debt to GDP ratio, as well as curb inflation, the question becomes, to what extent will the Bank of England continue to tighten monetary policy?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Global Chief Economist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about recent developments in the U.K. and what the implications might be for other economies. It's Wednesday, October 26th, at 10 a.m. in New York.


The political environment in the U.K. is fluid, to say the least. For markets, the most important shift was the fiscal policy U-turn. The tax cuts proposed by former Chancellor Kwarteng have been withdrawn apart from  two measures related to the National Health Service and property taxes. In total, the reversal of the mini budget tax cuts brings in £32 billion of revenue for the Treasury. Media reports suggested that Chancellor Hunt was told by the fiscal watchdog, the OBR, that medium term stability of the debt to GDP ratio would require about £72 billion of higher revenue. There's a gap of about £40 billion implying tighter fiscal policy to come. 


The clearest market impact came from the swings in gilt yields following the original fiscal announcement. The 80 basis point sell off in 30 year gilts prompted the Bank of England to announce an intervention to restore financial stability for a central bank about to start actively selling bonds to change course and begin buying anew was a delicate proposition. But so far, the needle appears to have been threaded. 


And yet, despite the recent calm, the majority of client conversations over the past month have included concern about other possible market disruptions. Part of the proposed fiscal plan was meant to address surging energy prices. Inflation in the UK is 10.1% of which only 6.5% is core inflation. The large share of inflation from food and energy prices works like a tax. From a household perspective, the average British household has a disposable income of approximately £31,000 a year and went from paying just over £1,000 a year for electricity and gas to roughly £4,000. Households lost 10% of their disposable income. 


Of course, the inflation dynamics in the U.K. resemble those in the euro area, in the latter headline inflation is 10%, but core inflation constitutes just under half of that. The hit to discretionary income is even larger for the continent. Our Europe growth forecasts have been below consensus for this reason. We look for more fiscal measures there, but our basic view is that fiscal support can only mitigate the depth of the recession, not avoid it entirely. 


Central banks are tightening monetary policy to restrain demand and thereby bring down inflation. The necessary outcome, then, is a shortfall in economic activity. For the U.K. the structural frictions from Brexit exacerbate the issue and the Bank of England, like our U.K. team, expect the labor force itself to remain inert. Consequently, after the recession, even when growth resumes, we expect the level of GDP to be about one and a half percent below the pre-COVID trend at the end of 2023. 


For the Bank of England, we are looking for the bank rate to rise to 4%, below market expectations. The shift in the fiscal stance tipped the balance for our U.K. economist Bruna Skarica. She revised her call for the next meeting down to 75 basis points from 100 basis points. And so while the next meeting may be a close call, in the bigger picture we think there will be less tightening than markets are pricing in because of the tighter fiscal outlook. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Oct 26, 2022
Michael Zezas: Policy Pressure from the U.S. to China
00:02:28

The Biden administration recently imposed new trade restrictions on exports to China, but what sectors will be impacted and will we continue to see more policy pressure from the U.S. to China?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It's Tuesday, October 25th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


On October 7th, the Biden administration announced another round of controls on the export of advanced computing and semiconductor equipment to China. The stated goal is to protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by limiting China's ability to develop cutting edge chip and computing technology. This news drove volatility in equity markets in China recently, but we think it shouldn't come as a surprise to investors. In fact, we argue that investors should expect the U.S. to continue pressing forward with trade restrictions on China. 


It's all part of our slowbalization and multipolar world frameworks. In short, as China's economy grows into a legit challenger to U.S. hegemony, U.S. policy has changed to protect its economic and military advantages. Export controls are one of those policies springing from a law passed in 2018, one of the few pieces of legislation that received bipartisan support during the Trump administration. And this law gives broad authority to the executive branch to decide what's in scope for export restrictions. So as the competition between the U.S. and China grows and new technologies over time become old technologies, expect export controls and other non-tariff barriers to spread across multiple industries. Other policy barriers could arise, too. As we've stated in prior podcasts, we still see scope for Congress to create an outbound investment control function for the White House. All in all, the net result is a managed delinking of the U.S. and China economies in some key sectors. 


For investors, the read through is clear; the policy pressure from the U.S. and China is unlikely to abate any time soon. The bad news from this? It means new costs to fund the supply chains that will have to be built, a particular challenge for tech hardware companies globally. The good news? This isn't a hard decoupling of the U.S. and China. Slowly but surely, these measures set up new rules of engagement and coexistence for the U.S. and China economies, meaning the worst outcomes for the global economy are likely to be avoided. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Oct 25, 2022
Mike Wilson: What is Causing the Market Rally?
00:03:20

As equities enjoy their best week since the summer highs in June, investors seem at the mercy of powerful market trends, so when might these trends take a turn to the downside?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, October 24th, at 11:30 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Last week, we made a tactically bullish call for U.S. equities, and stocks did not disappoint us. The S&P 500 had its best week since June 24th, which was the beginning of the big summer rally. As a reminder, this is a tactical call based almost purely on technicals rather than fundamentals, which remain unsupportive of higher equity prices over the next 3 to 6 months. Furthermore, the price action of the markets has become more technical than normal, and investors are forced to do things they don't want to, both on the upside and the downside. Witness September, which resulted in the worst month for U.S. equities since the COVID lockdowns in March of 2020. The same price action can happen now on the upside, and one needs to respect that in the near term, in our view. 


As noted last week, the 200 week moving average is a powerful technical support level for stocks, particularly in the absence of an outright recession, which we don't have yet. While some may argue a recession is inevitable over the next 6 to 12 months, the market will not price it, in our view, until it's definitive. The typical signal required for that can only come from the jobs market. While nonfarm payrolls is a lagging indicator that gets revised later, the equity market tends to be focused on it. More specifically, it usually takes a negative payroll reading for the market to fully price a recession. Today, that number is a positive 265,000, and it's unlikely we get a negative payroll number in the next month or two. Of course, we also appreciate the fact that if one waits for such data to arrive, the opportunity to trade it will be missed. The question is one of timing. In the absence of hard data from either companies cutting guidance significantly for 2023 or unemployment claims spiking, the door is left open for a tactical trade higher before reality sets in. 


Finally, as we begin the transition from fire to ice, falling inflation expectations could lead to a period of falling interest rates that may be interpreted by the equity market as bullish, until the reality of what that means for earnings is fully revealed. Given the strong technical support just below current levels, the S&P 500 can continue to rally toward 4000 or 4150 in the absence of capitulation from companies on 2023 earnings guidance. Conversely, should interest rates remain sticky at current levels, all bets are off on how far this equity rally can go beyond current prices. As a result, we stay tactically bullish as we enter the meat of what is likely to be a sloppy earnings season. We just don't have the confidence that there will be enough capitulation on 2023 earnings to take 2023 earnings per share forecasts down in the manner that it takes stocks to new lows. Instead, our base case is, that happens in either December when holiday demand fails to materialize or during fourth quarter earnings season in January and February, when companies are forced to discuss their outlooks for 2023 decisively. In the meantime, enjoy the rally. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Oct 24, 2022
Andrew Sheets: The U.K.’s Struggle to Bring Down Inflation
00:03:17

The U.K.’s economy continues to face a host of challenges, including high inflation and a weak currency, and while these problems are not insurmountable, they may weigh significantly on the economic outlook.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, October 21st at 2 p.m. in London. 


The eyes of the financial world remain on the United Kingdom, the world's 6th largest economy that is facing a complicated, interwoven set of challenges. We talked about the U.K. several weeks ago on this program, but I wanted to revisit it. It's a fascinating cross-asset story. 


First, among these challenges is inflation. High U.K. Inflation is partly due to global factors like commodity prices, but even excluding food and energy core inflation is about 6.5%. And since the U.K. runs a large current account deficit, importing much more than it exports, a weak currency is driving even higher costs through all those imported items. Meanwhile, Brexit continues to reduce the supply of labor and increase the costs of trade, further boosting inflation and reducing the benefit that a weaker currency would otherwise bring. 


The circularity here is unmissable; high inflation is driving currency weakness and vice versa. High inflation has depressed U.K. real interest rates, making the currency less attractive to hold. And high inflation relative to other countries undermines valuations. On an inflation adjusted basis, also known as purchasing power parity, the British pound hasn't fallen that much more than, say, the Swiss franc over the last year. 


If inflation is high, why doesn't the Bank of England simply raise rates to slow its pace? The bank is moving, but the Bank of England has raised rates by less than the market expected in 6 of the last 8 meetings. The Bank of England's hesitation is understandable, most UK mortgage debt is only fixed for 2 to 5 years, which means that roughly $100,000 loans are resetting every month. The impact is that higher rates can flow through into the economy unusually fast, much faster than, say, in the United States. 


Another way to slow inflation will be through tighter fiscal policy. But here we've seen some rather volatile recent political headlines. The U.K. government initially proposed a plan to loosen fiscal policy, but following a volatile market reaction has now changed course and reversed a number of those proposals. It still remains to be seen exactly what policy the U.K. government will settle on and what response the markets will have. 


The UK's problems are not insurmountable, but for now they remain significant. Our U.K. interest rate strategists think that expectations for 5 year inflation can move higher, along with yields. While our foreign exchange strategists are forecasting a lower British pound against the dollar. 


The one bright spot for the U.K. might be its credit market. Yielding over 7%, U.K. investment grade credit actually represents issuers from all over the world, including the United States. While less liquid than some other markets, we think it looks increasingly attractive as a combination of stability and yield amidst an uncertain environment. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you. 

Oct 21, 2022
Graham Secker: Do European Earnings Have Further to Fall?
00:04:07

While European earnings have been remarkably resilient this year, and consensus estimates for earnings and corporate margins remain high, there may be reason to believe there’s further yet to fall. 


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Graham Secker, Head of Morgan Stanley's European Equity Strategy Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the outlook for European earnings for the upcoming third quarter reporting season and beyond. It's Thursday, October the 20th, at 2 p.m. in London. 


Having been cautious on European equities for much of this year, we have recently started to flag the potential for more two-way price action in the near-term, reflecting a backdrop of low investor positioning, coupled with the potential for an inflection in U.S. inflation and interest rates over the next few months. To be clear, we haven't seen either of these two events occur yet, however we are conscious that each week that passes ultimately takes us closer to just such an outcome. Given that high inflation and rising interest rates have been the key drivers pushing equity valuations lower this year, any sign that these two metrics are peaking out would suggest that we are approaching a potential floor for equity PE ratios. However, while this is good news to a degree, history suggests that we need to be closer to a bottom in the economic and earnings cycle before equity markets put in their final price low. 


So far this year, European earnings have stood out for their remarkable resilience, with the region enjoying double digit upgrades on the back of currency weakness and a doubling of profitability for the energy sector. Looking into the third quarter reporting season, we expect this resilience to persist for a bit longer yet. Currency effects are arguably even more supportive this quarter than last, and the global and domestic economies have yet to show a more material slowdown that would be associated with recessionary conditions. Our own third quarter preview survey also points to a solid quarter ahead, with Morgan Stanley analysts expecting 50% of sectors to beat consensus expectations this quarter versus just 13% that could miss. 


Longer term, however, this same survey paints a more gloomy picture on the profit outlook, with our analysts saying downside risks to 2023 consensus forecasts across 70% of European sectors and upside risks in just 3; banks, insurance and utilities. In the history of this survey, we have never seen expectations this low before, nor such a divergence between the short term and longer term outlooks. 


From our own strategy perspective, we remain cautious on European earnings and note that most, if not all of our models are predicting a meaningful drop in profits next year. Specifically, consensus earnings look very optimistic in the context of Morgan Stanley GDP forecasts, current commodity prices, dividend futures and the latest readings from the economic indicators we look at, such as the purchasing managers indices. 


In addition to a likely top line slowdown associated with an economic recession, we see significant risks around corporate margins, too. Over the last 12 to 18 months, inflation has positively contributed to company profitability, as strong pricing power has allowed rising input costs to be passed on to customers. However, as demand weakens, this pricing power should wane, leaving companies squeezed between rising input costs and slowing output prices. In this vein, our own margin lead indicator suggests that next year could see the largest fall in European margins since the global financial crisis. However, consensus estimates assume that 16 out of 20 European sectors will actually see their margins expand next year. 


Our concern around overly optimistic earnings and margin assumptions next year is shared by many investors we speak to. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that all of the bad news is already in the price. Analyzing prior profit cycles suggests that equity markets tend to bottom 1 to 2 months before earnings revisions trough, and that it takes about 7 to 8 months for provisions to reach their final low. If history repeats itself in this cycle, this would point to a final equity low sometime in the first quarter of 2023, even if price to earnings ratios bottom later this year. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Oct 20, 2022
ESG: How will Evolving Regulations Affect Investment?
00:06:12

As the EU puts new regulations on sustainability funds, how will categorization of these funds be impacted, and how might that change investment strategies? Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas and Head of Fixed Income and ESG Research Carolyn Campbell discuss.


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Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Carolyn Campbell: And I'm Carolyn Campbell, I lead our Fixed Income and ESG Research Team. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll focus on sustainability funds and their investment strategies within an evolving regulatory context. It's Wednesday, October 19th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Michael Zezas: There are just over 1400 dedicated fixed income sustainability funds with assets under management, around $475 billion off from a peak of $545 billion at the end of 2021. This is a sizable market, but as EU regulators weigh in on what these funds can and can't own, it begs the question what kinds of bonds might they start buying? So Carolyn, let's maybe start with the essentials behind the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, SFDR, and what it requires of financial market participants. Specifically, what are Article 8 and Article 9 products? 


Carolyn Campbell: So under the SFDR, fund managers are required to classify their funds in one of three ways. The first, Article 8, or what's known as a light green fund, is a sustainability fund that promotes environmental or social characteristics. The dark green funds, which are Article 9 funds, invest in sustainable investments and have an environmental or a social factor as an objective. They also, importantly, cannot do significant harm to other environmental or social objectives. And then lastly, we have the non sustainability funds which are Article 6. 


Michael Zezas: And despite the regulator's goal to increase transparency and accountability, there's still a high degree of uncertainty in the regulatory landscape around what can and should be included in sustainability funds. What does this uncertainty mean for the types of products that are currently being included in these funds, and how might that change in the future? 


Carolyn Campbell: So by and large, the regulatory uncertainty has meant that funds are more likely to take a conservative approach when constructing their holdings for fear of regulatory repercussions or just reputational risk. In particular, where investors need to have a "sustainable investment" that does not do significant harm to other environmental objectives, which is what we have in Article 9, we expect to see them gravitate increasingly towards high quality green bonds. And as a reminder, green bonds are different from regular bonds because the net proceeds of those bonds goes towards green projects. Think of it as retrofitting buildings to be more environmentally friendly, investing in climate change adaptation solutions, or building out clean transportation infrastructure. Green bonds fit pretty neatly into these Article 9 funds because they're demonstrably sustainable investments. And since you know where the proceeds are going, it's less likely that they're violating that last part, the ‘do no significant harm’. So some of the Article 9 funds are full green bond funds. But the ones that are not actually only hold around an average of 10% of their fund in green bonds or other types of ESG label bonds like social or sustainability bonds. And we see similar figures in the Article 8 funds as well. So we expect that green bonds of higher quality, meaning that they're aligned with the more rigorous EU green bond standard that report on impact have limited amounts of proceeds going towards refinancing, have limited look back periods etc.. Those stand to benefit from an increased appetite from these sustainability funds for the best types of green bonds. 


Michael Zezas: Carolyn, you've noted that most ESG funds currently favor low emission sectors, particularly financials. What about sectors that were previously maligned by ESG funds, the so-called high emitting or hard to abate sectors? What is the rate of change approach that might benefit these sectors? 


Carolyn Campbell: So the SFDR is structured in a way to favor the low emitting sectors because they have to report on the principal adverse impacts and because they can't do significant harm. But what we're increasingly hearing is an appetite to invest directly in the transition. So allocating funds to the higher emitting companies, but those that have viable decarbonization plans and for which an improvement on different ESG metrics may drive better financial performance. When we look to the fund holdings of the fixed income sustainability funds, we see that they're currently underweight these sectors despite some real opportunity from the transition. As ESG has evolved this year, so too should the types of strategies that we see adopted across the funds. And companies that are leading the way in their sectors stand to benefit from increased demand from sustainability funds that adopt these approaches, particularly in those sectors that are hard to abate or traditionally high emitting. 


Michael Zezas: Finally flows into fixed income sustainability funds increased throughout 2021, topping out at $17 billion in February. But inflows have been on a downward trajectory throughout the first half of 2022. What are the key drivers behind this decrease and what's your outlook for the secular growth story for ESG, both near-term and longer term? 


Carolyn Campbell: So there are a couple of things driving those declining inflows. First and foremost, the macro backdrop has significantly changed this year versus last year. We've seen regular large rate hikes from central banks around the world to combat high inflation, increased market volatility. It's a tougher environment all around this year in general, and it's not just sustainability funds that are seeing slowing inflows and even outflows. In fact, sustainability fund flows have held up remarkably well given all of this. Then you add in the fact that ESG is facing a bit of a reckoning. There's more vocal pushback in the press, from politicians and from those in the industry themselves on what ESG is and what are its merits. But we don't think this will hurt the growth of ESG in the long term. Rather, we think that sustainability strategies are undergoing an evolution towards more nuance and rigor, away from more simplistic approaches that we've seen adopted in the past. Climate change and sustainability more broadly will be a defining trend for at least the next decade, and this transition requires significant capital. That provides an interesting and unique opportunity for investors, and we've seen sustained demand from both institutional and retail clients for these different types of ESG strategies. 


Michael Zezas: So Carolyn, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Carolyn Campbell: Great speaking with you, Michael. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Oct 19, 2022
Matthew Hornbach: Why U.S. Public Debt Matters
00:03:21

As U.S. Public Debt continues to break records, should investors be concerned by the amount debt has risen? Or are there other, more influential factors at play?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Matthew Hornbach, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Macro Strategy. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about how macro investors may want to view rising U.S. public debt. It's Tuesday, October 18th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


U.S. public debt made breaking news headlines this month by rising above $31 trillion for the first time. In a decade, it's projected to hit $45 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office or CBO. By the time new hires today are ready to retire, U.S. debt to GDP could be at 185%. 


The CBO argues that high and rising debt could increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis, because investors might lose confidence in the U.S. government's ability to service and repay its debt. They also believe that it could lead to higher inflation expectations, erode confidence in the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency, and constrain policymakers from using deficits in a countercyclical way. 


The government debt load in Japan has stood as a notable counterpoint to concerns of this nature for decades. With gross debt a whopping 263% of GDP, and no fiscal crisis that has occurred or appears to be on the horizon, Japan's situation should mitigate some of the CBO's concerns. 


Still, the amount of debt matters, especially to those invested in it. As both the level of debt and interest rates rise further, net interest income for U.S. households may contribute more to total income over time. 


Nevertheless, the level of government debt vis a vis the size of the economy and its contribution to societal income, are not the most pressing issues. The problem with debt has always been predicting the price at which it gets bought and the value it provides investors. The current size of the debt at $31 trillion is just a distraction. This staggering number fundamentally diverts attention from what matters most here. 


So what does matter the most here? First, the speed at which the debt accumulates. Second, the risk characteristics of the debt that investors will buy. Third, the price at which investors will buy it and the value it provides at that price. And fourth, the major drivers of the yields in the marketplace for it. 


The amount of debt, the Federal Reserve's retreat from buying it, and foreign investors' waning appetite have left some analysts and investors wondering who will buy at all. The relevant question for macro investors, however, is not who will buy the securities, but at what price. The marginal buyer or seller moves prices, not the largest. Consider that at least 3.5% of outstanding U.S. Treasuries change hands every single day. That's an open invitation for many investors, including those who use leverage, to move prices. 


So what determines the level of Treasury yields over time? In the end, the most important factor, at least over the past 30 years, has been the Fed's interest rate policy and forward guidance around it. 


So, bottom line, macro investors should pay more attention to the Fed and the economic data that the Fed care most about than the overall amount of government debt investors will need to purchase or which investors will do the buying. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Oct 18, 2022
Mike Wilson: Will Bond Markets Follow the Fed?
00:03:22

Last week's September inflation data brought a subsequent rally in stocks, but can this rally hold while the bond market continues to follow the Fed?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, October 17th, at 1 p.m. in New York. So, let's get after it.


No rest for the weary as days feel like weeks and weeks feel like months in terms of price action in the financial markets. While there's always a lot going on and worth analyzing, it's fair to say last week was always going to be about the September inflation data one way or another.


From our vantage point, inflation has peaked. While 8% is hardly a rate the Fed can live with, the seeds have been sown for lower prices in many goods and services. Housing is at a standstill, commodity prices have fallen substantially since April, and inventory is starting to balloon at many companies at a time when demand is falling. That means discounting should be pervasive this holiday shopping season. Finally, the comparisons get much more challenging next year, which should bring the rate of change on inflation down substantially on a year-over-year basis.


At the end of last year, the bond market may have looked to be the most mispriced market in the world. That underpricing of inflation and rates was a direct result of Fed guidance. Recall that last December the Fed was suggesting they would only hike 50 basis points in 2022. More surprisingly, the bond market bought it and ten-year yields closed out the year at just 1.5%. Fast forward to today and we think the bond market is likely making the same mistake but on the other side.


We think inflation is peaking, as I mentioned, and we think it falls sharply next year. Shouldn't the rates market begin to ignore Fed guidance and discount that? We can't be sure, but if rates do fall under that premise, it will give legs to the rally in stocks that began last Thursday. As we have been noting in our last few podcasts, the downside destination of earnings-per-share forecasts for next year is becoming more clear, but the path remains very uncertain. More specifically, we're becoming skeptical this quarter will bring enough earnings capitulation from companies on next year's numbers for the final price lows of this bear market to happen now. Instead, we think it may be the fourth quarter reporting season that brings the formal 2023 guidance disappointment.


So how far can this rally in stocks run? We think 4000 on the S&P 500 is a good guess and we would not rule out another attempt to retake the 200-day moving average, which is about 4150. While that seems like an awfully big move, it would be in line with bear market rallies this year and prior ones. The other factor we have to respect is the technicals. As noted two weeks ago, the 200-week moving average is a formidable level for the S&P 500 that's hard to take out without a fight. In fact, it usually takes a full-blown recession, which we do not yet have.


Bottom line, we think a tradable bear market rally has begun last Thursday. However, we also believe the 200-week moving average will eventually give way, like it typically does when earnings forecasts fall by 20%+. The final price lows for this bear are likely to be closer to 3000-3200 when companies capitulate and guide 2023 forecasts lower during the fourth quarter earnings season that's in January and February.

 

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show.

Oct 17, 2022
Andrew Sheets: Overseas, Currency Matters
00:03:55

When investing in overseas markets, 'hedging' one's investment not only offers potential protection from the fluctuations of the local currency but potentially may also lead to higher returns.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, October 14th, at 2 p.m. in London.


How much is the Japanese stock market down this year? That seems like a pretty basic question and yet, it isn't. If you're a Japan-based investor who thinks about the world in Japanese yen, the market has dropped about 6% year-to-date, a pretty mild decline, all things considered. But if you're a U.S. investor, who thinks about the world in U.S. dollars, the market has fallen 26%.


That's a big difference, and it's entirely linked to the fact that when investing overseas, your return is a function of both the changes in that foreign market and the changes in its currency's value versus your own. When a U.S. investor buys Japanese equities, the actual transaction will look something like this. The investor sells their dollars for yen and then uses those yen to buy Japanese stocks. When the investor eventually goes to sell their investment, they need to reverse those steps, selling yen and buying the dollars back. This means that the investor is ultimately exposed to fluctuations in the value of the yen.


Given this, there's an increased focus on investing overseas but removing the impact of currency fluctuations, that is, 'hedging' the foreign exchange exposure. There are a few reasons that this can be an attractive strategy for U.S. based investors.


First, it reduces a two-variable problem to a one-variable problem. We reckon that most stock market investors are more comfortable with stocks than they are with currencies. An unhedged investment, as we just discussed, involves both, while a hedged investment will more closely track just the local stock market return, the thing the investor likely has a stronger opinion on.


Second, our deep dive into the historical impact of currency hedging shows encouraging results, with hedging improving both returns and diversification for U.S. investors when investing overseas. Historically, this has been true for stocks, but also for overseas bonds.


Third, investors don't always need to pay extra to hedge. Indeed, hedging can provide extra yield. The general principle is that if you sit in a country with a higher interest rate than the country you're investing in, the hedge should pay you roughly the interest rate difference. One-year interest rates in the U.S. are about 4.5% higher than one-year rates in Japan. Buying Japanese stocks and removing the fluctuations of the yen will pay an investor an extra 4.5% for their trouble, give or take.


So why is that? The explanation requires a little detour into foreign exchange pricing and the theory behind it.


Foreign exchange markets price with the assumption that everything is in balance. So, if one country has higher one-year interest rates than another, its currency is assumed to lose value over the next year. So, if we think about the investor in our example, they still take their U.S. dollars, exchange them for yen and buy the Japanese equity market. But what they'll also do is go into the foreign exchange market where the dollar is expected to be 4.5% cheaper in one year's time and buy that foreign exchange forward, and 'hedge' the dollar at that weaker level. That means when they go to unwind their position in a year's time, sell their yen and buy dollars, they get to buy the dollar at that favorable lower locked-in exchange rate.


Hedging comes with risks. If the US dollar declined sharply, investors may wish that they had more exposure to other currencies through their foreign holdings. But given wide interest rate differentials, volatile foreign exchange markets and the fact that the goal of most U.S. portfolios is to deliver the highest possible return in dollars, investing with hedging can ultimately be an attractive avenue to explore when looking for diversification overseas.


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Oct 14, 2022
ESG: A New Framework for Utilities
00:05:24

Increasing ESG pervasiveness has led to increasing confusion, in particular around how investors might apply these criteria to the utility sector. Head of Sustainability Research and Clean Energy Stephen Byrd and Equity Analyst for the Power and Utilities Industry Dave Arcaro discuss. 


----- Transcript -----

Stephen Byrd Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Sustainability Research and Clean Energy.


Dave Arcaro And I'm Dave Arcaro, Equity Analyst for the Power and Utilities Industry.


Stephen Byrd And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing a new framework for investors to approach ESG analysis within the utility space. It's Thursday, October 13th, at noon in New York.


Stephen Byrd Our listeners are no doubt well aware that ESG criteria—that is environmental, social and governance criteria—have become an increasingly important part of the investment process. This growth has been spurred by a continual search for better long term financial returns, as well as a conscious pursuit of better alignment with values. Yet despite ESG's seeming pervasiveness within the financial ecosystem, there's been a genuine confusion and even controversy among investors about how to apply ESG metrics to the utility sector in particular. And so, in an effort to bring clarity to this key market debate, today we're going to share an innovative framework designed to drive both Alpha, which is the returns aspect, and impact, which is the societal benefit. So Dave, let's start with the problem. What causes this investor confusion and how does the new ESG framework address this problem?


Dave Arcaro There are a few sources of confusion or debate that we're hearing from investors. The first seems to be centered on the lack of a clear distinction between ESG criteria that are likely to have a direct impact on stock performance, and then those that are more focused on achieving the maximum positive impact on ESG goals. Secondly, there is too much focus directly on carbon emissions, and there isn't enough focus on the social and governance criteria in the utility space. These can also have an impact on stocks and on key utility constituents, things like lobbying, operations, customer relationships. The new ESG framework that we've introduced here addresses these issues. It expands the environmental assessment, incorporates specific social and governance criteria that are most relevant for utilities, like customer and lobbying metrics, and it adds a new perspective. For each of these metrics, we assess which ones truly have an impact on alpha generation and which ones have the largest purely societal impact.


Stephen Byrd And stepping back, Dave, we've seen that the utility sector is arguably the best positioned among the carbon heavy sectors in terms of its ESG potential. Can you walk us through that thought?


Dave Arcaro Utilities are in a unique position because they can often create an outcome in which everybody wins when it comes to decarbonizing. This is because when utilities shut down coal and replace it with renewables, it often has three benefits; carbon emissions decline, customer bills are reduced because renewables have gotten so cheap and the utility also grows its earnings. So, it's a strong incentive for utilities to set ambitious plans to decarbonize their fleets.


Stephen Byrd Now Dave, typically, when considering the E, that is environmental criteria, ESG analysis tends to focus solely or primarily at least on carbon dioxide. Is this a fair approach or should investors be considering other factors?


Dave Arcaro We think other factors should come into play here, and we recommend investors consider the rate of change in carbon emissions, the CO2 intensity of the fleet, risks from climate change, and also impacts on biodiversity. Some of these are more readily available than others, but we think the environmental assessment should expand beyond a simple look at carbon emissions.


Dave Arcaro So, Stephen, I want to turn it to you. The E part of ESG is always drawing attention when investors talk about utilities. But so far it seems that there's been little focus on the S, social, and G, governance, criteria when assessing U.S. utilities. What are some of the key areas that investors should concentrate on?


Stephen Byrd The utility sector really is one of the most heavily regulated sectors, so both social and governance factors can impact the success of the utility business and drive stock performance as well. The short list of metrics that we found to have a clear linkage to share price performance would be one, corporate spending on lobbying activities, especially through 501c4 entities. Two, operational excellence, which for utilities really reflects safety and reliability. Three, risk of customer defection due to high bills and worsening grid reliability. And four, impacts to low-income communities. So, we use these metrics to round out a holistic ESG assessment of the industry.


Dave Arcaro And last but not least, how does the new Inflation Reduction Act legislation figure within the kind of ESG framework Morgan Stanley is proposing here?


Stephen Byrd Yeah, the Inflation Reduction Act really is a big deal for our sector. To be specific, the Inflation Reduction Act provides significant, wide-ranging support for decarbonization technologies really across the board, including wind, solar, storage and clean hydrogen. As a result, this legislation could accelerate progress for utility decarbonization strategies in a way that also drives earnings and alpha. For that reason, within our framework, we specifically consider whether a utility is a beneficiary of the Inflation Reduction Act, given the potentially very large positive impacts on both the business and the environment.


Stephen Byrd David, thanks for taking the time to talk.


Dave Arcaro Great speaking with you, Stephen.


Stephen Byrd And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Oct 13, 2022
U.S. Economy: Is Inventory Outpacing Sales?
00:04:22

As consumption of goods slows post COVID, companies are experiencing a build up in inventory that could have far reaching implications. Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas and U.S. Equity Strategist Michelle Weaver discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Michelle Weaver: And I'm Michelle Weaver from the U.S. Equity Strategy Team. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll focus on what we see as an inventory problem with far reaching implications. It's Wednesday, October 12th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Michael Zezas: Michelle, can you start by taking us through some of the background on how we ended up with this problem of companies carrying high inventories, which could pressure them to discount prices leading to weaker earnings. 


Michelle Weaver: I'm sure listeners remember the COVID lockdowns when many of us overspent on a number of goods, especially things like furniture, tech products and leisure equipment. But now, with the recovery from COVID and supply chain bottlenecks easing, we're seeing a new challenge, inventory build coupled with slowing demand. Throughout 2022, we've been dealing with really high inflation, rising interest rates and declining consumer confidence. And while consumer confidence has rebounded from the all time lows that we saw this summer, it remains weak and we think consumers are still going to pare back spending in the face of macro concerns. We think inventory is one of the key problems that will weigh on S&P 500 earnings, and supports our negative call on earnings for the market. 


Michael Zezas: And how broad based is this problem? Which industries are most at risk? 


Michelle Weaver: This is a pretty broad problem for publicly traded companies. Inventory to sales for the median U.S. company have been on the rise since the financial crisis and are now at the highest level since 1990. And it's especially a problem for consumer staples, tech and industrials companies. We also looked at the difference between growth rates for inventory and sales. For the S&P 500 overall, there's an 8% mismatch between inventory growth and sales growth, meaning the median company is growing their inventory 8% faster than their growing sales. The median company within goods producing industries has a whopping 19% mismatch between inventory and sales growth. Consumer retailers face some of the biggest risks from these problems, and companies there are already seeing inventory pile up. They have already turned to discounting to try and move out some of this excess inventory. This is also a big problem for tech hardware companies, consumer markets and PCs have been the first to see excess inventory given how much overconsumption these goods saw during COVID. And the tech hardware team is expecting this to broaden out and start causing issues for enterprise hardware. 


Michael Zezas: And are there any beneficiaries from the current inventory situation? And if so, what drives the advantage for them? 


Michelle Weaver: Machinery is one industry where inventories remain tight and they're still seeing really strong demand. Inventories across machinery are still in line or below their longer term averages and there's especially big problems in agriculture equipment. Off price retailers who sell their excess inventory from other brands are another area that are expected to benefit from excess inventories. 


Michael Zezas: And Michelle, how do you expect companies to deal with the glut of inventory they're facing and how will this impact them in the final quarter of this year and into next year? 


Michelle Weaver: It's likely going to take several quarters for inventory to normalize, but it really varies by industry and we expect inventory to remain an issue for the market into 2023. Faced with a glut of inventory, companies are going to need to decide whether they want to accept high costs to keep holding inventory, destroy inventory, try and keep prices high and take a hit on the number of units sold, or slash prices to stimulate demand. And we think many are going to turn to aggressive discounting to solve their inventory issue. This could spark a race to the bottom as retailers try and cut prices faster than peers and move out as much inventory as possible. And this dynamic will weigh heavily on margins and fuel the earnings slowdown we are predicting. 


Michael Zezas: Well, Michelle, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Michelle Weaver: Great speaking with you, Mike. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people find the show.

Oct 12, 2022
Seth Carpenter: The Political Economy
00:04:48

All over the world elections are taking place that will have profound effects on both local and global economies, so where are policy moves being made and how might investors use these moves to anticipate economic shifts? 


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Global Chief Economist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about political economy and how elections have consequences. It's Tuesday, October 11th, at 8 a.m. in New York. 


Economics is a relatively new field, born in 1776 after the publication of Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'. But until the 1900s, everyone called it political economy. Politics and economics are still hard to separate. Fiscal policy is only sometimes the result of economic events, but almost always a driver of economic outcomes. And because of its power, uncertainty about policy can be a drag all by itself. 


Brazil has a second round ballot on October 30th between the incumbent Bolsonaro and former President Lula. Both candidates are likely to change or scrap an existing fiscal rule that caps government spending, but most observers think that Lula is likely to have a looser fiscal stance of the two. And so while our LatAm team questions not whether fiscal deficits will increase, but by how much, last week's congressional elections could lead to a split government which is taken to mean a smaller size of any deficit widening. So our LatAm team is pointing to a different risk that a possible President Lula, and he currently leads in most polls, that there might be an unwinding of recent reforms for state owned enterprises, the public sector and labor markets that were meant to enhance Brazil's competitiveness. As is often the case, politics here is more about the medium term than the immediate. 


In the U.K., it wasn't exactly the same thing. The newly appointed UK Prime Minister, Liz Truss, announced an ambitious fiscal package, including an energy price freeze and the biggest set of tax cuts since the 1970s. The echo to 1980s supply side economics was plain in terms of politics. In terms of economics, boosting productivity might allow more growth and lower inflation at a time where the opposite of each is at hand. But in a country with a 95% debt to GDP ratio and following on fiscal expansion that drove inflation through demand, the lack of details on how to pay for the tax cuts and the energy subsidies elicited a sharp, immediate market reaction. The gilt curve sold off sharply, and the pound reached an all time low of 103 against the dollar. The Bank of England intervened, buying gilts to contain volatility and to lower rates. And in the wake of that turmoil, Chancellor Kwarteng scrapped the tax cuts for the top bracket but kept the rest, leaving about £43 billion a year of additional cost. The outcome now seems to be a faster pace of hiking by the bank and an awareness that the U.K. will not have the fiscal space needed to avoid a recession. Barring unorthodox moves like scrapping the remuneration of bank reserves at the Bank of England, the Chancellor is going to need to find 30 to £40 billion in spending cuts to stabilize the debt to GDP ratio over the next five years. 


In Italy, elections brought a center right populist coalition led by Giorgia Meloni to a majority in both the lower house and the Senate. The Coalition's stated policy goals are expansionary. More social spending and labor tax cuts are top priorities, along with increasing pension benefits. Our economists estimate that the proposed measures would increase the deficit by roughly 2 to 4 percentage points of GDP, boosting the debt to GDP ratio next year. Such policies will prove difficult during a time of rising interest rates and heightened market scrutiny about debt dynamics. So, Maloney recently expressed her willingness to respect the EU budget rules, but reconciling that view with the policy priorities is going to be a challenge. Our main concern is less a repeat of the U.K. experience, but rather medium term debt sustainability. 


So let me finish up back home. For the U.S. midterm elections polls have been shifting but most point to at least one house of the Congress changing hands, thus a split government. Our base case from my colleague Mike Zezas as a result is gridlock, but divided governments do not always lead to such benign outcomes. I was a Treasury official during a government shutdown. It was not fun. And in fact, following the 2010 midterms, divided government led to a debt ceiling standoff, government shutdown, and ultimately contractionary policy in the form of the Budget Control Act. Such an outcome is easily conceivable after this midterm election, and with inflation high, even with weak growth, we could easily see another installment of contractionary policy. With growth only expected to be barely positive, that's a real risk. Policy always matters. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Oct 11, 2022
Mike Wilson: Earnings Begin to Guide Lower
00:03:49

Last week stocks rallied quickly but dropped just as fast as markets continue to hope for a more dovish Fed, but will this 2-way risk continue as evidence for a drop in earnings continues to accumulate?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the  Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, October 10th, at 1:30 p.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Last week started with one of the biggest 2 day rallies in history, only to give most of it back by Friday's close. The culprit for this higher 2-way volatility is a combination of deteriorating fundamentals with oversold technicals. As noted last week, September was one of the worst months in what's been a difficult year, and the equity market was primed for a rally, especially with the S&P 500 closing right at its 200 week moving average on the prior Friday. Low quality stocks led the rally as further evidence the rebound was just bear market action rather than the beginning of a new bull. There is also still lingering hope for a Fed pivot, but the economic data that matters the most for such a pivot, jobs and inflation, continue to dash any hopes for a more dovish Fed. 


The sellout of momentum and retail, to some degree, does keep 2-way risk alive in the short term as it gets quiet for the next few weeks on the earnings front. Over the past month, there has been evidence that our call for lower earnings next year is coming to fruition. Large, important companies across a wide swath of industries have either reported or preannounced earnings and guided significantly lower for the fourth quarter. Some of these misses were as much as 30%, which is exactly what's needed for next year's estimates to finally take the step function lower, we think is necessary for the bear market to be over. The question is, will enough of this happen during third quarter earnings season, or will we need to wait for fourth quarter reporting in January and February when companies tend to formally guide for the next year? We think the evidence is already there and should be strong enough for this quarter for bottoms up consensus estimates have finally come down to reality, but we just don't know for sure. Therefore, over the next two weeks, stocks could continue to exhibit 2-way risk and defend that 200 week moving average at around 3600. 


One interesting development that supports our less optimistic view on 2023 earnings is in the dividend futures market. More specifically, we've noticed that dividend futures have traded materially lower, even as forward earnings per share forecasts have remained sticky to the upside. One reason this might be happening now is that cash flows are weakening. This is tied to the lower quality earnings per share we predicted earlier this year as companies struggled with the timing and costs versus revenues as the economy fully reopened. Things like inventory, labor costs and other latent expenses are wreaking havoc on cash flow. Accrual accounting earnings per share will likely follow 6 to 12 months later. In short, it's just another sign that our materially lower than consensus earnings per share forecasts next year are likely to be correct. If anything, we are now leaning more toward our bear case on S&P 500 earnings per share for next year, which is $190. The consensus is at $238. 


Bottom line, the valuation compression in equity markets this year is due to interest rates rising rather than concern about growth. This is evidenced by the very low equity risk premium, currently 260 basis points, that we still observe. The bear market will not be over until either earnings per share forecasts are more in line with our view, or the valuation better reflects the risk via the equity risk premium channel. Bear markets are about price and time, price takes your money, time takes your patience. Let the market wear everybody else out. When nobody is calling for the bottom, you will then know it's finally time to step in. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Oct 10, 2022
Chetan Ahya: When Will China’s Economy Reopen?
00:03:03

While China’s policy objectives strive for common prosperity, the country’s strict COVID management poses risks to employment and income, so when might Chinese policymakers start to reopen and recover?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Chetan Ahya, Chief Asia Economist at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be focusing on the expected reopening of China's economy. It's Friday, October 7th, at 8:30 a.m. in Hong Kong. 


When my colleagues and I discuss Asia's growth outlook with investors, one of the top questions we get is, when will China reopen and what the roadmap will look like. We believe a reopening will happen not because the rest of the world is now living with COVID, but because the effects of China's strict COVID management are now increasingly at odds with its policy objective of achieving common prosperity. 


The challenges of a sharp rise in youth unemployment and significantly lower income growth, especially for the low income segments of the population, have become more pronounced this year ever since the onset of Omicron. To put this in context, the youth unemployment rate is at 19% and our wage growth proxy has decelerated from around 9% pre-COVID, to just about 2.2% year on year. 


These issues are further exacerbated by the intensifying spillover effects from weaker exports and a continued drag from property sector. Over the next five quarters, growth in developed markets will likely remain below 2% year on year. The continued shift in DM consumer spending towards services will mean global goods demand will deflate further. And as exports weaken, manufacturing CapEx will also follow suit, which will further weigh on employment creation. As for the property market, the pace of resolution of funding issues and uncompleted projects are still relatively sluggish. With the outlook for the drivers of GDP growth weakening, we think the only meaningful policy lever is a shift in COVID management aimed at reopening, reviving consumption and allowing services sector activity to lift aggregate demand towards a sustainable recovery. 


As things stand, several steps are necessary for a smooth reopening. They are, number one, renewed campaign to lift booster vaccination rates, especially amongst the elderly population. Number two, shaping the public perception on COVID. And number three, ensuring adequate medical facilities, equipment and treatment methods in the next 3 to 6 months. We therefore anticipate that policymakers will, in the spring of 2023, with the peak COVID and flu season behind us, be able to proceed with a broader reopening plan. Of course, we think that reopening in China will be gradual, as policymakers will remain mindful of the potential burden on the health care system. 


Against this backdrop, we see the recovery strengthening from second quarter of 2023 onwards. In the next two quarters, we estimate GDP growth will be subpar at around 3%. But as China reopens from the spring of 2023, we expect GDP growth will strengthen to 5.5% in the second half of the year. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Oct 07, 2022
U.S. Housing: Are Home Prices Decelerating?
00:06:52

As month over month data begins to show a downturn in home prices, will overall price growth and sales begin to fall steeper than expected? Co-Heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research Jim Egan and Jay Bacow discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Jim Egan: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jim Egan, Co-head of U.S. Securitized Products Research here at Morgan Stanley.  


Jay Bacow: And I'm Jay Bacow, the other Co-head of U.S. Securitized Products Research. 


Jim Egan: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing why home prices could turn negative in 2023. It's Thursday, October 6th, at 3 p.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: Jim, it seems like every month the housing data is getting worse when we look at the sales activity. But, now I think I just saw something about home prices falling? What's going on there? I thought we call it home price appreciation, now we're seeing home price depreciation? 


Jim Egan: There is a lot going on out there. There's a lot of volatility, things are moving fast, and yes, there are home price indices that are showing negative numbers. I would caveat that a lot of those negative numbers are month over month, not the year over year that we've typically talked about here. But that doesn't mean it isn't important. 


Jay Bacow: In the past we've talked about this bifurcation narrative where we were going to get a big drop in home sales and housing starts, which we've seen, but home prices were more protected. Do you still believe that? 


Jim Egan: We do still believe in the bifurcation narrative, but the levels of the forecasts have changed, and they've changed for a couple of reasons. I think one reason is that there have been a number of forecast changes, expectations for 2023 are different. Our U.S. economics team has raised their hiking forecast 25 basis points in each of the next three meetings, and our interest rate team on the back of that forecast change has moved up their expectations for the 10 year Treasury. What that move means for us is that the incredible affordability deterioration that we've seen, probably isn't going to get a whole lot better next year. And that's happening in a world in which you mentioned some home prices turning negative. The home price deceleration that we were calling for, from plus 20% all the way down to plus 3% at the end of next year, that relied upon or I can say we expected home prices to fall month over month, but we thought that was going to start in September. It started in July. Sales volumes have been coming in weaker than we thought they would. When we take that weaker than expected housing data, we marry that with different expectations for affordability next year, the forecasts have to change. 


Jay Bacow: And so what exactly are we forecasting for this year and next year? 


Jim Egan: So in this world, we do think that sales are going to fall steeper than we thought. We think that starts are going to fall steeper than we thought, and that next year a single unit starts are going to be lower in 2023 than they were in 2022. We had originally been forecasting a return to growth in 2023, but the change to the forecast that's getting the most attention is that we went from plus 3% year over year growth in December of 2023 to -3% year over year growth by the end of next year. 


Jay Bacow: So if I buy a house today, it might be lower a year from now? That seems worrisome. 


Jim Egan: Yes. And I think there is a positive and a negative headline to that, right. The negative headline, the worrisome, if you will, that you mentioned is that not only is it down 3% next year, but that's down 7% from where we are right now. The positive headline is that even with that decrease in home prices from today, that only brings us back to January of 2022. That's 32% above where they were in March of 2020. 


Jay Bacow: All right, that doesn't seem so bad, given that stocks are a lot lower than where they were in January of 2022. So it's more stalling out than a real correction in home prices. But, why wouldn't home prices fall further from there? 


Jim Egan: We haven't seen anything in the data that changes kind of the underlying narrative that we've been discussing on this podcast in the past. In particular, two things. The first is how robust credit standards have been. If anything, lending standards, which were pretty tight to begin with in the first quarter of 2020, have tightened substantially since then. What that means, again, it constrains sales volumes. We think sales are going to fall more than home prices, but it also means that the likelihood of defaults and foreclosures is limited. And it is those distressed transactions, those forced sellers that we would need to see a leg down in prices. The other point is, away from defaults and foreclosures, actual inventory is still incredibly low. And because current homeowners sit on 30 year fixed rate mortgages, well below the current mortgage rate, when we talk about affordability deteriorating, we're not talking about it deteriorating for current homeowners. They're much more likely to stay in their home, much less likely to list their home for sale, they're not going to be selling into depressed bids. So that credit availability and those tight lending standards, we think that keeps home prices supported. 


Jay Bacow: So home prices are protected because we're not going to get the forced sellers that we saw during the financial crisis and the fundamentals of the housing market are in much stronger footing. What would actually get you, though, to forecast more of a real correction than just the stalling out? 


Jim Egan: I'm going to make this really complicated and say the supply and demand. If demand were to be weaker than we already think it is, and that could happen because the historic deterioration we've seen in affordability has a bigger impact than we think it will. Maybe because the unemployment rate picks up faster than we're expecting it to next year. If you have a much weaker demand environment than we're already envisioning, and you combine that with more supply, perhaps people who'd be a little bit more willing to part with their home at slightly lower prices than we expect them to, people who've owned their home for 10, 15, 20 years and might be looking to downsize. That's where you might have a little bit more of a marriage between uneconomic sellers and depressed demand that could bring home prices lower than we expect. Now, how does all of that, if we think about the implications to investors, what does all that mean for the MBS market? 


Jay Bacow: I'm going to make this really complicated, too. A lot of it comes down to supply and demand. The lack of housing activity and the lower home prices means that there's going to be less supply for mortgage investors to buy. That's good for the mortgage market. The rapid increase in unaffordability has been because of the rapid increase in implied volatility, which is bad for mortgage investors. This has brought nominal spread to the Treasury curve for agency mortgages to levels that are basically at the post GFC wides. And we think that move is a little bit overdone. And so for institutional investors we think this is an opportunity to own agency mortgages versus treasuries as a way to fade some of these moves, and take advantage of some of the more forward looking supply projections that we think will be coming as supply slows down. 


Jay Bacow: But Jim, it's always great talking to you. 


Jim Egan: Great talking to you too, Jay. 


Jay Bacow: And thank you for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcast app and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today. 

Oct 06, 2022
Michael Zezas: Shifting Global Supply Chains
00:02:44

As globalization slows and companies begin to nearshore their supply chains, investors may be wondering what the costs and benefits are of bringing manufacturing back home.


Important note regarding economic sanctions. This research references country/ies which are generally the subject of comprehensive or selective sanctions programs administered or enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the European Union and/or by other countries and multi-national bodies. Any references in this report to entities, debt or equity instruments, projects or persons that may be covered by such sanctions are strictly informational, and should not be read as recommending or advising as to any investment activities in relation to such entities, instruments or projects. Users of this report are solely responsible for ensuring that their investment activities in relation to any sanctioned country/ies are carried out in compliance with applicable sanctions.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome the Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, October 5th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


We speak often here about the themes of slowing globalization, or slowbalization, and the shift to a multipolar world. It's important to understand these megatrends, as they will likely impact global commerce for decades to come and in many ways we cannot yet anticipate. But one impact we have anticipated is multinational companies spending money to shift their supply chains. Whereas globalization meant companies could focus on lowering their labor and transportation costs through 'just in time' logistics, 'just in case' logistics are the watchword of the multipolar world. Companies will have to invest money to nearshore or friend shore to protect their supply chains from seizing up due to geopolitical conflicts, be it war, such as Russia invading Ukraine leading to sanctions, or the proliferation of policies by Western governments, preventing companies from producing and/or sourcing sensitive technologies overseas. 


Now, we're increasingly seeing evidence that this dynamic is already at play. Take Apple, for example, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, recently released a supplier list showing that in September of 2021, 48 of its suppliers had manufacturing sites in the U.S., up from 25 just a year before. The article goes on to cite several semiconductor chip makers who have recently opened US based sites. One company recently agreed to invest as much as $100 billion in a semiconductor manufacturing facility in upstate New York. Another announced plans to invest $20 billion for chip factories in Ohio. 


So it's clear that companies are starting to respond to geopolitical incentives. The long term public policy benefits of these moves could prove to be quite sound, but in the short term they're a challenge to markets. These investments cost money and represent elevated costs relative to what these companies would have enjoyed had the geopolitical environment not become more challenging. That means investors have to price in yet another margin pressure on top of the ones our colleague Mike Wilson continues to highlight in U.S. equities, from labor costs and the fed hiking rates to engineer slower economic growth. 


So bottom line for investors, shifting to a new geopolitical world order may be necessary, but it will cost something along the way. And for the moment, that means extra pressure on a U.S. equity market that's already got its fair share. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

Oct 05, 2022
Vishy Tirupattur: Can Corporate Credit Provide Shelter?
00:03:55

With investors becoming pervasively bearish on stocks and bonds in the face of a worsening growth outlook, can the U.S. investment grade credit market provide shelter from the storm?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Global Director of Fixed Income Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll share why corporate credit markets may be a sheltering opportunity amid current turbulence. It's Tuesday, October 4th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


At a September meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee delivered a third consecutive 75 basis point rate hike, just as consensus had expected. The markets took this to mean a higher peak and a longer hiking cycle, resulting in sharp spikes in bond yields and a sell off in equities. 


At the moment, both 2 and 10 year Treasury yields stand at decade highs, thanks to pervasively bearish sentiment among investors across both stocks and bonds. As regular listeners may have heard on this podcast, Morgan Stanley's Chief Global Economist, Seth Carpenter, has said that the worst of the global slowdown is still likely ahead. And our Chief U.S. Equity Strategist, Mike Wilson, recently revised down his earnings expectations for U.S. equities. 


Navigating this choppy waters is a challenge in both risk free and risky assets due to duration risk in the former, and growth or earnings risks in the latter. Against this backdrop, we think the U.S. investment grade corporate bonds, IG, particularly at the front end of the curve, which is to say 1 to 5 year segment, could provide a safer alternative with lower downside for investors looking for income, especially on the back of much higher yields. 


But investors may wonder, wont credit fundamentals deteriorate if economy slows, or worse, enters the recession and company earnings decline. Here is where the starting point matters. After inching higher in Q1, median investment grade leverage improved modestly in the second quarter and is well below its post-COVID peak in the second quarter of 2020. Gross leverage is roughly in line with pre-COVID levels. Notably, while median leverage is back to pre-COVID levels, the percentage of debt in the leverage tail has declined meaningfully. But if earnings were to decline, as our equity strategists expect, leverage ratios may pick back up. 


That said, interest coverage is the offsetting consideration. Given the amount of debt that investment grade companies have raised at very low coupons over the years, their ability to cover interest has been a bright spot for some time. Despite sharply higher rates, median interest coverage improved in the second quarter and is around the highest levels since early 1990. This modest improvement in interest coverage comes down to the fact that even though yields on new debt are higher than the average of all outstanding debt, the bonds that are maturing have relatively high coupons. Therefore, most companies have not had to refinance at substantially higher funding levels. In fact, absolute dollar level of interest expense paid out by IG companies actually declined in the quarter and is now well below the peaks of 2021. With limited near-term financing needs, higher rates are unlikely to dent these very healthy interest coverage ratios. 


The combination of strong in-place investment grade fundamentals, relatively low duration for the 1 to 5 year segment and yields at decade highs, suggests that this part of the credit market offers a relatively safe haven to weather the storms that are coming for the markets. History provides some validation as well. Looking back to the stagflationary periods of 1970s and 80's, while we saw multiple decisions and volatility in equity markets, IG credit was relatively stable with very modest defaults. And while history doesn't repeat, it does sometimes rhyme, so we look to the relative safety of IG credit once again in the current environment. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Oct 04, 2022
Mike Wilson: The Problem with the U.S. Dollar
00:04:22

With rates and currency markets experiencing increasing volatility, the state of global U.S. dollar supply has begun to force central bank moves, leaving the question of when and how the Fed may react up for debate.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, October 3rd, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


The month of September followed its typical seasonal pattern as the worst month of the year, and given how bad this year has been, I don't say that lightly. But as bad as stocks have been, rates and currency markets have been even more volatile. 


With volatility this severe, some of the cavalry has been called in. The Bank of England's surprise move last week was arguably necessary to protect against a sharp fall in U.K. bonds. Some may argue the U.K. is in a unique situation, and so this doesn't portend other central banks doing the same thing. However, this is how it starts. In other words, investors can't be as adamant the Fed will choose or be able to follow through on its tough talk. Like it or not, the world is still dependent on U.S. dollars, which provide the oxygen for global economies and markets. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Connolly's famous quote that "the dollar is our currency, but it's your problem" continues to ring true. It's also one of the primary reasons why several countries have been working so hard to de-dollarise over the past decade. 


The U.S. dollar is very important for the direction of global financial markets, and this is why we track the growth of global dollar supply so closely. In fact, the primary reason for our mid-cycle transition call in March of 2021 was our observation that U.S. dollar money supply growth had peaked. Indeed, this is exactly when the most speculative assets in the marketplace peaked and began to suffer. Things like cryptocurrencies, SPACs, recent IPOs and profitless growth stocks trading at excessive valuations. Now we find global U.S. dollar money supply growth negative on a year over year basis, a level where financial and economic accidents have occurred historically. In many ways, that's exactly what happened in the U.K. bond market last week, forcing the Bank of England's hand. 


There are many reasons why a U.S. dollar liquidity is so tight; central banks raising rates and shrinking balance sheets, higher oil prices and inflation in many goods bought and sold in dollars, incremental regulatory tightening and lower velocity of money in the real economy as activity dries up in critical areas like housing. In short, U.S. dollar supply is tight for many reasons beyond Fed policy, but only the Fed can print the dollars necessary to fix the problem quickly. 


We looked at the four largest economies in the world, the U.S., China, the Eurozone and Japan, to gauge how much U.S. dollar liquidity is tightening. More specifically, money supply in U.S. dollars for the Big Four is down approximately $4 trillion from the peak in March. As already mentioned, the year over year growth rate is now in negative territory for the first time since March of 2015, a period that immediately preceded a global manufacturing recession. In our view, such tightness is unsustainable because it will lead to intolerable economic and financial stress, and the problem can be fixed very easily by the Fed if it so chooses. The first question to ask is, when does the U.S. dollar become a U.S. problem? Nobody knows, but more price action of the kind we've been experiencing should eventually get the Fed to back off. The second question to ask is, will slowing or ending quantitative tightening be enough? Or will the Fed need to restart quantitative easing? In our opinion, the answer may be the latter if one is looking for stocks to rebound sustainably. Which leads us to the final point of this podcast - a Fed pivot is likely at some point given the trajectory of global U.S. dollar money supply. However, the timing is uncertain and won't change the downward trajectory of earnings, our primary concern for stocks at this point. 


Bottom line, in the absence of a Fed pivot, risk assets are likely headed lower. Conversely, a Fed pivot, or the anticipation of one, can still lead to sharp rallies like we are experiencing this morning. Just keep in mind that the light at the end of the tunnel you might see if that happens, is actually the train of the oncoming earnings recession that even the Fed can't stop. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Oct 03, 2022
Global Macro: Intervention & Inflation
00:10:14

Amidst increased volatility across credit, equity and FX markets, many investors this week are wondering, what is the path ahead for Fed intervention? Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets, Global Chief Economist Seth Carpenter and Head of Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts in the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. 


Seth Carpenter: And I'm Seth Carpenter. Morgan Stanley's Global Chief Economist. 


Michael Zezas: And I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research. 


Andrew Sheets: And on this special edition of the podcast, we'll be talking about intervention, inflation and what's ahead for markets. It's Friday, September 30th at 9 a.m. in San Francisco. 


Michael Zezas: So, Andrew, Seth, we've been on the road all week seeing clients and that's come amidst some very unusual moves in the markets and interventions by a couple of central banks. Andrew, can you put in a context for us what's happened and maybe why it's happened? 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks, Mike. So I think you have the intersection of three pretty interesting stories that have been happening over the last couple of weeks. The first, and probably most important, is that core inflation in the U.S. remains higher than the Federal Reserve would like, which has kept Fed policy hawkish, which has kept the dollar strong and U.S. yields moving higher. Now, one of the currencies that the dollar has been strongest against is the Japanese yen, which has fallen sharply in value this year. Now we saw Japan finally intervene into the currency markets to a limited extent to try to support the yen but that support was short lived and we saw the dollar continue to strengthen. The other story that we saw occurred in the U.K., a country we discussed on this podcast recently about some of its unique economic challenges. The U.K. has also seen a weak currency against the dollar. But in addition to that, because of the market's reaction to recent fiscal policy proposals, we saw a very large rise in U.K. bond yields, which caused market dislocations and pushed the Bank of England to intervene in bond markets in a way that drove some of the largest moves in U.K. interest rates, really in recorded history. So a lot's been going on, Mike, it's been a very busy couple of weeks, but it's a story at its core about inflation leading to intervention, but ultimately not really changing a core backdrop of higher U.S. yields and a stronger U.S. dollar. 


Seth Carpenter: I completely agree with you on that, Andrew. And I think it brings up some of the questions that you and I have got in our client meetings this week, which is, 'where can this end?' Any trend that's not sustainable won't last forever, as the saying goes. So what would cause sort of an end to the dollar's run? And I think a natural place to look is, what would cause the Fed to stop hiking? I think the first thing that's worth strongly emphasizing is, from the Fed's perspective, a narrow monetary policy mandate, the rising dollar is actually a good thing. A stronger dollar means lower imported inflation. A stronger dollar means less demand for U.S. exports from the rest of the world. The Fed is fighting inflation by hiking interest rates, trying to slow the economy and thereby reduce inflationary pressures. Right now, this run in the dollar is doing their job for them. 


Michael Zezas: I would add to that that we've been getting a lot of questions about, 'when would the Fed or the Treasury see this weakness and want to intervene on behalf of markets?' And I think the answer is it's unlikely to happen anytime soon. And there's really kind of two reasons for that. One, doing so would contradict the Fed and the Treasury's own stated goals of fighting inflation right now. I think there are heavy political and policy incentives that haven't changed that support that being the policy direction for those institutions. And then the second is, even if you intervened right now, our FX research team has pointed out it's probably unlikely to work. At the moment, there aren't a tremendous amount of FX reserves in the system with which to intervene. And so any intervention would probably deliver short term results. So long story short, if the intervention is against your goals and wouldn't likely work anyway, it's probably not going to happen. So, Andrew, I think this kind of brings the conversation back around to you. If there really isn't going to be any net change in the Federal Reserve's stance towards monetary policy, then what should investors expect going forward? 


Andrew Sheets: So at the risk of sounding simplistic, if we're not going to see a change in policy response from the Fed, then we shouldn't expect a major change in market dynamics. Core inflation remains higher than we think the Fed is comfortable with. That will keep pressure on the Fed to keep making hawkish noises that should keep upward pressure on the front end of the curve and keep the curve quite inverted. We think that helps support the dollar because while the dollar might be expensive in many measures of foreign exchange valuation, the dollar is still paying investors much more than currencies like the yen or the UK pound in real interest rates. And that differential is powerful, that differential is important. And I think that differential will keep investors looking for the safety and stability and higher yields of the U.S. dollar. Look, taking a step back, I think markets are adjusting to this dynamic where the Fed is not your friend as an investor. Which is the pattern that we saw through most of financial market history, but was different in the post global financial crisis era, when the level of stress on the markets was so severe that the level of policy support had to be extraordinary. And so that is a dynamic that's shifting now that we're facing a stronger economy, now that we're facing much stronger consumer and corporate demand, we're facing the more normal tradeoff where strong labor markets, strong consumer demand leads to a Federal Reserve that's really trying to tighten the reins and slow the economy down, slow financial market activity down. So, you know, investors are still sailing into that headwind. We think that presents a headwind to risky assets. We think that presents a headwind to the S&P 500. And we think, with the Fed still sounding quite serious on inflation, still erring on the side of caution, that will lead investors to continue to think more rate hikes are possible and support the U.S. dollar against many other currencies in the developed market, which still have lower yields, especially on an inflation adjusted basis. 


Seth Carpenter: So, Andrew, I think I want to jump in on that because I think what you're saying is, for now, nothing's changing and so we should expect the same market dynamics. Which brings up the question that you and I have got this week as we've been seeing clients, which is, 'what would cause the Fed to pivot? What would cause the Fed to change its policies?' And I think there, I would break it into two parts. Going back to my first point about what the rising interest rates and the rising dollar have been doing, they've been doing exactly what the Fed wants, limiting demand in the United States, slowing growth in the United States, and, as a result, putting downward pressure on inflation. If we get to the point where the US economy is clearly slowing enough, if we get data that is convincing that inflation is on a downward trajectory, that's what the Fed is looking for to pause their hiking cycle. So I think that's the first answer. The other version, though, is the market volatility that we're seeing is being driven by some of this policy action. We could get feedback loops, we could get increasing bouts of volatility where markets start to break, we could get credit markets breaking, we could get more volatility and interest rate markets like we saw in the U.K.. I think at some point we can see where there's a feedback loop from financial market disruptions globally that threatens the United States. And at some point, that kind of feedback could be enough to cause the Fed to take a pause. 


Andrew Sheets: So Seth, that's a great point. And actually, I want to push you on specifics here. How do you and the economics team think about a scenario where, let's say inflation is 3/10 lower than expected next month, or where we go from a very strong level of reading in the labor market? What would be an indication of the type of market stress that the Fed would care about relative to something it would see as more the normal course of business? 


Seth Carpenter: I don't think one month's worth of data coming in softer than forecast would be enough to completely change the Fed's mind, but it would be enough to change the Fed's tone. I think in those circumstances, if both nonfarm payrolls and CPI came in substantially below expectations, you would hear Chair Powell at the November meeting saying things like, 'We got some data that came in softer and for now, we're going to monitor the data to see if this same downward trajectory continues.' I think that kind of language from Powell would be a signal that a pivot is probably closer than you might have thought otherwise. Conversely, when it comes to financial markets, I think the key takeaway is that it has to be the type of financial market disruptions that the Fed thinks could spill back to the U.S. and hurt overall growth enough to slow the economy, to bring inflation down. Credit market disruptions are a key issue there. Sometimes we've seen global risk markets and global funding markets get disrupted. I think it's very hard to say ex-ante what it would take. But the key is that it would have to be severe enough that it would start to affect U.S. domestic markets. 


Andrew Sheets: So, Seth, Mike, it's been great to talk to you. So just to wrap this up, we face a backdrop where inflation still remains higher than the Federal Reserve would like it. We think that keeps policy hawkish, which keeps the dollar strong. And even though we've seen some market interventions to a limited degree, we don't see much larger interventions reversing the direction of the dollar. And we don't think such interventions, at the moment, would be particularly effective. We think that keeps the dollar strong and we think that means headwinds for markets, which leaves us cautious on risky assets in the near term. As always, this is a fast evolving story and we'll do our best to keep you up to date on it. 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Sep 30, 2022
Jonathan Garner: An Unusual Cycle for Asia and EM Equities
00:03:21

Asia and EM equities are on the verge of the longest bear market in their history, so what is the likelihood that a sharp fall in prices follows soon after?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jonathan Garner, Chief Asia and Emerging Market Equity Strategist at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be discussing the ongoing bear market in Asia and Emerging Market equities. It's Thursday, September the 29th at 8 a.m. in Singapore. 


We have repeatedly emphasized that patience may be rewarded during what will likely, by the end of this month, become the longest bear market in the history of Asia and Emerging Market equities. Indeed, we argued that the August Jackson Hole speech by Fed Chair Powell, and the mid-September upside surprise in U.S. CPI inflation likely accelerated a downward move towards our bear case targets near term. And in recent weeks, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index has indeed given back almost all of the gains it had recorded from the COVID recession lows. To our mind, this raises the likelihood that a classic capitulation trough, a sudden sharp fall in prices and high trading volumes, could be forming in a matter of weeks. 


Now, all cycles are not made alike, and this one is unusual in a number of key regards. Most notably, the dislocations in the supply side of the global economy caused by COVID and geopolitics. Moreover, China is not easing policy to the same extent as helped generate troughs in late 2008 and early 2016. Thus, caution is warranted in drawing too firm a set of conclusions from relationships that have held in the past. 


That said, by the end of this month, the current bear market will likely become the longest in the history of the asset class, overtaking in days duration that triggered by the dot com bust in the early 2000's. And after a more than 35% drawdown, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index is now trading close to prior trough valuations at only 10x price to consensus forward earnings. 


Our experience covering all previous bear markets back to 1997/1998 suggests to us ten sets of indicators to monitor. We've recently undertaken an exercise to score each indicator from 1, which equates to a trough indicator not enforced at all to 5, which indicates a compelling trough indicator already in place. Currently, the sum of the scores across the factors is 32 out of a maximum of 50, which we view as suggesting that a trough is approaching but not yet fully conclusive at this stage. In our view, the U.S. dollar, which continues to rise, including after the most recent FOMC meeting, gives the least sign of an impending trough in EM equities. Whilst the underperformance of the Korean equity market and the semiconductor sector, the recent sharp fall in oil price and the fall in the oil price relative to the gold price give the strongest signs. 


In this regard, we would note that within our coverage we recently downgraded the energy sector to neutral, upgrading defensive sectors, including telecoms and utilities. We intend to update the evolution of these indicators as appropriate as we attempt to help clients move through the trough of this unusually long Asia and Emerging Markets equity bear market. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and recommend Thoughts on the Market to a friend or colleague today.

Sep 29, 2022
Ellen Zentner: The Narrowing Path for a Soft Landing
00:04:10

As the Fed continues to increase their peak rate of interest, the path for a soft landing narrows, so what deflationary indicators need to show up in the real economy to take the pressure off of policy tightening?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley's Chief U.S. Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss the narrowing path for a soft landing for the U.S. economy. It's Wednesday, September 28, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Last week, we revised our outlook to reflect the expectation that the Fed will take its policy rate to a higher peak between 4.5% to 4.75% by early next year. And that's 75 basis points additional tightening than what we had envisioned previously. Tighter policy should push the real economy further below potential and substantially slow job gains. And while higher interest rates are needed to create that additional slack in the economy, this dynamic raises the risk of recession. There's still a path to a soft landing here, but it seems clear to us that path has narrowed. 


Now beyond directly interest sensitive sectors such as housing and durable goods, we've seen little evidence that the real economy is responding to the Fed's policy tightening. Just think about how strong monthly job gains remain in the range of 300,000. So in the absence of a broader slowdown, and facing persistent core inflation pressures such as a worrisome acceleration in rental prices, the Fed is on track to continue tightening at a faster pace than we had originally anticipated. Looking to the November meeting, we expect the Fed to hike rates by 75 basis points, and then begin to step down the pace of those rate hikes to 50 basis points in December and 25 basis points in January. We then expect the Fed to stay on hold until the first 25 basis point rate cut in December 2023. 


While inflation has remained stubborn, the growth environment has softened, and the lagged effect of monetary policy on economic activity points to further slowing ahead. So in response to substantially more drag from higher interest rates, we've lowered our 2023 growth forecast to just 0.5%. We then think a mild recovery sets in in the second half of 2023, but growth remains well below potential all year. 


In our forecast, weakness in economic activity will be spread more broadly, and monetary policy acts with a 2 to 3 quarter lag on interest rate sensitive sectors such as durable goods. So the sharper slowdown we envision in 2023 predominantly reflects a downshift in consumption growth. Business investment also tends to respond with a lag and will become a negative for growth in the first half of 2023. 


With growth falling more rapidly below potential, the labor market is on track to follow suit. We now see job gains bottoming at 55,000 per month by the middle of 2023. Lower job growth in combination with a rising participation rate, lifts the unemployment rate further to 4.4% by the end of next year. 


Inflation pressures have still not turned decisively lower, in particular because of rising shelter costs. High frequency measures point to eventual deceleration, though it should be gradual, even as the labor market loosens on below potential growth. We see core PCE inflation at 4.6% on a year over year basis in the fourth quarter of this year, and slow to 3.1% year over year in the fourth quarter of next year. So inflation is a good deal lower by the end of next year, but that's still too high to allow for rate cuts much before the end of 2023. 


Turning to risks, we think the risk to the outlook and monetary policy path now skew to the downside and a policy mistake is coming into focus. At the Fed's current pace of tightening uncertainty as to how the economy will respond a few months down the line is high. The labor market tends to be slow moving, but we and frankly monetary policymakers have no experience with interest rate changes of this magnitude. And activity could come to a halt faster than expected. Essentially, the higher the peak rate of interest the Fed aims for, the greater the risk of recession. 


We are already moving through sustained below potential GDP growth. We now need to see job gains slow materially over the next few months to ease the pressure on the pace of policy tightening. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Sep 28, 2022
Martijn Rats: Will Oil Prices Continue to Fall?
00:03:47

While the global oil market has seen a decrease in demand, supply issues are still prevalent, leaving investors to question where oil prices are headed next.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Martijn Rats, Morgan Stanley's Global Commodity Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss the current state of the global oil market. It's Tuesday, September 27th, at 2 p.m. in London. 


U.S. consumers have no doubt noticed and appreciated a welcome relief from the recent pain at the gas pump. Up until last week, U.S. gas prices had been sinking every day for more than three months, marking the second longest such streak on record going back to 2005. This gas price plunge in the U.S. was driven in part by the unprecedented releases of emergency oil by the White House. But what else is happening globally on the macro level? 


Looking at the telltale signs in the oil markets, they tell a clear story that physical tightness has waned. Spot prices have fallen, forward curves have flattened, physical differentials have come in and refining margins have weakened. A growth slowdown in all main economic blocks has pointed to weaker oil demand for some time, and this is now also visible in oil specific data. China has been a particularly important contributor to this. 


However, prices have also corrected substantially by now. Adjusted for inflation, Brent crude oil is back below its 15 year average price. In this context, the current price is not particularly high. Also, the Brent futures curve has in fact flattened to such an extent that current time spreads would have historically corresponded with much higher inventories expressed in days of demand. That means, in short, that the market structure is already discounting a significant inventory built and/or a large demand decline. 


Then there is still meaningful uncertainty over what will happen to oil supply from Russia once the EU import embargo kicks in later this year for crude oil, and early next year for oil products. The EU still imports about three and a half million barrels a day of oil from Russia. Redirecting such a large volume to other buyers, and then redirecting other oil back to Europe is possible over time, but probably not without significant disruption for an extended period. For a while, we suspect that this will lead to a net loss of oil supply to the markets in the order of one and a half million barrels a day. To attract enough other oil to Europe, European oil prices will need to stay elevated. The relative price of oil in Europe is Brent crude oil. 


Elsewhere, there are supply issues too. We started off the year forecasting nearly a million barrels a day of oil production growth from the United States. But so far this year, actual growth in the first six months of the year has just been half that level. We still assume some back end loaded growth later this year, but have lowered our forecast already several times. Then Nigerian oil production has deteriorated much faster than expected, currently at the lowest level since the early 1970s. Kazakhstan exports via the CBC terminal are hampered, OPEC's spare capacity has fallen to just over 1%, and the rig count recovery in the Middle East remains surprisingly anemic. 


The long term structural outlook for the oil market still remains one of tightness, but for now this is overshadowed by cyclical demand challenges. As long as macroeconomic conditions remain so weak, oil prices will probably continue to linger on. However, that should not be taken as a sign that the structural issues in the oil market around investment and capacity are solved. As we all know, after recession comes recovery. Once demand picks up, the structural issues will likely reassert themselves. We have lowered our near-term oil price forecast, but still see a firmer market at some point in 2023 again. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Sep 27, 2022
Mike Wilson: A Sudden Drop for Stocks and Bonds
00:03:50

After last week’s Fed meeting and another rate hike, both stocks and bonds dropped back to June lows. The question is, will this turn to the downside continue to accelerate?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, September 26, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Last week's Fed meeting gave us the 75 basis point hike most investors were expecting, and similar messaging to what we heard at Jackson Hole a month ago. In short, the Fed means business with inflation and is willing to do whatever it takes to combat it. So why was there such a dramatic reaction in the bond and stock markets? Were investors still hoping the Fed would make a dovish pivot? Whatever the reason, both stocks and bonds are right back to their June lows, with many bellwether stocks and treasuries even lower. As we wrote a few weeks ago, we think investor hopes for a Fed pivot were misplaced, and Chair Powell has now made that crystal clear. 


Secondly, we noted last week that the only remaining hope for stocks would be if the bond market rallied at the back end on the view that the Fed was finally ahead of the curve and would win its fight against inflation, while slowing the economy materially. Instead, interest rates spiked higher, squelching any hopes for stocks. While 15.6x price earnings ratio is back to the June lows, that P/E still embeds what we think is a mispriced equity risk premium given the risk to earnings. 


Said another way, with a Fed pivot now off the table, the path on bond and equity prices will come down to growth - economic growth for bonds and earnings growth for stocks. On both counts we are pessimistic, particularly on the latter as supported by our recent cuts to earnings forecasts. We have been discussing these forecasts with clients for the past several weeks and while most are in agreement that consensus 2023 earnings estimates are too high, there is still a debate on how much. Suffice it to say, we are at the low end of client expectations. Interestingly, recent economic data have kept the economic soft landing view alive, and interest rates have moved above our rates team's year end forecast. From an equity market standpoint, that means no relief for valuations as earnings come down. This is a major reason why stocks sank to their June lows on Friday. 


Ultimately, we do think economic surprise data will likely disappoint again, but until it does there is no end in sight for the rise in 10 year yields, especially with the run off of the Fed's balance sheet increasing. As such, our rates team has raised its year end target for 10 year Treasury yields to 4% from 3.5%. This is a very tough backdrop for stocks and epitomizes our fire and ice thesis to a T. In other words, rising cost of capital and lower liquidity in the face of slower earnings growth or even outright declines. 


Finally, the Fed's historically hawkish action has led to record strength in the U.S. dollar. On a year over year basis the dollar is now up 21% and still rising. Based on our analysis that every 1% change in the dollar has a .5% impact on S&P 500 earnings growth, fourth quarter S&P 500 earnings will face an approximate 10% headwind to growth all else equal. This is in addition to the other challenges we've been discussing for months, like the pay back in demand and higher cost from inflation to name a few. 


Bottom line Part 2 of our Fire and ice thesis is now on full display, with rates and the U.S. dollar ratcheting higher, just as the negative revisions for earnings appear set to accelerate to the downside. In our view, the bear market in stocks will not be over until the S&P 500 reaches the range of our base and bear targets, i.e. 3000 to 3400 later this fall. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Sep 26, 2022
U.S. Economy: The Fed Continues to Fight Inflation
00:07:37

After another Fed meeting and another historically high rate hike, it’s clear that the Fed is committed to fighting inflation, but how and when will the real economy see the effects? Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Global Chief Economist Seth Carpenter discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley Research. 


Seth Carpenter: And I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's Global Chief Economist. 


Andrew Sheets:] And on this special edition of the podcast, we'll be talking about the global economy and the challenges that central banks face. It's Friday, September 23rd at 2 p.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So, Seth, it's great to talk to you. It's great to talk to you face to face, in person, we're both sitting here in New York and we're sitting here on a week where there was an enormous amount of focus on the challenges that central banks are facing, particularly the Federal Reserve. So I think that's a good place to start. When you think about the predicament that the Federal Reserve is in, how would you describe it? 


Seth Carpenter: I think the Federal Reserve is in a such a challenging situation because they have inflation that they know, that everyone knows, is just simply too high. So they're trying to orchestrate what what is sometimes called a soft landing, that is slowing the economy enough so that the inflationary pressures go away, but not so much that the economy starts to contract and we lose millions of jobs. That's a tricky proposition. 


Andrew Sheets: So we had a Federal Reserve meeting this week where the Fed raised its target interest rate by 75 basis points, a relatively large move by the standards of the last 20 years. What did you take away from that meeting? And as you think about that from kind of a bigger picture perspective, what's the Fed trying to communicate? 


Seth Carpenter: So the Federal Reserve is clear, they are committed to tightening policy in order to get inflation under control, and the way they will do that is by slowing the economy. That said, every quarter they also provide their own projections for how the economy is likely to evolve over the next several years, and this set of projections go all the way out to 2025. So, a very long term view. And one thing I took away from that was they are willing to be patient with inflation coming down if they can manage to get it down without causing a recession. And what do I mean by patient? In their forecasts, it's still all the way out in 2025 that inflation is just a little bit above their 2% target. So they're not trying to get inflation down this year. They're not trying to get inflation down next year. They're not trying to get inflation down even over a two year period, it's quite a long, protracted process that they have in mind. 


Andrew Sheets: One question that's coming up a lot in our meetings with investors is, what's the lag between the Fed raising interest rates today and when that interest rate rise really hits the economy? Because, you are dealing with a somewhat unique situation that the American consumer, to an unusual extent, has most of their debt in a 30 year fixed rate mortgage or some sort of less interest rate sensitive vehicle relative to history. And so if a larger share of American debt is in these fixed rate mortgages, what the Fed does today might take longer to work its way through the economy. So how do you think about that and maybe how do you think the Fed thinks about that issue? 


Seth Carpenter: It's not going to be immediate. In round terms, if you take data for the past 35 years and come up with averages, you know, probably take something like two or three quarters for monetary policy to start to affect the real side of the economy. And then another two or three quarters after that for the slowing in the real side of the economy to start to affect inflation. So, quite a long period of time. Even more complicated is the fact that markets, as you know as well as anyone, start to anticipate central bank. So it's not really from when the central bank changes its policy tools when markets start to build in the tightening. So that gives them a little bit of a head start. So right now, the Fed just pushed its policy rate up to just over 3%, but markets have been pricing in some hiking for some time. So I would say we're already feeling some of the slowing of the real side of the economy from the markets having priced in policy, but there's still a lot more to come. Where is it showing up? You mentioned housing. Mortgage rates have gone up, home prices have appreciated over the past several years, and as a result we have seen new home sales, existing home sales both turnover and start to fall down. So we are starting to see some of it. How much more we see and how deep it goes, I think remains to be seen. 


Andrew Sheets: So Seth, another issue that investors are struggling with is on the one hand, they're seeing all of these quite large moves by global central banks. We're also seeing a reduction in the central bank balance sheet, a reversal of the quantitative easing that was done to support the economy during COVID, the so-called quantitative tightening. How do you think about quantitative tightening? What is it? How should we think about it? 


Seth Carpenter: I have to say, during my time at the Federal Reserve, I wrote memos on precisely this topic. So what is quantitative tightening? It is in some sense the opposite of quantitative easing. So the Federal Reserve, after taking short term interest rates all the way to zero, wanted to try to stimulate the economy more. And so they bought a lot of Treasury securities, they bought a lot of mortgage backed securities with an eye to pushing down longer term interest rates even more to try to stimulate more spending. So quantitative tightening is finding a way to reverse that. They are letting the Treasury securities that they have on their balance sheet mature and then they're not reinvesting, and so their balance sheet is shrinking. They're letting the mortgage backed securities on their balance sheet that are prepaying, run off their balance sheet and they're not reinvesting it. And when they make that choice, it means that the market has to absorb more of these types of securities. So what does the market do? Well, the market has to make room for it in someone's portfolio, and usually what that means is to make room on a portfolio prices have to adjust somewhere. Now, markets have been anticipating this move for a long time, and I suspect our colleagues who are in the Rate Strategy Group suspect that most of the effect of this unwind of the balance sheet is already in the price. But the proof is always really in the pudding, and we'll see over time, as the private sector absorbs all these securities, just how much more price adjustment there has to be. 


Andrew Sheets: And then, I imagine this is a hard question to answer, but if the Fed started to think that it was tightening too much, if the economy was slowing a lot more than expected or there was more stress in the system than expected - do we think it's more likely that they would pause quantitative tightening or that they would pause the rate hikes that the market's expecting? 


Seth Carpenter: I feel pretty highly convicted that if the slowing in the economy that they're seeing is manageable, if it's within the range of what they're expecting, it's interest rates. Interest rates are, to refer once again to what Chair Powell has said many times, the primary tool for adjusting the stance of monetary policy. So they're hiking rates now, at some point they'll reduce the size of those rate hikes and at some point they'll stop those rate hikes. Then the economy, hopefully in their mind, will be slowing to reduce inflationary pressure. They might judge that it's slowing too much if they feel like the adjustment they have to make is to lower interest rates by 25 basis points, maybe 50 basis points, even a little bit more than that if it happens over the course of a year, I still think the primary tool is short term interest rates. However, if the world changes dramatically, if they feel like, oh my gosh, we totally misjudged that. Then I think they would curtail the run off of the balance sheet. 


Andrew Sheets: Seth, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Seth Carpenter: Andrew, It's always my pleasure to talk to you. 


Andrew Sheets: And thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Sep 23, 2022
Thematic Investing: Moonshots
00:08:23

With high returns in mind, investors may be looking to get in on the ground floor with the next ambitious and disruptive technology, but how are these ‘moonshots’ identified and which ones could make a near-term impact? Head of Thematic Research in Europe Ed Stanley and Head of the Global Autos and Shared Mobility Team Adam Jonas discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Ed Stanley: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ed Stanley, Morgan Stanley's Head of Thematic Research based in London. 


Adam Jonas: And I'm Adam Jonas, Head of the Global Autos and Shared Mobility Team. 


Ed Stanley: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing the bold potential of moonshot technologies, and particularly in the face of deepening global recession fears. It's Thursday, the 22nd of September, at 4 p.m. in London. 


Adam Jonas: And 11 a.m. in New York. 


Adam Jonas: Let me start with an eye popping number. Since 2000, 1% of companies have generated roughly 40% of shareholder returns by developing moonshots, that is ambitious and radical solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems using disruptive technology. So here at Morgan Stanley Research, we naturally spend a lot of time wondering what are the potential moonshots of the next decade? What's the next light bulb, airplane, satellite, internet? What technologies are developing literally as I record this that we'll be focused on in 2032? So Ed, I know you really want to dig into the specifics of some of the sectors that are touched on in the Moonshot Technologies report you wrote, but first can you maybe explain the framework for identifying these moonshots? 


Ed Stanley: So this is a totally different horizon and way of thinking to what most investors are used to. Typically, when looking for investable themes or technologies in public markets, we focus on those that are at or have surpassed a 20% adoption rate, those essentially with the wind at their back already. But clearly, with moonshots, we're looking much, much earlier, but with a much greater risk reward skew. There are a number of potentially groundbreaking technologies out there incubating right now. The next iPhone moment is out there, is being developed, and it should be all of our job to sniff out what, when and where that pivotal product will come from. But the question we've received is how do you whittle that funnel of potential technologies down? So we come at it from first principles. Academic research, either by individuals, governments or companies, tends to be the genesis for most groundbreaking ideas. This then feeds patenting, or in other words R&D, for small and big companies alike to build a moat around that research they pioneered. And then venture capital comes in to support some of those speculative innovations, but importantly, only those that have product market fit, which is what we focus on. 


Adam Jonas: So Ed, why do you think now is such an interesting time to be thinking about moonshots, given such a challenging macro backdrop? 


Ed Stanley: It's a great question. So if you take a step back, there are always reasons to be concerned in the markets. But moments of peak anxiety in hindsight tend to be the moments of peak opportunity. I'll steal an overused cliche, necessity is the mother of invention. We're more likely to see breakthroughs in energy technology, for example, at the moment, at the point of peak acute pain than five years ago when there was no real impetus. This is exactly why some of the most innovative companies are born during or just after recession or inflationary periods. In fact, if you look at the stats, one third of Fortune 500 companies were born in the handful of recessionary years over the last century. So macro may be getting worse, but we remain pretty committed to uncovering long term, game changing themes and investments. 


Adam Jonas: Can you give us a summary of the output and to which moonshots really stood out to you as having the potential for profound change over the medium term? 


Ed Stanley: Sure. So there are clearly some that are not only profound but frankly unfathomable in terms of their potential impacts. Things like life extension, a startup developing artificial general intelligence, also known as a singularity, and Web3 remains a fascinating sandbox of crypto and blockchain experiments. So there's a wealth of fascinating moonshots in there, but I'd focus on two that have more prescient implications for investors near-term. First is pre-fab housing. It's nothing new as a concept. It's essentially the process of bringing construction into the factory to increase efficiency. But we're now moving from 2D assemblies of walls and roof panels to the real moonshot, which is 3D assembly of the entire house, pre-made, and that is now happening. These pre-built whole houses can be 40 to 50% cheaper and quicker, and so coming back to your question around why now? Moonshots like this have little momentum in good years, but construction input costs up 20% year on year, suddenly you have the catalyst for innovative, greener, low waste pre-fab solutions. And the second one, I think is really fascinating and few people are well versed in it, is deepfakes and the new era of synthetic reality. These are livestream videos and voice renderings to create the impression that you are watching or speaking to someone that you are not. And I think by highlighting this, we are also trying to show that not all moonshots are good news. At the moment, the risk is fake news, but that is the tip of the iceberg. But with that said, Adam, I want to jump to you. You're the perfect person to speak to given your knowledge of EVs in particular. And just like the smartphone market, those were once considered to be far fetched moonshots by some people, and yet they're heading towards ubiquity. So you've written a lot in the last couple of years around the "muskonomy", as you call it. Before we get into some moonshots you're interested in, can you explain to us what the "muskonomy" is? 


Adam Jonas: We're referring to the portfolio of businesses and endeavors of Elon Musk, of course, across EVs and batteries and renewable energy and autonomous vehicles. Of course, his efforts in space and tunneling technology. Taken together we think he's in a position where any improvement in one of those businesses can help the advancement and accelerate development of the other three domains and then kind of feedback on itself and create a bit of velocity. But the point is, these businesses address huge physical markets. Markets that address the atomic economy, what I mean by that, the periodic table not the not the metaverse. Right, we need to kind of sort reality out here. These are high CapEx businesses, high moat businesses where trillions and trillions of capital will need to be redeployed with regulatory oversight, environmental planning, supply chain, industrialization, standards setting and of course, taxpayer involvement along the way. 


Ed Stanley: It's a fascinating point, which we touched on in some of our other research around the innovation stack and how building technology on top of other layers of technology accelerates the disruption. I'm keen to understand from an investability perspective, what time horizons do you think we could expect some of these breakthroughs in? And where are the tailwinds coming from? 


Adam Jonas: Right now, of course his efforts in EVs are well known. What I think is less appreciated is changing how manufacturing is done. Elon wants to make a car, ideally out of a single piece of injected molded aluminum in a 12,000 ton giga press. To really make a fuselage of a car and take the parts count down dramatically. And he wants to inject into this fuselage his structural battery pack, his 4680 battery battery pack. And so changing how vehicles are made and designing the battery into the car is something that really excites us in terms of finally getting that price of EVs down. So the other thing I would highlight that makes us very excited is his tunneling technology, we would watch that. And so we pay attention to Los Angeles and Las Vegas and Austin, Texas and San Antonio and Fort Lauderdale, Miami. These city, city pairs in states where we think Elon Musk can yield influence and we think this could be really the next big thing in infrastructure, not in a 2 to 3 year period, but certainly in a 5 to 10 year period with investment being attracted and relevant right now. 


Ed Stanley: Well, that's a fantastic synopsis. Plenty to whet the appetite on moonshots of the next 5 to 10 years. Adam, thanks very much for taking the time to talk. 


Adam Jonas: Great speaking with you, Ed. 


Ed Stanley: And thanks for listening. If you enjoyed Thoughts on the Market, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or a colleague today. 

Sep 22, 2022
Michael Zezas: Why Isn’t Fed Hiking Impacting Inflation?
00:02:47

Though the Fed continues to raise interest rates, inflation is still high year over year, so why haven’t rate hikes begun to bring inflation down yet?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, September 21st at 10 a.m. in New York. 


The Fed continues to hike interest rates, but inflation is still running hot in the U.S. as demonstrated by last week's 8.3% year over year growth in the Consumer Price Index. When and how the Fed will eventually succeed in dampening inflation is an important consideration for markets, but investors should also focus on another question. Why hasn't fed hiking worked to bring down inflation yet? 


Well, there's a strong case to be made that the U.S. economy is less sensitive to changes in interest rates today than it has been in the past. In total, about 90% of all household debt today is fixed rate, meaning that as the Fed hikes rates and market rates rise, consumers’ debts don't cost them more to service. If they did, then rising interest rates would dampen economic growth by dampening aggregate demand. Those higher rates would in theory crimp consumption, as households direct less of their money toward buying goods and services and more toward paying their debts. That, in turn, would ease inflation. 


Understanding this dynamic is important for investors in a few ways. Take the housing market, for example. After the housing crisis that touched off the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, adjustable rate mortgages only now make up a small fraction of all mortgages. Sure, higher mortgage rates means buying a new home is effectively more expensive, but with so many more mortgages in the U.S. carrying a fixed rate and issued to individuals with higher credit scores, the cost of owning a home to current owners hasn't changed. That means there's little incentive for homeowners to sell and or reduce the asking price for their home. Hence, our housing strategists expect home sales to decline meaningfully, but you may not see a lot of price deterioration in the aggregate. 


The bond market is another place we see this dynamic on display. Our interest rate strategy team expects you'll see the yield curve continue to flatten and invert, with shorter maturity yields rising faster than longer ones. Why? Because shorter maturities typically track the Fed funds rate, which the Fed has clearly stated will continue going higher until there's clear evidence of inflation deceleration, which could take longer given the economy's lessened sensitivity to rising rates. For bond investors, the bottom line is you should consider something that historically has been pretty unusual - longer maturities might perform better even as rates go higher. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

Sep 21, 2022
Robin Xing: Can China’s Economy Stabilize Global Growth?
00:04:05

As the global economic outlook turns toward a slowdown in growth, some investors may look to China for stability, but, when they do, what will they find?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Robin Xing, Morgan Stanley's Chief China Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I will discuss whether China can stabilize global growth amid recession fears. It's Tuesday, September 20th at 9 AM in Hong Kong. 


The global economic outlook is dimming, and my colleagues have already discussed their expectations for slowdown in developed market economies driven by surging prices and aggressive monetary policy tightening. In this context, investors are likely to turn their attention to China, perhaps hoping it can once again stabilize global growth as it did after the 2008 global financial crisis. China's economy, however, appears to be fragile. While it has bottomed after the contraction due to Shanghai lockdown in the second quarter, it is still modeling not yet through. And we forecast a below consensus 2.8% GDP growth this year, and only a modest rebound to slightly above 5% in 2023. 


To date, China has deployed the monetary policy easing and the infrastructure investment spending. But these steps have not got a lot of traction because of two key hurdles; continuing COVID restrictions and the trouble in its housing market. We see growth rebounding in next year, but that recovery depends heavily on policy addressing these two key hurdles. Hence, we look for a more concerted policy response in the housing market, and a clearer path towards reopening post the upcoming 20th Party Congress in October. 


First, to limit the fallout from the housing sector, Beijing will likely ramp up policy support. It is true that China's aging population has pushed the housing market into a structural downward trajectory, but the pace of the recent collapse vastly exceeds that trend. The choke point is homebuyers lack of confidence in developers ability to deliver the pre-sold house, which shrinks new home sales and puts more stress on developers liquidity. We think that Beijing will provide additional funding and intervention to ensure contracted home construction is completed. This, combined with more home purchases, stimulus and the liquidity support to surviving developers could break the negative feedback loop. 


Second, we expect a gradual exit from COVID-zero next spring. With the more transmissive Omicron, the rolling lockdowns in China are taking their toll on consumption and even posing challenges to supply chains. The renewed lockdowns in several major cities and the recent slowdown in vaccination progress suggest that COVID-zero would not end swiftly after the Party Congress in October. But the key metrics to watch by then will be, first, the pace of vaccination, second, wider adoption of domestic covid treatment and finally shift in public opinion from fearing the virus to a more balanced assessment. 


Provided that policy can address these two hurdles I just described, China's economic recovery should firm up from second quarter 2023 onwards, with growth of slightly above 5% for next year are our numbers. But even with this rebound, the positives spill over to the rest of the world is unlikely to be on par with history. Construction activities might improve with the stabilizing property sector, which is a familiar driver of Chinese imports. But the key driver will be a turnaround in domestic private consumption, particularly of services, so that demand pull from other economies will be somewhat muted. 


Thus, while we doubt that China would tip the global economy into recession, neither do we see China at its salvation. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Sep 20, 2022
Seth Carpenter: Tracking the Coming Slowdown
00:04:09

From Europe, to China, to the U.S., global economies are facing unique challenges as the brewing storm of recession risks seem to still indicate a slowdown ahead.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Global Chief Economist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the rising risks of global recession and what might be ahead. It's Thursday, September 22nd at 10 a.m. in New York. 


About a year ago, I wrote about the brewing storm of recession risks around the world. Some downbeat economics news has come in since then, but the worst of the global slowdown is ahead of us, not behind us. We have an outright recession as our baseline forecast in the euro area and the U.K. The Chinese economy is on the brink with such weak growth that whether we have a global recession or not might just turn out to be a semantic distinction. 


First, Europe. It's hardly out of consensus at this point to call for a recession there, but we have been forecasting a recession since the start of the summer. The energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a cost shock that is now effectively locked into the outlook for the next couple of quarters. Consumer bills will stay high, sapping purchasing power, fiscal deficits will take a hit and industries are already rationing energy use. 


For the UK, leaving Europe has not left behind the energy crisis across the channel. And the UK is also suffering from structural changes to its labor supply and trade relationships, and that's dragging down growth beyond these cyclical movements. That said, new leadership in Parliament is pointing to a huge fiscal stimulus that will mitigate the pain to households and reduce the depth of the recession. 


Now turning to China, markets have looked at China as a possible buoy for global growth, but this time any such hope really needs to be tempered, China's economy is in a fragile position. In our forecasts growth this year will be about 2.75%, below consensus and well below the potential growth of the economy. And then we think there'll be a rebound in growth next year, we're only looking for a modest 5.25% next year. Those sorts of numbers are not the real game changers people hope for. So far, the fiscal and monetary policy that has been deployed has not got a lot of traction. 


There are two key restraints on the Chinese economy right now; trouble in the housing market and continuing COVID restrictions. After the party Congress in mid-October things should probably start to change, but we're not expecting a quick fix. Right now construction and delivery of new homes is not getting done, so the cash flow is drying up, creating an adverse feedback loop. So far, the PBOC has rolled out about 200 billion renminbi bank loans to support this delivery, and we expect more intervention and funding over time. So as easy as it is to be gloomy on the outlook, a catastrophic collapse in housing doesn't seem likely. As for COVID, we are now expecting only a gradual exit from COVID zero next spring. The key metrics to watch will be the pace of vaccinations and wider adoption of domestic COVID treatments and a shift in public opinion. In particular, we think getting the over 60 population to at least an 80% booster vaccination rate next spring will flag the removal of restrictions. 


If there is a silver lining, it's that we still think the U.S. avoids a near-term recession. Despite notching a technical recession in the first half of the year, the U.S. outlook is somewhat brighter. For the first half of the year nonfarm payrolls averaged almost 450,000 per month, that's hardly the stuff of nightmares. But we don't want to be too cheerful. From the Fed's perspective, the economy has to slow to bring down inflation. They are raising interest rates expressly to slow the economy. So far, the housing market has clearly turned, but payrolls have only slowed a bit, and the moderation in wage inflation is probably not as much as the Fed is looking for. To date, we have not seen much slowing in consumer durables, so the economy remains beyond its speed limit and the Fed will keep hiking. How much? Well, depends on how strong the economy stays. So there really isn't much upside, only downside. The Fed is committed to hiking until the demand pressures driving inflation back off, so one way or another, the economy is going to slow. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy this show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Sep 19, 2022
Andrew Sheets: The Case for Credit
00:03:04

While credit and equities have both suffered this year, economic conditions in the U.S. and Emerging Markets may lead to credit having a bit more stability in the coming months.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, September 16th, at 3 p.m. in London. 


Year-to-date, both credit and equities have suffered. Looking ahead, we think credit is better positioned in both the U.S. and emerging markets, given the outlook for growth, policy and relative valuations. 


Conventional wisdom can change quickly in markets. Two months ago, there was widespread concern that the United States was already in a recession, given weak readings of quarterly GDP and some of the lowest levels of consumer confidence since the 2009 financial crisis. That weakness drove hope over July and August. Maybe the Federal Reserve had raised interest rates enough. Maybe it was nearly done. 


But the data since points to an American economy that continues to trundle along. The labor market continues to look extremely healthy, with about 315,000 jobs added last month and over 3.5 million jobs added year-to-date. Manufacturing activity has expanded every month this year. And consumer spending remains solid, one of the reasons core inflation remains elevated. 


In short, if the U.S. economy is going to slow down, that risk lies ahead of us, not behind us. And as long as the data remains solid and core inflation remains elevated, the Federal Reserve will face pressure to air on the side of caution and keep raising rates to tamp down on inflationary pressure. 


For investors this backdrop, where economic activity is still solid but might slow in the future, where inflation is high and the central bank is hiking, and where the labor market is tight and the yield curve is inverted, is what's commonly referred to as a "late cycle" environment. 


It's a set of conditions that has historically been challenging for future returns overall, but it's often been worse for equities relative to credit over the following 12 months, as the former is more sensitive to a potential slowdown in growth that hasn't happened yet. 


In addition to the economic conditions, relative valuations have also moved in favor of credit markets relative to equities. In the US, 1 to 5 year corporate bonds now yield about 4.9%, rapidly nearing the current earnings yield of the S&P 500 at about 5.9%. Despite just a 1% difference in yield, those short dated bonds have about one fifth of the volatility of stocks over the last 30 days. 


We hold a similar view on Emerging Markets. The sovereign debt index yields about 7.7%, just 1% less than the earnings yield of the MSCI Emerging Market Equity Index. Not only is EM sovereign debt less volatile than EM equities, but it has more exposure to the countries our analysts think provide the better risk reward. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Sep 16, 2022
U.S. Public Policy: The Impact of Student Loan Forgiveness
00:06:37

The White House recently announced a student loan forgiveness program, prompting questions about implementation, economic implications, and whether the program will have an impact on consumer spending. Sarah Wolfe of the U.S. Economics team and Arianna Salvatore of the U.S. Public Policy team discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Sarah Wolfe: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Sarah Wolfe from Morgan Stanley's U.S. Economics Team. 


Ariana Salvatore: And I'm Ariana Salvatore from Morgan Stanley's U.S. Public Policy Research Team. 


Sarah Wolfe: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll focus on student loans, in particular the recent student loan forgiveness program, and we'll dig into the impact on consumers and the economy. It's Thursday, September 15th, at 12 p.m. in New York. 


Sarah Wolfe: So, Ariana, the White House recently announced plans to forgive individuals up to $20,000 in federal student loans and extend the moratorium on interest payments. However, there was some confusion earlier in the year as both President Biden and Speaker Pelosi expressed doubts about the president's authority to cancel student debt. So is this something that requires an act of Congress, or can the president really do it alone? 


Ariana Salvatore: As you mentioned, prior to the announcement, there was some unresolved questions out there surrounding the legality of canceling student debt. In revealing the program, the administration cited authority from a 2003 law called the 'Heroes Act' that gives the executive the power to reduce or eliminate student debt during a national emergency, “when significant actions with potentially far reaching consequences are often required”. That being said, don't expect it to go over quietly. Reporting indicates that some Republican attorneys general are looking to bring legal challenges to the plan, which could present a risk to execution. But let's put questions about implementation aside for a second. What does reduced student debt impact more, longer term planning or immediate spending? And how do you quantify the impact on consumer spending? 


Sarah Wolfe: Thanks, Ariana. I'd like to just take a step back for a second before I talk about the economic impact, just so we could size up the program a bit. We estimate that there's going to be $330 to $390 billion in debt directly forgiven as part of this program. However, we estimate that the fiscal multiplier is actually quite small. So every dollar of debt that's forgiven that's going to get spent and put back into the economy, is really estimated at only 0.1. This is really small when you consider the fiscal multiplier of the COVID stimulus programs. So for example, the stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, that had a fiscal multiplier of 0.5 to 0.9. So it was much larger. The reason for this is because our survey work shows that people who have their student debt forgiven don't actually change their immediate spending patterns. Instead, it really impacts longer term planning. We're talking about paying down other debts, planning for retirement, perhaps buying a house or having a child earlier, and so there's not really an immediate spending impact on the economy. What does have a larger fiscal multiplier is forbearance coming to an end. Prior to COVID, people were on average paying $260 a month in student loan payments. That's been on hold for two and a half years. So when that resumes again in January, it's likely going to be less than $260 a month because of the loan forgiveness and other measures passed by the White House to limit loan payments per month. However, that's an immediate impact to discretionary income, and as a result, we're going to see a lot of households adjust their spending in the near term to make these new loan payments. Arianna, speaking of student loan forbearance, which I mentioned is set to end at the end of this year after a number of extensions, the White House is hoping that forgiveness is going to kick in right when forbearance comes to an end. Can we actually count on the timing working out like this? 


Ariana Salvatore: So there's definitely a risk that the program is delayed because of normal implementation hurdles, right. Things like determining eligibility for cancellation among millions of borrowers. The Department of Education memo that was released following the announcement says that 8 million borrowers may be eligible to receive relief automatically because relevant income data is already available. However, the department is also in the process of creating an application so borrowers can apply for forgiveness on their own, but that hasn't gone live yet. The DOE said it would be ready no later than when the pause on federal student loan repayments expires at the end of this year. Unfortunately, there's no real way to know when exactly that will be. 


Sarah Wolfe: So let me just get this clear. The Department of Education only has the information on 8 million student loan borrowers right now. So they're going to need to gather the information for the remaining borrowers up to 43 million in order to start this forgiveness program. 


Ariana Salvatore: Yeah, exactly. And that's why we tend to see large scale government programs like this take a little bit of time to ramp up rollout and have impacts on the economy. So in the event that all of those eligible to take advantage of the forgiveness program actually do so, let's focus in on the macroeconomic impacts. In this high inflation environment, wouldn't student loan forgiveness also have an additional inflationary effect? 


Sarah Wolfe: Definitely at face value, student loan forgiveness is inflationary. However, as I mentioned earlier, because it doesn't impact near-term spending decisions and is more about longer term planning, the inflationary impact, I think, is less than people would think. It's estimated to only add 0.1 to 0.5 percentage points to inflation 12 months following the cancellation. However, the forbearance program, as I mentioned, since that's going to have more of an immediate impact on spending decisions, that's going to have a deflationary impact. And it's estimated that forbearance programs are going to shave 0.2 percentage points off inflation over the 12 months following forbearance starting again. And so if you think about forgiveness being inflationary and forbearance being disinflationary, it's likely that forbearance is going to outweigh some of the inflationary impact, if not all of it, from forgiveness. 


Ariana Salvatore: Okay, so bringing it back to a more micro level. Last question for you here, Sarah. What are the implications for consumer credit and consumer ABS? 


Sarah Wolfe: We think that student loan payments restarting in January pose quite a bit of risk to consumer credit quality. Although we're seeing consumer credit quality today is very healthy and delinquencies are low, we are starting to see delinquencies rise for subprime borrowers in recent months. Also, if we dig into the data and look at how student loan borrowers have been paying down their student loans over the last 2.5 years versus those who haven't been, the credit quality for those who have not been is much worse than those who have been. That leads us to believe that come January, when everybody needs to start paying down their student loans, that in particular these more subprime, lower income borrowers are really going to struggle and it's going to deteriorate credit quality. 


Sarah Wolfe: Well, Ariana, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Ariana Salvatore: Great speaking with you, Sarah. 


Sarah Wolfe: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Sep 15, 2022
Michael Zezas: Why the Midterm Elections Matter
00:02:34

With only 60 days to go until the U.S. midterm elections, investors will want to know how different outcomes could impact markets, both locally and globally.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It's Wednesday, September 14th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


We're less than 60 days from the U.S. midterm elections and investors should pay attention. A lot has changed since we published our midterm election guide earlier this year, so here's what you need to know now. 


First, there's still key policies in play. Sure, Democrats have had more legislative success in recent months than many expected. By enacting corporate tax increases, a prescription drug negotiation plan, a major appropriation to clean energy transformation, and the China competition bill, Democrats took off the table many of the policy variables whose outcomes would have relied on the outcome of the election. But some key policy variables remain that matter to markets. In particular tech regulation, crypto regulation and tougher China competition measures, such as outbound investment controls, become more possible if Democrats manage to keep control of Congress. That would give them a greater opportunity to enact policies that could otherwise be held up or watered down by partisan disagreement. 


Second, this means there's a lot at stake for some pockets of global markets. Tech regulation would be a fundamental challenge to the U.S. Internet sector. Crypto regulation could be a key support for financial services by putting the crypto industry on the same regulatory playing field as the banks. And outbound investment controls could be a clear challenge for China equities by putting a substantial amount of foreign direct investment at risk. 


Finally, investors should understand these impacts aren't just hypotheticals, because, unlike earlier this year, Democrats electoral prospects have improved. Better showings in polls on key Senate races and the generic ballot have translated into prediction markets and independent models, marking Democrats as a modest favorite to keep Senate control, though they're still rated as an underdog to keep control of the House of Representatives. While it's difficult to pinpoint what's driven this change, voter discontent with the Supreme Court's Roe decision, as well as easing of some inflation pressures, may have contributed. 


Bottom line, the midterm election remains a market catalyst and it's coming up quickly. We'll keep tracking developments and potential market impacts and keep you informed. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 

Sep 14, 2022
Daniel Blake: The Resilience of Japanese Equities
00:03:49

As various global markets contend with high inflation, recession risks, and monetary policy tightening, Japanese equities may provide some opportunities to diversify away from other developed markets.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Daniel Blake from Morgan Stanley's Asia and Emerging Markets Equity Strategy Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss the resilience of Japanese equities in the face of an expected global downturn. It's Tuesday, September 13, at 8 a.m. in Singapore. 


As Morgan Stanley's Chief Global Economist Seth Carpenter noted in mid-August, the clouds of recession are gathering globally. In the U.S., the Fed is hiking rates and withdrawing liquidity. Europe is suffering from high inflation, looming recession and an energy shortage. And China is facing a rocky path to recovery. In this global context, the external risks for Japan are rising quickly. And yet, compared to the turbulence in the rest of the world, Japanese equities are enjoying rather calm domestic, macro and policy waters. 


In Japan, we see support for this cycle coming from three sources; domestic policy, the Japanese yen and capital discipline at the corporate sector. First, the monetary policy divergence between the Bank of Japan and global peers has been remarkable, and in our view justified by differences in inflation and growth backdrops. Japanese core inflation is just 1.4%, and if we strip out food and energy, inflation is a mere 0.4% year over year. And so we don't expect any tightening from the Bank of Japan or of fiscal policy over the next six months. Secondly, the Japanese yen is acting as a funding currency and a buffer for earnings, rather than the typical safe haven that historically tends to amplify earnings drawdowns in an economic downturn. And third, improving capital discipline is contributing to newfound earnings resilience and insulating the return on equity, with buybacks tracking at a record pace of ¥10 trillion annualized year to date. 


In addition to monetary and fiscal policy, Japan's more cautious approach to reducing COVID restrictions and employment focused stimulus programs have meant that the economy is in a different phase vis-a-vis other developed markets. Our expectation for Japan's economy is low but steady growth of 1.3% on average over 2022 and 2023. 


As for the Japanese yen, we believe that a weaker yen is still a tailwind for TOPIX earnings. As a result of policy and real rate divergence, as well as the negative terms of trade shock from higher commodity prices, the yen has fallen to fresh record lows on a real effective exchange rate basis. The impact of a historically weak currency on the overall economy is still the subject of some debate, but one of the largest transmission channels of a weaker yen into supporting domestic services and employment is through tourism activity, which has been constrained to date by COVID policies. But looking ahead, the combination of reopening and a highly competitive tourism offering should set up a very strong recovery in passenger volumes and spending, as we saw during the European summer this year. 


So where do all these global and domestic cross-currents leave us with respect to Japanese equities? We remain overweight on the TOPIX index versus our MSCI Asia-Pacific, ex-Japan and emerging markets coverage. We've been above consensus in forecasting an exceptional recovery in TOPIX earnings per share, but we acknowledge that to date it has been largely driven by export oriented stocks. 


But currently, the external environment for Asia's major exporters is weakening as a result of tighter policies, slower growth and a revision in spending from goods to services. So while this trend will impact, we think, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore more so, China and Japan will also feel the impacts given their large goods trade surpluses. But with all this said, the Japanese market still provides liquid opportunities to diversify away from the U.S. and Europe, where Morgan Stanley strategists are cautious. 


So while Japanese equities have historically underperformed in global downturns, the current setup leaves us more optimistic on Japan in particular, compared with other regions like the U.S. and Europe. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Sep 13, 2022
Graham Secker: European Equities Face Earnings Concerns
00:03:57

Even as the European equity market contends with inflation, a slowing economy and a climate of decreased earnings, there are positives to be found if you know where to look.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Graham Secker, Head of Morgan Stanley's European Equity Strategy Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the outlook for European equity markets for the remainder of this year. It's Monday, September 12th, at 2 p.m. in London. 


After a brief rally in European equities earlier in the summer, reality has reasserted itself over the last month with markets unable to escape a tricky macro backdrop characterized by central banks speeding up rate hikes into what is a deepening economic slowdown. In the last couple of weeks alone, our economists have raised their forecasts for ECB rate hikes and cut their GDP numbers to signal a deeper upcoming recession. 


So let's dig into the investment implications of these challenges in a bit more detail. First on rates, over the last 20 years there has been a close relationship between interest rates and equity valuations, whereby higher rates lead to lower price to earnings ratios. Hence, the fact that central banks are still in the early stages of their hiking cycle suggests a high probability that PE ratios have further to fall. In addition to higher base rates, the pace of quantitative tightening is also speeding up, and our bond strategists forecast higher sovereign yields ahead. Here in Europe, they see ten year bond yields rising to 2% or more later this year, which will be consistent with a further fall in Europe's PE ratio to around 10x or so. That would imply 15% lower equity prices from here. 


Second, we expect the European economy to slow over the next couple of quarters and this should put pressure on corporate profits which have been resilient so far this year, thanks to strong commodity sector upgrades and a material boost from the weakness we've seen in the euro and sterling. Looking forward, our models are flagging large downside risks to consensus earnings estimates for the next 12 to 18 months and we are 16% below consensus by the end of 2023. To provide some additional context, we note that consensus expects European earnings, excluding the commodity sectors, to grow faster next year than this year. This acceleration looks odd to us when you consider that our economists see slower GDP growth in 23 than 22, and our own margin lead indicator is suggesting we could face the largest year on year drop in corporate margins since the global financial crisis. 


Our concern on earnings is a significant factor behind our continued preference for defensives over cyclicals. While some investors argue that the latter group are now sufficiently cheap to buy, we question the sustainability of the earnings that is underpinning the low PE ratios given the, first, we have seen very few downgrades so far. Second, margins are currently at record highs for many of these cyclical sectors. And then lastly, cyclicals tend to see larger earnings declines during downturns than the wider market. This gives rise to the old adage that investors should buy cyclicals on high PE ratios, not low ones. 


Consistent with this view, we have recently downgraded three cyclical sectors to underweight from our top down perspective, these being autos, capital goods and construction. We are also underweight chemicals and retailing. So what do we like instead? Sectors with more defensive characteristics, such as health care, insurance, telecoms, utilities and energy. We also like stocks that offer a high and secure cash return yield, whether that be driven by dividends, buybacks or both. To end on a positive note, the level of buyback activity in Europe has never been stronger than what we are seeing today, whether we measure it by the number of companies that are repurchasing their shares or the amounts of money they are spending to do so. In addition, we note that those European companies who have offered a healthy buyback yield over time have been consistent outperformers. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Sep 12, 2022
Andrew Sheets: The Complex U.K. Economy
00:03:10

As the world turns to the U.K., the country faces a host of domestic and international economic challenges, but there may yet be some bright spots for investors.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape, and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, September 9th at 2:00pm in London.


Queen Elizabeth II passed away yesterday. She was the only monarch most in Britain have ever known, a steady constant over a period of enormous global change. She defined an era, and will be missed. 


The eyes of the world have now turned to the United Kingdom, and they do so at a time when the country is facing an unusually high level of uncertainty.


The U.K. economy, which was recently surpassed in size by India, is still the worlds sixth largest. But it’s currently being buffeted by a host of economic challenges. Some are domestic, some are international, but combined they create one of the trickiest stories in the global economy.


First among these challenges is inflation. Rising costs for energy have driven Consumer prices in the U.K. up 10% year-over-year, but even excluding volatile food and energy, U.K. core inflation is still over 6%. And elevated inflation is not expected to be fleeting. Market-based estimates of U.K. inflation, over the next 10 years, are the highest since 1996.


Those elevated prices have driven U.K. interest rates higher, but even so, U.K. rates relative to inflation are still some of the lowest of any major economy, which makes holding the currency less attractive. That has weakened the British Pound, but since the U.K. runs a current account deficit, and imports more than it exports, imported things have become more expensive, creating even more inflationary pressure.


The U.K’s decision to leave the European Union, its largest trading partner, is another complication. By restricting the movement of labor, it’s created a negative supply shock and increased costs.  And it has increased the fiction in trading abroad, especially with Europe, making it harder for U.K. exporters to take advantage of the country’s weaker currency.


The response to all this high inflation will likely be further rate hikes from the bank of England. But this has the potential to feed back into the economy unusually fast. Over here, many student loan payments are tied to the bank of England rate. And the rate on U.K. mortgages is often fixed for only 2 to 5 years, in contrast to the 30 year fixing common in the United States. That means the impact of higher interest rates into higher mortgage costs could be felt very soon.


For U.K. assets, the fact that a 10 year U.K. Government bond yields less than a 6-month U.S. Treasury bill, and much less than U.K. inflation, creates poor risk/reward. The Pound could continue to weaken, given all of these myriad economic challenges. But one bright spot might be the equity market, the FTSE 100. Trading at about 9x next year earnings, and benefiting from a weaker currency as many of these companies sell product abroad, we forecast stocks in the U.K. to outperform those in the Eurozone.


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We’d love to hear from you.

Sep 09, 2022
Matthew Hornbach: How Markets Price in Quantitative Tightening
00:04:02

The impact of quantitative monetary policies is hard to understand, for investors and academics alike, but why are these impacts so complex and how might investors better understand the market implications?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Matthew Hornbach, Global Head of Macro Strategy for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about global macro trends and how investors can interpret these trends for rates and currency markets. It's Thursday, September 8th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


QT is the talk of the town. QT stands for quantitative tightening, which is meant to contrast it with QE, or quantitative easing. QT sounds intimidating, especially when respected investors mention the term and, at the same time, ring the fire alarm on financial news networks. 


Unfortunately, the exact workings of QT and QE and their ultimate impact on markets aren't well understood. And that's not just a comment about the general public's understanding. It even applies to investors who have long dealt with quantitative policies and for academics who have long studied them. 


There are four reasons why the impact of quantitative monetary policies, as the Fed has implemented them, is hard to understand. First, different institutions take the lead in determining the impact of QE versus QT. The Fed determines the first round impact of quantitative easing, while the U.S. Treasury and mortgage originators determine the first round impact of quantitative tightening. 


Second, as the phrase "first round impact" implies, there are second round impacts as well. In the case of quantitative easing, the first round occurs when the Fed buys a U.S. Treasury or Agency mortgage backed security, also known as an agency MBS, from an investor. The second round occurs when that investor uses the cash from the Fed to buy something else. 


In the case of quantitative tightening, the first round occurs when an investor sells something in order to raise the cash that it needs. What does it need the cash for? Well, to buy a forthcoming Treasury Security or agency MBS. The second round occurs when the U.S. Treasury auctions that security or when a mortgage originator issues an agency MBS in order to raise the cash that the Fed is no longer providing. 


Third, QE and QT affect different markets in different ways. QE affects the Treasury and agency MBS markets directly in the first round. But in the second round, investor decisions about how to invest that cash could affect a wide variety of markets from esoteric loan products to blue chip equities. 


In that sense, some of the impact of QE is indirect and could affect some markets more than others. Similarly with QT, investor decisions about what to sell could affect a large number of markets, again some more than others. In addition, what the U.S. Treasury issues and what mortgage originators sell can change over time with financing needs and different market environments. 


Finally, markets price these different effects with different probabilities and at different times. For example, when the Fed announces a QE program, we know with near certainty that the Fed will buy Treasuries and agency MBS and generally know how much of each the Fed will buy. So investors can price in those effects relatively soon after the announcement. 


But we don't know, with nearly the same probability, what the sellers of those treasuries and agency MBS will do with the cash until they actually get the cash from the Fed. And that could be months after the announcement when the Fed actually buys the securities. 


Figuring out the effect on markets from QT is even more complicated because even though we know what the Fed will no longer buy, we don't know exactly what or how much the U.S. Treasury or mortgage originators will sell. 


If all of this sounds complex, believe me it is. There are no easy conclusions to draw for your investment strategies when it comes to QT. So the next time someone rings the fire alarm and yells QT, first look for where there might be smoke before running out of the building or selling all of your risky assets. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show. 

Sep 08, 2022
U.S. Housing: Will Housing Prices Continue to Rise?
00:05:42

While home price appreciation appears to be slowing, and a rapid increase in supply is hitting the market, how will housing prices fare through the rest of the year and into 2023? Co-Heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research Jay Bacow and Jim Egan discuss.


-----Transcript------


Jim Egan: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jim Egan, Co-Head of U.S. Securitized Products Research here at Morgan Stanley. 


Jay Bacow: And I'm Jay Bacow. The other Co-Head of U.S. Securities Products Research. 


Jim Egan: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing supply and demand in the U.S. housing market. It's Wednesday, September 7th, at 3 p.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: All right, Jim. Housing headlines have started to get a little more bleak. Home price appreciation slowed pretty materially with last week's print. Now, your call has been that activity is going to decrease, but home prices are going to keep growing. Where do we stand on that? 


Jim Egan: We would say that the bifurcation narrative still holds. We think housing activity metrics, and when we say housing activity we're specifically talking about home sales and housing starts, have some continued sharp declines in the months to come. But we do think that home prices are going to continue growing on a year over year basis, even despite a disappointing print that you mentioned from last week. 


Jay Bacow: But I have to askv, what are you looking at that gives you confidence in your home price call? Where could you be wrong given the slowdown we just saw? 


Jim Egan: We say a lot of fancy sounding things when we talk about the housing market, but ultimately they're just different ways of describing supply and demand. Demand is weakening. That's that drop in activity we're forecasting. But supply is also very tight and that contributes to our view that while home price growth needs to slow, it should remain positive on a year over year basis. 


Jay Bacow: All right, but haven't some metrics of supply been moving higher? 


Jim Egan: Look, we knew we were not going to be able to say that supply was historically tight forever. Existing inventories are now climbing year over year for the first time in 37 months. And another very popular metric of supply, months of supply, is effectively getting a 1-2 punch right now. Months of supply measures how much the current supply of housing listed for sale, would take to clear at current demand levels. So in a world in which supply is increasing and demand is falling, you have a numerator climbing and a denominator falling, so you're effectively supercharging months of supply, if you will. We were at a cycle low of 2.1 months of inventory, the lowest we've seen in at least three and a half decades, in January of this year. We're at 4.1 months of supply just six months later. 


Jay Bacow: So that number is a lot higher, but 4.1 months of supply is still really low. Isn't there some old saying that anything less than six months of supply is a seller's market? So wouldn't that be good for home prices? 


Jim Egan: Yes. And given recent work that we've done, we think that that saying is there for good reason. If we go back to the mid 1980s, so the Case-Shiller index that we're forecasting here that's as far back as this index goes. And every single time that months of supply has been below six, the Case-Shiller index was still appreciating six months forward. Home prices were still climbing, six months forward. So the absolute level of inventory is in a pretty healthy place despite the recent increases. However, that rate of change is a little concerning. We've gone from 2.1 months to 4.1 months over just six months of actual time, and when we look at that rate of change historically, it actually does tend to predict falling home prices a year forward. So, absolute level of inventory leaves us confident in continued home price growth, but the rate of change of that underlying inventory calls continued home price growth in 2023 into question. 


Jay Bacow: So we're going to have more inventory, but the pace has been accelerating. How do we think about the pace of that increase?


Jim Egan: If that pace were to continue at its current levels, that would make us really concerned about home prices next year. But we do think the pace of inventory growth is going to slow and we think that for two main reasons. The two biggest inputs into inventory are new inventories and existing. New inventories, and we've talked about this on the podcast before, we think they're about to really slow down. Homebuilder confidence is down 43% from cycle peaks in November of 2020. Part of that's the affordability deterioration we talked about earlier, but it's also because of a backlog in the building process. Single unit starts are back to 1997 levels. Units under construction, so between starts and completions, are back to 2004 levels - it is taking longer to finish those homes. And we have had a forecast that we thought that was going to lead to single unit starts slowing down, it finally has over the past two months after plateauing for almost a year. We think they're going to continue to fall pretty precipitously in the back half of this year, which should mean that new inventory stop climbing at the same pace that they've been climbing. Existing inventories also should stop their current pace of climb because of the lock in effect that we've talked about here before. Effectively, current homeowners have been able to lock in very low mortgage rates over the course of the past two years. They're not going to be incentivized to list their homes at similar rates to historical places because of that lock in effect. So for both of those reasons, we think the pace of increase in inventory is going to slow, and that's why we continue to think that home prices are going to grow on a year over year basis. They're just going to slow from 18% now, to 9% by the end of this year, to 3% by the end of 2023. 


Jay Bacow: Okay. So effectively the low amount of absolute supply is going to keep home prices supported. The change in the amount of supply makes us  a little bit more cautious on home prices on a longer term outlook. But we think that pace of that change is going to slow down.


Jay Bacow: Jim, always a pleasure talking to you. 


Jim Egan: Great talking to you too, Jay. 


Jay Bacow: And thank you for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on the Apple Podcasts app and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Sep 07, 2022
Mike Wilson: Preparing for an Icy Winter
00:04:22

While interest rates have already weighed on asset markets this year and growth continues to slow, the Fed seems poised to continue on its tightening path, meaning investors may need to prepare for part two of our Fire and Ice narrative.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Tuesday, September 6th, at 9 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


At the risk of stating the obvious, 2022 has been a challenging year for stock investors of all stripes. The Russell 3000 is down approximately 18% year to date, and while growth stocks have underperformed significantly it's been no picnic for value investors either. As far as sectors only energy and utilities are up this year, and just 24% of all stocks in the Russell 3000 are in positive territory. To put that into context, in 2008, 48% of the Russell 3000 stocks were up on the year as we entered the month of September and then the bottom dropped out. Suffice it to say, this year has been historically bad for stocks. However, that is not a sufficient reason to be bullish in our view. 


As bad as has been for stocks, it's been even worse for bonds on a risk adjusted basis. More specifically, 20 year Treasury bonds are now down 24% year to date, and the Barclays AG Index is off by 11%. Finally, commodities have been a mixed bag too, with most commodities down on the year, despite heightened concerns about inflation. For example, the CRB RIND Index, which measures the spot prices of a wide range of commodities, is down 7% year to date. Cash, on the other hand, is no longer trash, especially if one has been able to take advantage of higher front end rates. 


So what's going on? In our view, asset markets are behaving right in line with the fire and ice narrative we laid out a year ago. In short, after ignoring the warning signs from inflation last year and thinking the Fed would ignore them too, asset markets quickly woke up and discounted the Fed's late but historically hawkish pivot to address the sharp rise in prices. Indeed, very rarely has the Fed tightened policy so quickly. Truth be told, as one of the more hawkish strategists on the street last December, I never would have bet the Fed would be doing multiple 75 basis point hikes this year, but here we are. And remember, don't fight the Fed. 


While the June low for stocks and bonds was an important one, we've consistently been in the camp that it wasn't the low for the S&P 500 in this bear market. Having said that, we are more confident it was the low for long term treasuries in view of the Fed's aggressive action that has yet to fully play out in the real economy. It may have also been the low for the average stock, given how bad the breadth was at that time and the magnitude of the decline in certain stocks. 


Our more pessimistic view on the major index is based on analysis that indicates all the 31% de-rating in the forward S&P 500 P/E that occurred from December was due to higher interest rates. We know this because the equity risk premium was flat during this period. Meanwhile, forward earnings estimates for the S&P 500 have come down by only 1.5%, and price earnings ratio's back up 9% from where it was. With interest rates about 25 basis points below the June highs, the equity risk premium has fallen once again to just 280 basis points. This makes little sense in a normal environment, but especially given these significant earnings cuts we think are still to come. 


With the Fed dashing hopes for a dovish pivot on this policy a few weeks ago, we think asset markets may be entering fire and ice part two. In contrast with part one, this time the decline in stocks will come mostly through a higher equity risk premium and lower earnings rather than higher interest rates. In fact, our earnings models are all flashing red for the S&P 500, and we have high confidence that the decline in forward S&P 500 earnings forecasts is far from over. 


In short, part two will be more icy than fiery, the opposite of the first half of the year. That's not to say interest rates don't matter, they do and we expect bonds to perform better than stocks in this icier scenario. Importantly, if last Thursday marked a short term low for long duration bonds, i.e. a high in yields, the S&P 500 and many stocks could get some relief again as rates come down prior to the next rounds of earnings cuts that won't begin until later this month. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Sep 06, 2022
Andrew Sheets: The State of Play in Markets Globally
00:03:26

There has been a lot of market movement in recent months, so as we exit the summer, what are the market stories and valuations that investors should be aware of?


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, September 2nd at 3 p.m. in London. 


As summer draws to a close, there is quite a bit that investors are coming back to. Here's a state of play of our global economic story, and where cross-asset valuations sit today. 


The global economy faces challenges, but these challenges differ by region. The U.S. economy is seeing elevated inflation and still strong growth, as evidenced by today's report that the U.S. economy added another 315,000 new jobs last month. That makes it likely that the Federal Reserve will have to air on the side of raising rates more to bring inflation down, which would further invert the U.S. yield curve and, in our view, support the U.S. dollar. 


Europe also has high inflation, but of a different kind. Europe's inflation isn't nearly as pronounced in so-called core elements, and it isn't showing up in wages. Instead, Europe is in the midst of a major energy crunch, that in our base case will push the economy into a mild recession. Markets expect that the European Central Bank will raise rates significantly more than the U.S. Federal Reserve over the next 12 months, but given our risks to growth we disagree, a reason we forecast a weaker euro. The economic situation in the UK is also very challenged, leaving us cautious on gilts and the UK pound. 


China and Japan are very different and core inflation in both countries is less than 1%. China continues to face dual uncertainties from a weakening property market and zero-covid policy, factors that lead us to think it is still a bit too soon to buy China's equity market, despite large losses this year that have driven much better valuations. We remain more optimistic on Japanese equities on a currency hedged basis, given that it remains one of the few developed market economies where the central bank is not yet tightening policy. 


To take a closer look at those global equity markets we enter September with the U.S. S&P 500 stock index trading at about 17x earnings. That's down from over 20x earnings at the start of the year, but it's still above average. U.S. small cap valuations, at about 11x earnings, are less extreme. Stocks in Europe, Australia, Japan, China and emerging markets all trade at about 11 to 12x forward earnings at the index level. Of all of these markets our forecasts imply the highest returns, on a currency hedged basis, in Japan. 


In bonds, it's important to appreciate that yields remain much higher than they were a year ago. As we discussed last week, investors can now earn about 3.3% on 6 month U.S. government treasury bills, U.S. investment grade bonds yield almost 5% and U.S. high yield yields over 8.5%. In Europe, yields on European investment grade credit and Italian 10 year bonds are pretty similar, a spread at which we think European investment grade bonds are more attractive. 


Markets have been moving over the summer. We hope our listeners have managed some time to rest and recharge and that this discussion has given some helpful context to where the different stories and valuations in the market currently sit. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Sep 02, 2022
Chetan Ahya: Why are Asia’s Exports Deflating?
00:04:06

As consumers around the globe scale back on goods spending, how are Asian export markets impacted and where might opportunities lie?


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Chetan Ahya, Morgan Stanly's Chief Asia Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be focusing on the challenging landscape for Asia's exports post-COVID. It's Thursday, September 1st, at 8:30 a.m. in Hong Kong. 


As listeners of the show are no doubt aware, the post-COVID recovery around the world has not been uniform, and each region is facing its own specific challenges. In Asia, one of those challenges is that the Asia export engine seems to be losing steam as goods demand continues to deflate. For instance, real export growth decelerated to just an average of 3% on a year on year basis in the past six months, as compared to a peak of 30% in April 2021. 


Whichever way you slice and dice Asia's exports, it is evident that the underlying trends are soft everywhere. Whether by destination or by product, there is simply pervasive weakness. Let's start with product: when we look at Asia exports by product across the different categories of consumer, capital and intermediate goods exports, we are seeing a synchronized slowdown. Commodities are the only product category which is holding up, supported by trailing elevated prices. But with industrial commodity prices falling by some 30% since their March peak, we think there is every chance that commodity exports will slow significantly too in the coming months. 


Now let's turn to destination. Demand is slowing in 70% of Asia's export destinations. While exports to the U.S. are still holding up, we expect that the slowing in the U.S. economy plus the continued normalization in goods spending, will weigh on exports to the U.S. too. Against this backdrop of weak aggregate demand, we see more downside for Asia's exports to the U.S. in the coming months. 


One of the reasons why Asia's exports are deflating rapidly is because developed markets consumers are shifting back into spending on services after an outsized spending on goods earlier during the pandemic. As a case in point, US spending on goods had risen by 20% between January 2020 and March 2021. Since reaching its peak in March 21, goods spending has been on a decelerating path, declining by 5%. We expect further weakness in goods spending as the share of goods spending still has not normalized back towards pre-COVID levels. 


Against this backdrop, investors should look at countries where domestic demand offsets the weakness in external demand. We continue to be constructive on India, Indonesia and Philippines as they are well placed to generate domestic demand alpha. 


Within this group, we believe that India is the best placed economy within the region for three reasons. First, we see a key change in India's structural story. Policymakers have made a clear shift in that approach towards lifting the productive capacity of the economy and creating jobs while reducing the focus on redistribution. Second, the India economy is lifting off after a prolonged period of adjustment. The corporate sector has delivered and the balance sheet in the financial sector has also been cleaned up. This backdrop of healthy balance sheets and rising corporate confidence bodes well for the outlook for business investment. Third, against this backdrop, we are seeing unleashing of pent up demand, especially in areas like housing and consumer durables. 


Finally, what about China - the largest economy in Asia? Typically when export slows down, we would expect China to be able to stimulate domestic demand. But in this cycle, while easing is already underway, the recovery in domestic demand is being held back by the housing market problem and its COVID management approach. We think that China domestic demand recovery should pick up pace by early next year as the full effects of its stimulus kicks in and private confidence lifts, thanks to China's anticipated shift to a living with COVID stance. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts, and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or a colleague today.

Sep 01, 2022
Serena Tang: Global Cross-Asset Risk Premiums
00:04:18

While markets wrestle with high inflation and recession worries, investors will want to keep an eye on the rise in risk premiums and the outlook for long-run returns.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Serena Tang, Morgan Stanley's Head of Cross-Asset Strategy for North America. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll focus on the current state of global cross-asset risk premiums. It's Wednesday, August 31st at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Markets in 2022 have been incredibly turbulent, and global cross-asset risk premiums have shifted dramatically year to date. Various markets have been buffeted by higher inflation and tighter policy, geopolitical risks and worries about recession. Some impacted much more than others. What this means is that there are segments of markets where risk premiums, that is the excess returns an investor can expect for taking on additional risk, and long-run expected returns look much more attractive than they were at the beginning of the year. And while expected returns and risk premiums have broadly risen, the improvements have been uneven across asset classes and regions. For example, we believe that compared to U.S. stocks, rest-of-world equities have seen equity risk premiums move much higher since December, and currently have an edge over U.S. equities in terms of risk reward, in line with our relative preferences. 


So let me put some actual numbers around some key regional disparities. Our framework, which incorporates expectations on income, inflation, real earnings growth and valuations, see U.S. equities returning about 7.5% annually over the next decade, compared to just 5.7% at the start of the year. However, a steep climb in U.S. Treasury yields from historical lows mean that from a risk premium perspective, U.S. equities is still below its 20 year historical average by nearly one percentage point. This is in contrast to other regions whose risk premiums have increased significantly more during the sell off. Notably, European equity risk premiums are 8.9%, close to a 20 year high, similarly for emerging markets at 5.3%, and Japanese equity risk premiums at 4.7%, also above average. And remember, higher risk premiums typically signal that it's a good time to invest in riskier assets. 


For fixed income, with nominal yields rising on the back of more persistent inflationary pressures and quantitative tightening, long-run expected returns are now higher than they were 12 months ago. In fact, we're now back to levels last seen in 2019. Our framework now predicts that ten year U.S. Treasuries can return 3.7% annually over the next decade, up from 2.2% just a year ago. 


Credit risk premiums, such as for corporate bonds, have also readjusted year to date. As with risk free government bonds, rising yields mean that long run expected returns for these bonds have improved significantly since the start of the year. In terms of numbers, our model forecasts for U.S. high yield risk premium, at 188 basis points compared to near nothing 12 months ago. 


So what does all this mean? Well, for one thing, as my colleague Andrew Sheets has pointed out in a previous Thoughts on the Market episode, lower prices, wider risk premiums and higher 10 year expected returns have raised our long-run expected returns forecasts for a portfolio of 60% equity and 40% high quality bonds to the highest it's been since 2019, above the 10 year average. So we believe that the case for a 60/40 type of approach remains. 


For another, it means that the opportunities for investors right now lie in relative value rather than beta, given our strategists macro outlook for the next 12 months is more cautious than our long-run expected forecast. So for example, based on our long-run expected returns, our dollar optimal portfolios favor segments of the markets with more credit risk premium, like high yield and emerging market bonds. And similarly, as I've mentioned before, our current cross-asset allocation has a preference for ex-U.S. equities versus the U.S. because of former's higher equity risk premium. The rest of 2022 will likely continue to be turbulent, but there is good news for investors with a longer term focus. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Aug 31, 2022
Seth Carpenter: Is a Global Recession Upon Us?
00:03:47

Amid global shocks across supply, commodities and the U.S. Dollar, central banks continue to fight hard against inflation, leading many to wonder if a global recession is imminent.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's chief global economist, along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives. Today, I'll be revisiting a topic that's front and center: concerns about a global recession. It's Tuesday, August 30th, at 2p.m. in New York.


One key market narrative right now is that the clouds of recession have been gathering globally. And the question that I get from clients every day, 'is a global recession upon us?'


A recession is our baseline scenario for the Euro area. The flow of natural gas from Russia has been restricted and energy prices, as a result, have surged. We expect a recession by the fourth quarter but, as is so often the case, the data will be noisy. A complete gas cutoff, which is our worst-case scenario. That's still possible. On the other hand, even if somehow we had a full normalization of the gas flows, the relief to the European economy would only be modest. Winter energy prices are already partly baked in, and we've got the ECB with an almost single-minded focus on inflation. There are going to be more interest rate hikes there until the hard data force them to stop.


Now, I am slightly more optimistic about the U.S. The negative GDP prints in the first two quarters of this year clearly cast a pall but those readings are misleading because of some of the details. Now, bear with me, but a lot of the headline GDP data reflects inventories in international trade, not the underlying domestic economy. Household spending, which is the key driver of the U.S. economy, averaged about 1.5% at an annual rate in the first half and the July jobs report printed at a massive 520,000 jobs. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has never had a recession within a year of creating so many jobs. But the path forward is clearly for slowing. Consumption spending was slammed by surging food and energy prices and more importantly, the Fed is hiking interest rates specifically to slow down the economy.


So what is the Fed's plan? Chair Powell keeps noting that the Fed strategy is to slow the economy enough so that inflation pressures abate, but then to pivot or, as he likes to say, 'to be nimble.' That kind of soft landing is by no means assured. So, we're more optimistic in the U.S., but the Fed is going to need some luck to go along with their plan.

 

The situation in China is just completely different. The economy there contracted in the second quarter amid very stringent COVID controls. The COVID Zero policies in place are slowly starting to get eased and we think more relaxation will follow the party Congress in October. But will freedom of mobility be enough to reverse the challenges that we're seeing on consumer spending because of the housing market? The recent policy action to address the housing crisis will probably help some but I fully expect that a much larger package will be needed. Ultimately, we'll need the consumer to be confident in both the economy and the housing market before we can make a rapid recovery.


The world has been simultaneously hit by supply shocks, commodity shocks and dollar shocks. Central banks are pulling back on demand to try to contain inflation. Even if we avoid a global recession, it's really hard to see how economic activity gets all the way back to its pre-COVID trend.


It's still the summertime, so I hope it's sunny where you are. You can worry about the storm later.


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy this show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Aug 30, 2022
Mike Wilson: The Increasing Risks to Earnings
00:04:18

With Fed messaging making it clear they’re not yet done fighting inflation, the market is left to contend with the recent rally and prepare to adjust growth expectations.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, August 29th, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


After the Fed's highly anticipated annual meeting in Jackson Hole has come and gone with a very clear message - the fight against inflation is far from over, and the equity markets did not take it very well. As we discussed in this podcast two weeks ago, the equity markets may have gotten too excited and even pre traded a Fed pivot that isn't coming. For stocks, that means the bear market rally is likely over. 


Technically speaking, the rally looks rather textbook. In June, we reached oversold conditions with breadth falling to some of the lowest readings on record. However, the rally stalled out exactly at the 200-day moving average for the S&P 500 and many key stocks. On that basis alone, the sharp reversal looks quite ominous to even the most basic tactical analysts. 


From a fundamental standpoint, having a bullish view on U.S. stocks today is also challenging. First, there is valuation. As we have discussed many times in our research, the Price/Earnings ratio is a function of two inputs; 10 year U.S. Treasury yields and the Equity Risk Premium. Simplistically, the U.S. Treasury yield is a cost of capital component, while the Equity Risk Premium is primarily a function of growth expectations. Typically, the Equity Risk Premium is negatively correlated to growth. In other words, when growth is accelerating, or expected to accelerate, the Equity Risk Premium tends to be lower than normal and vice versa. Our problem with the view that June was the low for the index in this bear market is that the Equity Risk Premium never went above average. Instead, the fall in the Price/Earnings ratio from December to June was entirely a function of the Fed's tightening of financial conditions, and the higher cost of capital. 


Compounding this challenge, the Equity Risk Premium fell sharply over the past few months and reached near record lows in the post financial crisis period. In fact, the only time the Equity Risk Premium has been lower in the past 14 years was at the end of the bear market rally in March earlier this year, and we know how that ended. Even after Friday's sharp decline in stocks, the S&P 500 Equity Risk Premium remains more than 100 basis points lower than what our model suggests. In short, the S&P 500 price earnings ratio is 17.1x, it's 15% too high in our view. 


Second, while most investors remain preoccupied with the Fed, we have been more focused on earnings and the risk to forward estimates. In June, many investors began to share our concern, which is why stocks sold off so sharply in our view. Companies began managing the quarter lower, and by the time second quarter earnings season rolled around positioning was quite bearish and valuations were more reasonable at 15.4x. This led to the "bad news is good news" rally or, as many people claim, "better than feared" results. Call us old school, but better than feared is not a good reason to invest in something if the price is high and the earnings are weak. In other words, it's a fine reason for stocks to see some relief from an oversold condition, but we wouldn't commit any real capital to such a strategy. Our analysis of second quarter earnings showed clear deterioration in profitability, a trend we believe is just starting. In short, we believe earnings forecast for next year remains significantly too high. 


Finally, last week's highly anticipated Fed meeting turned out to be a nonevent for bonds, while it appeared to be a shock for stock investors. Ironically, given the lack of any material move in yields, all of the decline in the Price/Earnings ratio was due to a rising Equity Risk Premium that still remains well below fair market levels. 


The bottom line, we do think Friday's action could be the beginning of an adjustment period to growth expectations. That's good. In our experience, such adjustments to earnings always take longer than they should. Throw on top of that, the fact that operating leverage is now more extreme than it was prior to COVID, and the negative revision cycle could turn out to be worse than usual. Next week, we will attempt to quantify more specifically how challenging the earnings outcome might be based on an already reported macro data. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Aug 29, 2022
Andrew Sheets: Is Cash an Efficient Asset Allocation?
00:02:59

Though returns offered by cash have been historically bad over the last 10 years, the tide has begun to turn on cash yields and investors will want to take note.


-----Transcript------


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, August 26, at 2 p.m. in London. 


For much of the last 12 years, the question of whether to hold cash in a portfolio was really a question of negativity. After all, for most of that time, holding cash yielded nothing or less than nothing for those in Europe. Holding it implied you believed almost every other investment option was worse than this low bar. 


Unsurprisingly, the low returns offered by cash over this period led to... low returns. For 8 of the 10 years from 2010 through 2020, holding cash underperformed both U.S. stocks and U.S. Treasuries. And while cash is often like stocks and bonds over time, the returns to holding cash since 2010 were historically bad. 


But that's now changing, because cash no longer yields nothing. As central banks have raced to raise rates in the face of high inflation, the return on holding cash or near cash investments has jumped materially. One year ago, a 6 month U.S. Treasury bill yielded 0.04%. It now yields 3.25%. 


That is 3.25% for an investment with very low volatility backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. That's a higher yield than a U.S. 10 year Treasury bond. It is more than double the dividend yield of the S&P 500 stock index. And it's just a quarter of a percentage point less than the dividend yield on U.S. real estate investment trusts. 


It's important to note that not all short term liquid investments are created equal. While six month U.S. T-bills now yield 3.25%, the average yield on 6 month bank CD's is less than 1%, and the average U.S. savings account yields just 0.2%. In other words, it pays to shop around. And for those in the business of managing money market and liquidity funds, we think this is a good time to add value and grow assets. 


What are the market implications? For equity markets, if investors can now receive higher yields on low risk cash, we think it's reasonable to think that that should lead investors to ask for higher returns elsewhere, which should lower valuations on stocks. My colleague Michael Wilson, Morgan Stanley's Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist, sees poor risk reward for U.S. equities at current levels. 


More broadly, we think it supports holding more U.S. dollar cash in a portfolio. That's true for U.S. investors, but also globally, as we forecast the U.S. dollar to continue to strengthen. Holding cash isn't necessarily a sign of caution, it may simply be efficient allocation to an asset that has recently seen a major jump in yield. 


Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Aug 26, 2022
Martijn Rats: Rising Gas Prices and Shifting Oil Demand
00:03:46

This year has seen a sharp rally in the oil and gas markets, leading to high prices and a delicate balancing act for global supply and demand. 


Important note regarding economic sanctions. This research references country/ies which are generally the subject of selective sanctions programs administered or enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the European Union and/or by other countries and multi-national bodies. Users of this report are solely responsible for ensuring that their investment activities in relation to any sanctioned country/ies are carried out in compliance with applicable sanctions.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Markets. I'm Martijn Rats, Morgan Stanley's Global Commodity Strategist and the Head of the European Energy Research Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be giving you an update on global oil and the European gas market. It's Thursday, the 25th of August, at 4 p.m. in London.

 

As the world emerged from COVID, commodities have rallied strongly. Between mid 2020 and mid 2022, the Bloomberg Commodity Index more than doubled, outperforming equities significantly and fulfilling its traditional role as an inflation hedge.


However, this rally largely ran out of steam in June, even for oil. For nearly two years, the oil market was significantly undersupplied. For a while, storage can help meet the deficit, but at some point, supply and demand simply need to come into balance. If that can't happen via the supply side quick enough, it must happen via the demand side, and so the oil markets effectively searched for the demand destruction price.


The price level where that happens can be hard to estimate, but in June we clearly got there. For a brief period, gasoline reached $180 per barrel and diesel even reached $190 a barrel. Those prices are difficult for the global economy to absorb, especially if you take into account that the dollar has been strengthening at the same time. With the world's central banks hiking interest rates in an effort to slow down the economy as well, oil demand has started to soften and prices have given up some of their recent strength.


Now these trends can take some time to play out, possibly even several quarters. As long as fears of a recession prevail, oil prices are likely to stay rangebound. However, after recession comes recovery. There is still little margin of safety in the system, so when demand starts to improve again, there is every chance the strong cycle from last year repeats itself. This time next year we may need to ask the question, 'What is the demand destruction price?' once again.


Now, one commodity that has defied all gravity is European natural gas. Over much of the last decade, Europe was accustomed to a typical natural gas price of somewhere between sort of $6 to $7 per million British thermal units. Recently, it reached the eye-watering level of $85 per MMBtu. On an energy equivalent basis, that would be similar to oil trading at nearly $500 per barrel.


Now, the reason for this is, of course, the sharp reduction in supply from Russia. As the war in Ukraine has unfolded, Russia has steadily supplied less and less natural gas to Europe. Now total volumes have already fallen by around about 75%. Furthermore, Gazprom announced that flows through the critical Nord Stream 1 pipeline would temporarily stop completely later this month for maintenance to one of its turbines. In principle, this will only last three days, but the market is clearly starting to fear that this is a harbinger of a much longer lasting shutdown.


These exceptional prices are already leading to large declines in demand. During COVID, industrial gas consumption in Europe fell only 2 or 3%. Last month, industrial gas use was already down 19% year-on-year. With these demand declines, Europe can probably manage with the reduced supply, but to keep demand lower for longer gas prices need to be higher for longer. The gas market has clearly noticed. Even gas for delivery by end 2024 is now trading at close to $50 per MMBtu, 10x the equivalent price in the United States.


The full implications of all of this for the European economy going forward are yet to become clear, but we'll be sure to keep listeners up to date on the latest developments.


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague, or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

Aug 25, 2022
Jonathan Garner: What's Next for Asia and Emerging Markets?
00:04:04

As Asia and EM equities continue to experience what may end up being the longest bear market in the history of the asset class, looking to past bear markets may give investors some insight into when to come off the sidelines.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jonathan Garner, Chief Asia and Emerging Market Equity Strategist at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be discussing whether we're nearing the end of the current bear market in Asia and emerging market equities. It's Wednesday, August the 24th, at 8 a.m. in Singapore. 


The ongoing bear market in Asia and EM equities is the 11th which I've covered as a strategist. And in this episode I want to talk about some lessons I've learned from those prior experiences, and indeed how close we may be to the end of this current bear market. 


A first key point to make is that this is already the second longest in duration of the 11 bear markets I've covered. Only that which began with the puncturing of the dot com bubble by a Fed hike cycle in February 2000 was longer. This is already a major bear market by historical standards. 


My first experience of bear markets was one of the most famous, that which took place from July 1997 to September 1998 and became known as the Asian Financial Crisis. That lasted for 518 days, with a peak to trough decline of 59%. And as with so many others, the trigger was a tightening of U.S. monetary policy at the end of 1996 and a stronger U.S. dollar. That bear market ended only when the U.S. Federal Reserve did three interest rate cuts in quick succession at the end of 1998 in response to the long term capital management and Russia defaults. 


Indeed, a change in U.S. monetary policy and/or a peak in the U.S. dollar have tended to be crucial in marking the troughs in Asia and EM equity bear markets. And that includes the two bear markets prior to the current one, which ended in March 2020 and October 2018. However, changes in Chinese monetary policy and China's growth cycles, starting with the bear market ending in October 2008, have been of increasing importance in recent cycles. Indeed, easier policy in China in late 2008 preceded a turn in U.S. monetary policy and helped Asia and EM equities lead the recovery in global markets after the global financial crisis. 


Although China has been easing policy for almost a year thus far, the degree of easing as measured by M2 growth or overall lending growth is smaller than in prior cycles. And at least in part, that's because China is attempting to pull off the difficult feat of restructuring its vast and highly leveraged property sector, whilst also pursuing a strategy of COVID containment involving closed loop production and episodic consumer lockdowns. Those key differences are amongst a number of factors which have led us to recommend staying on the sidelines this year, both in our overall coverage in Asia and emerging markets, but also with respect to China. We have preferred Japan, and parts of ASEAN, the Middle East and Latin America. 


Finally, as we look ahead I would also note that one feature of being later on in a bear market is a sudden fall in commodity prices. And certainly from mid-June there have been quite material declines in copper, iron ore and more recently, the oil price. Meanwhile, classic defensive sectors are outperforming. And that sort of late cycle behavior within the index itself raises the question of whether by year end Asia and EM equities could once again transition to offering an interesting early cycle cyclical play. That more positive scenario for next year would depend on global and U.S. headline inflation starting to fall back, whether we would see a peak in the U.S. dollar and Fed rate hike pricing.


For the time being, though, as the clock ticks down to the current bear market becoming the longest in the history of the asset class, we still think patience will be rewarded a while longer. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and recommend Thoughts on the Market to a friend or colleague today. 

Aug 24, 2022
U.S. Public Policy: The Inflation Reduction Act and Clean Energy
00:08:13

The Inflation Reduction Act represents the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, so how will these provisions influence consumers' pocketbooks and the clean energy market? Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research Michael Zezas and Global Head of Sustainability Research Stephen Byrd discuss.


----- Transcript -----

Michael Zezas Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Thematic and Public Policy Research.


Stephen Byrd And I'm Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Sustainability Research.


Michael Zezas And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll focus on the Inflation Reduction Act's bold attempt to stem the tide of climate change. It's Tuesday, August 23rd at noon in New York.


Michael Zezas Regular listeners may have heard our previous episodes on the potential impact for the U.S. economy and on taxes from the Inflation Reduction Act. Today, we'll focus on another essential aspect of this new legislation, namely its sweeping support for clean energy, which represents the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history. So, Stephen, there's a ton of important issues to address here. Let's start with an immediate pain point that most of us deal with on a daily basis, the cost of energy. How does the Inflation Reduction Act aim to lower energy costs for Americans?


Stephen Byrd The simplest way to think about this is that in the past decade, wind and solar costs in the U.S. declined every year by double digits. What's exciting about the IRA is that there are really important investments that will increase the scale of manufacturing. So, the fundamental point in terms of the benefit of the IRA really is support for a variety of clean energy investments that's going to increase efficiency, reduce per unit costs. This is becoming really essentially a very big business. To put this in context, in the last 12 months utility bills in the U.S. and most of the U.S. have increased by sometimes well into the double digits. And yet clean energy costs remain quite low. Given some of the near-term COVID supply chain dynamics, costs aren't dropping as quickly as they normally would, but before long we're going to see those reductions continue. That should result in lower power costs for customers across the U.S. and that's the single biggest benefit from a sort of deflationary point of view that I can think of around the IRA.


Michael Zezas And the IRA also has a stated aim to increase American energy security. In what ways does it attempt to do that?


Stephen Byrd Yeah, Michael, it's really interesting. The IRA has some very broad areas of support for domestic manufacturing of all kinds, of not just clean energy but related technologies like energy storage. And we do think that's going to likely result in quite a bit of onshoring of manufacturing activity. That is good for American energy security, that brings our sources of energy production right back home, creates jobs, reduces dependency on other governments. So, for example, the subsidy for solar manufacturing is really very large. It can be as high as essentially $0.17 a watt, and to put that into context, the selling price at the wholesale level for many of these products is around $0.30 a watt. So that subsidy for domestic manufacturing should result in real investment decisions in real U.S. factories, and that will help to improve American energy security.


Michael Zezas Now, another aspect of this legislation is its attempt to substantially limit carbon emissions in the U.S. What are some of the measures that are aimed at doing this?


Stephen Byrd Decarbonization is a major area of focus, just as you said, for the IRA and this shows up in many ways. I'd say the most direct way would be providing a number of incentives to increase the growth of wind and solar. So, we'll see a great deal of growth there as a result. However, there are other elements that are really interesting. One example is support for nuclear. I think the drafters really wanted to ensure that we didn't lose any additional nuclear power plants. Those plants provide obviously zero carbon energy, but they also provide really important grid reliability services so that's helpful. There is also quite a bit of capital for carbon capture, which should reduce the emissions profile of other sectors as well. There's quite a bit of support for electric vehicles that will help with the pace of electrification. And that's kind of a nice double benefit in the sense that if more consumers choose electric vehicles and the grid becomes cleaner then we get a double benefit. So, we're really seeing very broad-based support for decarbonization in the IRA.


Michael Zezas Now, one of the methods here to incentivize decarbonization is through tax credits. What are some of these tax credits? How do they work?


Stephen Byrd We have a lot of tax credits in this IRA for what I think of as wholesale players, that is the big clean energy developers. There are tax credits for wind and solar that get extended well into the next decade. We have a new tax credit for energy storage. We have tax credits that have been enhanced for carbon capture and utilization, which is very exciting because that's at a level needed to incent quite a bit of investment in carbon capture. We have a new very large tax credit for green hydrogen. That's great, because today hydrogen is made in a process called ‘gray hydrogen’ that does have quite a high carbon profile. So, a variety of tax credits essentially at the wholesale level or at the developer level, but also that could benefit consumers as well, such as on electric vehicles and those are quite sizable as well.


Michael Zezas Now these tax credits and the other efforts in the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at carbon reduction, they represent a major pickup in spending on clean technologies. Can you give us some perspective on that? And is the industry ready to supply all the equipment and labor needed to make this a reality?


Stephen Byrd I think what we're seeing with many technologies here in clean energy is that the demand is starting to grow very rapidly. Now the industry is really pushing very hard to keep pace, essentially. The limit on growth for some of our companies is really down to people. That is, how many people can they hire and train. So, for some of those companies, that growth rate caps out at about 25% per year. You know, that's quite good and we'll see that continue for many years. I think we're going to see a lot of increased efforts on education. And you'll see also within the IRA a lot of language around prevailing wage and ensuring that employees get paid a fair wage. On top of that, though, there are some areas of shortage. So in energy storage, for example, demand is very high across the U.S., not just for electric vehicles, but also to help with grid reliability. A good example would be in Texas during the winter storm, parts of the Texas grid failed and quite a few people were without power during very cold conditions. That was very challenging. And as a result, a lot of customers, both individuals and corporations, want to have storage. There are limits, there is a shortage essentially globally in terms of energy storage, and that's going to take years to address. That said, the IRA does make important headway in terms of providing incentives and financial support to bring a lot of manufacturing back to the U.S. so we have better control of manufacturing. We'll be able to scale up more quickly and also avoid a lot of the logistics and supply chain issues that have plagued some of our companies that have dealt with very complex and challenging global supply chains.


Michael Zezas So, for investors, then, what's the takeaway? Is this perhaps a boon for the clean tech sector, or is it maybe too much, too soon?


Stephen Byrd I think this is a boon for not just the clean tech sector. I think ultimately this is going to translate into much more rapid adoption of clean energy, which fundamentally is very much a deflationary force. So what we're going to see is further innovation, further manufacturing in the U.S. That means more jobs in the U.S, that means a faster pace of innovation and a faster rate of cost reduction. So that does look to us to be a virtuous cycle that's going to benefit not just the decarbonization of the U.S. economy but benefit the consumer and provide jobs as well.


Michael Zezas Stephen, thanks for taking the time to talk.


Stephen Byrd Great speaking with you, Michael.


Michael Zezas As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Aug 23, 2022
Mike Wilson: Will the Bear Market Rebound Last?
00:04:15

While stocks and bonds have rallied since June, investors should be asking if this bear market rebound is a sign that economic growth is on its way up, or if there are negative earning revisions yet to come.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, August 22nd at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Taking a few weeks off can sometimes provide a fresh perspective on markets needed at times like today. The fact that it happens to be August, the most popular time for vacations of the year, can also play into that perspective. Over the past 6 weeks many financial markets have had a strong rebound. As an example, both stocks and bonds have rallied sharply from their June lows. The question that equity investors must ask themselves is how much of the rally in stocks is due to the fall in interest rates versus a real improvement in the prospects of a soft landing in the economy? 


For better or worse our view has remained consistent since April that the primary concern for stocks was no longer inflation, or the Fed's reaction to deal with it, but rather the outlook for growth. In May, the consensus moved strongly into our camp, with the cries for a recession reaching a fever pitch in June. Equity markets became very oversold and the stage was set for a powerful rally. Truth be told, this rally exceeded our expectations for a normal counter trend bear market rally. However, in order to set the stage for the next leg lower, the rally needed to be convincing enough to change the very bearish sentiment to outright bullish. Based on what I have seen in the press and from our peers around the street, that sentiment has flipped with many declaring the end of the bear market and the increasing likelihood of new all time highs as soon as later this year. 


While there are some strong indications that inflation has peaked from a rate of change standpoint, it's too soon for the Fed to declare victory in our view. In other words, the rising hope for the Fed to pivot away from rising rates or curtailing its balance sheet reduction remains optimistic. Nevertheless, this is the primary justification for why equity markets have rallied and why it can continue. 


However, even if that were true, there are very few data points suggesting we have reached a trough in growth, either economically or from an earnings growth standpoint. In fact, our growth is suggesting the opposite, with earnings revision breadth accelerating to the downside, along with our other leading indicators. To put it more bluntly, rarely have we been more confident that consensus growth expectations for earnings over the next 12 months are too high. More importantly, the equity market almost never rallies if forward earnings estimates are falling, unless the valuation is completely washed out. In June, one could have credibly argued valuations were discounting a sharp decline in growth and the risk of a recession. At the lows the forward price earnings ratio reached 15.4x and was down almost 30% from the end of last year. At 15.4x is almost exactly our year end target price earnings multiple at the beginning of this year based on our view that the Fed would have to tighten aggressively to combat inflation. 


The problem with assuming 15.4x was a washed out level for valuations is that all of the degradation was a result of higher interest rates, while the equity risk premium remained flat to down over that time frame. In other words, at no time did the price earnings multiple discount a material slowdown in growth. Now, with the price earnings multiple exceeding 18x last week, valuations are inappropriate if one agrees with our view that earnings estimates are too high. On Friday, stocks reversed lower and that seems to be carrying into this week. Many are once again blaming the Fed and perhaps acknowledging its work in fighting inflation remains unfinished. We agree. However, with price earnings multiples still 17.4x as I record this podcast, valuations are not discounting that resolve, nor is it discounting the negative earnings revisions still to come. 


The bottom line stocks have experienced a classic bear market rebound after having reached a near record oversold condition on many metrics. With the Fed still very much in the picture and earnings estimates likely to fall further, equity markets are almost as unattractive as they were at the beginning of the year. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcast app. It helps more people to find the show.

Aug 22, 2022
Simon Waever: Is an EM Debt Crisis Coming?
00:03:28

In the past two years Emerging Market sovereign debt has seen rising risks given increased borrowing, higher interest rates and a greater number of defaults, leading investors to wonder, are we heading towards an EM debt crisis? 


Important note regarding economic sanctions. This research references country/ies which are generally the subject of comprehensive or selective sanctions programs administered or enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the European Union and/or by other countries and multi-national bodies. Any references in this report to entities, debt or equity instruments, projects or persons that may be covered by such sanctions are strictly incidental to general coverage of the relevant Russian economic sector as germane to its overall financial outlook, and should not be read as recommending or advising as to any investment activities in relation to such entities, instruments or projects. Users of this report are solely responsible for ensuring that their investment activities in relation to any sanctioned country/ies are carried out in compliance with applicable sanctions.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the market. I'm Simon Waever, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of EM Sovereign Credit Strategy. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today, I'll address the possibility of an emerging markets debt crisis. It's Friday, August 19th, 12p.m. in New York.


The most frequent question I get from investors right now is, 'are we heading towards an EM debt crisis?' It's not unreasonable to ask this. After all, a lot of the ingredients that led to prior EM debt crises are in place today. First, EM countries have taken on a lot of debt, not just since the pandemic, but in the past ten years, meaning most countries are at or near multi-decade highs. Second, global central banks are quickly hiking rates, with the Fed in particular a key driver in tightening global financial conditions. Third, which is related, is that servicing and rolling over that debt has suddenly become much more expensive, driven not just by a stronger dollar, but also much higher bond yields. And then fourth, which is perhaps the most important one, is that today we are as close to an extended sudden stop in flows to EM as we have been in a long time. That means that many countries have lost access to markets, so that even if they were willing to pay up to borrow, there's just no demand.


Markets are telling us the risks are rising as well. Outside of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the 2020 pandemic, you'd have to go back 20 years to find EM sovereign credit spreads trading as wide. And high yield credit spreads are much wider than investment grade spreads, so markets are differentiating already.


Finally, just looking at actual sovereign defaults and restructurings, they're already higher than in recent history. We have had six in the past two years and now already three in 2022, namely Russia, Belarus and Sri Lanka.


From here, there are likely to be more defaults, but three key points are worth making. One, the countries at risk now are very different to the prior debt crisis in EM. Two, none would be systemic defaults. And three, they would not all happen at the same time.


Large countries like Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia don't seem to be at risk of defaulting. They are completely different to what they were 20 to 30 years ago. They're now inflation targeters, have mostly free-floating currencies, meaning imbalances are less likely to build up, have large effects reserves and have the majority of that debt in local currency.


Instead, the concern now is mostly with the newer issuers that benefited from the abundant global liquidity in the past ten years. And by this I mean the frontier credits, many of which are in Africa, but also in Asia and Central America. And then it's key to actually look at who has upcoming Eurobond maturities, as not all countries do. But even among these credits, the International Monetary Fund stands ready to help and there are FX reserves that can be used. So, it's not clear to me that you're going to see multiple defaults and even if you were to see two or more defaults among them, they're very unlikely to be systemic.


But, all in, while there's no denying that EM countries are facing debt sustainability issues, let's not paint all EM with the same brush. The nuances should make for some exciting years ahead for sovereign debt analysts and should also open up the potential for significant alpha within the asset class.


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Aug 19, 2022
U.S. Public Policy: Tax Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act
00:04:47

The Inflation Reduction Act includes a variety of provisions regarding tax policy, so how will these policy changes affect corporations and what should investors be aware of? Head of Public Policy Research and Municipal Strategy Michael Zezas and Head of Global Valuation, Accounting, and Tax Todd Castagno discuss.


-----Transcript-----


Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of Public Policy Research and Municipal Strategy. 


Todd Castagno: And I'm Todd Castagno, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Valuation, Accounting and Tax Research. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market we'll focus on what you need to know about some significant changes to tax policy from the Inflation Reduction Act. It's Thursday, August 18th, at noon in New York. 


Michael Zezas: President Biden has now signed the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, into law. As our listeners may remember, last week we discussed the potential impact of the IRA on the U.S. economic outlook. Today we want to dig deeper into a specific area of this new law, namely taxes. So Todd, there's been some criticism of the IRA with regard to the 15% minimum tax on the largest corporations. What are your thoughts on this provision? 


Todd Castagno: Thanks, Michael. Let's first discuss how this 15% minimum corporate tax operates. So the law now intends for large corporations that earn on average of $1 billion or more over a three year period to pay at least 15%. Now, what's important is what is that profit base to tax that 15% and its derived from financial statement net income with certain adjustments. That is why this tax is commonly referred to as a book tax, that is primarily based on book or financial statement measures of income. So if you peel back a few layers of what's driving the criticism, there's a recognition that this tax effectively just overrides incentives or timing differences that Congress consciously enacted. Critics will say that Congress should just fix certain areas of the tax codes directly. However, the politics of fixing specific policies directly can be extremely difficult politically. The other point of criticism is that taxing authority has effectively been ceded to independent accounting standards setters. Changes in the accounting rules may now affect changes in minimum tax revenue. There have been some concerns from investors over earnings quality as the tail now wags the dog where accounting can now drive the economics. So those are just a few of the criticisms. It's also important to note, Michael, that we've had a version of a book tax back in the 1980s, so it would be interesting to see longevity of this tax as that tax only lasted effectively 2 to 3 years. 


Michael Zezas: And another piece of the legislation is a softening and reduction of the Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax on advanced manufacturing activities such as automation, computation, software and networking. What can you tell us about that? 


Todd Castagno: Good question. When Senator Sinema announced a carve out for advanced manufacturing, we were scratching our heads of what that actually meant. Well, it's quite broader and it really affects most manufacturing. So what the adjustment is, is you start with book income and you'd make an adjustment to basically replace what we book for accounting depreciation with tax depreciation. And so tax depreciation is usually front run it and it's usually accelerated versus book. So what that will mean for manufacturers is that their minimum tax base will be lower given this adjustment. 


Michael Zezas: And also in the IRA is a 1% stock buyback tax for companies that are repurchasing their own shares. Todd, is that likely to impact corporate profits or change behavior in a meaningful way? 


Todd Castagno: Overall, we don't believe at a 1% level this will materially affect the level of buybacks or corporate behavior. You could see a modest tilt towards dividends as a more preferential form of capital return. You could also see perhaps some buybacks being pulled forward into 22 as the law takes effect in 2023. You know, we think the bigger risk is that 1% rate skews higher in the future if a future Congress needs more revenue. We should also note that it's net of issuances, so that's important. A lot of firms have large amounts of stock based compensation and they repurchase their shares in order to prevent dilution. And so effect of that issuance will also really reduce the amount of the buyback tax. 


Michael Zezas: And finally, let's talk about tax credits. Which tax credits stand out to you from this bill and how material might their impact be? 


Todd Castagno: I think this one is in the eye of the beholder. The reality is that the IRA increased credits significantly across the board for clean energy investment, whether that's electric vehicles, decarbonization. Also, the structure of many of those credits has evolved where they can be monetized more upfront, whether that's the refund ability or transferability to other taxpayers. So I think the magnitude of the investment, the magnitude of the credits, outweighs any specific credit or provision. 


Michael Zezas: Todd, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Todd Castagno: Great speaking with you, Michael. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show. 

Aug 18, 2022
Allocation, Pt. 2: The Value in Diversification
00:06:11

While shifts in stock and bond correlation have increased the volatility of a 60:40 portfolio, investors may still find some balance in diversification. Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Chief Investment Officer for Wealth Management Lisa Shalett discuss.


-----Transcript-----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley Research.

Lisa Shalett: And I'm Lisa Shalett, Chief Investment Officer for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Andrew Sheets: And on part two of this special episode, we'll be continuing our discussion of the foundational 60/40 portfolio.  It's Wednesday, August 17th at 4:00 PM in London.

Lisa Shalett: And it's 11:00 AM here in New York.

Andrew Sheets: So Lisa, I know the positive correlations won't lift the 60:40 portfolio’s volatility too much, but would you say that investors have been inclined to accept more equity risk in recent decades because the cushioning effect of fixed income and this idea that if anything goes wrong, the Fed will kind of ride to the rescue and support markets?

Lisa Shalett: Yes I do. And I think, you know, part of the issue has been that we've been not only in a regime of falling interest rates, which has supported overall equity valuations, but we've lived in a period of suppressed volatility with regard to the direction of policy. We've been in this forward guidance regime, if you will, from the central bank where not only was the central bank holding down the cost of capital but they were telegraphing the speed and order of magnitude and pace of things which took a huge amount of volatility out of the market for both stocks and bonds and permitted risk taking. I mean, my goodness, you know, when was the last time in history that we had such negative “term premiums” in the pricing of bonds? That was a part of this function of this idea that the Fed's going to tell us exactly what they're going to do and there's this Fed put, and any time something unexpected happens, they will, you know, “come to save the day.”

And so I think we're at the beginning, we're literally in my humble opinion in the first or second innings of the market fundamentally wrapping their heads around what it means to no longer be in a forward guidance regime. Where the central bank, in their ambitions to normalize policy to crush inflation have to inherently be more data dependent and data dependency is inherently more volatile. And so I do think over time we are going to see these equity risk premiums, which, you know, as we've discussed earlier, had gotten quite compressed, widen back out to something that is more normal for the amount of risk that equities genuinely represent.


Andrew Sheets: And Lisa, I think that's such a great point about the predictability of monetary policy cause you're right, you know, that's another interesting similarity with the period prior to 2000. That period was a period of a much more unpredictable Fed between, you know, 1920 and the year 2000 where in more recent years, the Fed has become very predictable. So, that's another good thing that we should, as investors, think about is does that shifting predictability of Fed action, does the rising uncertainty that the Fed is facing, you know, is that also an important driver of this stock bond correlation. So boiling it all down, how are you talking about all of this to clients to help them reposition portfolios to navigate risk and potential return?

Lisa Shalett: I think at the end of the day you know, the most important thing that we're sitting with clients and talking about is that these fundamental building blocks of asset allocations, stocks and bonds, while they may correlate to one another differently, while they're each inherent volatilities may move up and therefore the volatility of that 60:40 portfolio may readjust some, the reality is, is that they’re still very important building blocks that play different roles in the portfolio that are both still required. So, you know, your stocks are still going to be that asset class that allows you to capture unexpected growth in the economy and in the overall profit stream, while fixed income and your rates market is still going to be that opportunity to cushion, if you will, disappointments in growth.

As we know that they, come over the course of a cycle. In that regard, as we look to this repricing of interest rates and what it may mean, we are encouraging our clients to look much more deliberately, actively, at being diversified across styles, across factors, across market capitalizations because these dynamics are changing. If we look back over the last 13 years, because the narrative around falling interest rates and Fed forward guidance and low volatility, and these correlations, these very stable correlations, and everything's going our way, you didn't need to look very far beyond just owning that passive S&P 500 index. Now, as things begin to normalize and get more inherently volatile and idiosyncratic, we look at where there may be, “value” in the traditional factor sense, to look down the market capitalization scheme to smaller and mid-cap stocks, to look at more cyclical oriented stocks that may be responding to this higher interest rate, higher inflation regimes. And so we're encouraging maximum levels of diversification within these building blocks and very active management of risk


Andrew Sheets: Lisa as always, thanks for taking the time to talk.

Lisa Shalett: It's my pleasure, Andrew.

Andrew Sheets: And as a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Aug 17, 2022
Allocation, Pt. 1: Stock & Bond Correlation Shifts
00:09:54

In the current era of tighter Fed policy, the status quo of stock and bond correlation has changed, calling the foundational 60:40 portfolio into question. Chief Cross Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets and Chief Investment Officer for Wealth Management Lisa Shalett discuss.


-----Transcript-----


Andrew Sheets: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley Research.

Lisa Shalett: And I'm Lisa Shalett, Chief Investment Officer for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

Andrew Sheets: And on part one of this special episode, we'll be discussing the foundational 60/40 stock bond portfolio. In an era of tighter policy, is a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds fundamentally broken? It's Tuesday, August 16th at 4:00 PM in London.

Lisa Shalett: And it's 11:00 AM here in New York.

Andrew Sheets: Lisa, it's so good to talk to you again. So, you know, one of the most important, fundamental building blocks of asset allocation is the so-called 60/40 portfolio, a portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds, and both of us have been writing about that this year because this strategy of having diversified stocks and bonds worked unusually well for the 40 years up through 2021, but this year has suffered a real historical reversal, seeing some of the worst returns for this diversified balanced strategy we've seen in 40 or 50 years. So when you think about these dynamics, when you think about the historically poor performance, can you give some context of what's been happening here and what our listeners should make of it?

Lisa Shalett: Sure, absolutely. I think as we know, we've gone through this 13-year period through the pandemic when the narrative was very much dominated by Federal Reserve intervention repression and keeping down of interest rates and in fact, falling interest rates, that produced financial market returns both for stocks and for bonds. But as we know, entering 2022, that narrative that was so concentrated on the direction of interest rates, you know, faced a major pivot from the Federal Reserve itself who, as we know, was facing an inflation fight which meant that they were going to have to move the federal funds rate up pretty significantly. The implication of that was pretty devastating for both stocks and bonds, that combined 60/40 portfolio delivered aggregate returns of about -12 to -13% on average that's the performance for that diversified portfolio benchmark in over 50 years. But again, we have to remember a lot of that performance was coming from a starting point where both stocks and bonds had been extraordinarily valued with those valuations premised on a continuation of Federal Reserve policy that unfortunately because of inflation has had to change

Andrew Sheets: Lisa I'm so glad you mentioned that starting point of valuations because, you know, it matters, I think in two really important ways. One, it helps us maybe understand better what's been happening this year, but also, you know, usually when prices fall, and this year prices are still down considerably from where they started, that means better valuations and better returns going forward. So, you know, could you just give a little bit more context of you and your team run a lot of estimates for what asset classes can return potentially over longer horizons. You know, maybe what that looked like for a 60/40 portfolio at the start of this year, when, as you mentioned, both stocks and bonds were pretty richly valued, and then how that's been developing as the year has progressed.

Lisa Shalett: Yeah. So, fantastic question. And, you know, we came into 2022 quite frankly, on a strategic horizon given where valuations were, not very excited about either asset class. You know for bonds, we were looking for maybe 0-2% or somewhat below coupon, because of the pressures of repricing on bonds. And for stocks we were looking for something in the, you know, 4-5% range, which was significantly below what historical long term capital market assumptions, you know, might expect for many institutional clients who benchmark themselves off of a 7.5 or 8% return ambition. So, when we entered this bear market, this kind of ferocious selloff, as we noted, from January through June, there were many folks who were hoping that perhaps valuations and forward looking expectations of returns were improving. Importantly, however, what we've seen is that hasn't been the case because what you have to do when you're thinking about valuation is you've gotta look at stock valuations relative to the level of interest rates.

And we're now in a scenario where, you know, the terminal value for the US economy may be something very different than it was and that means somewhat lower valuations. So, you know, if I had to put a number on it right now, my expectations for equity returns going forward from the current mark to market is really no better, unfortunately, than perhaps where it was in January. For bonds on the other hand, we've made some progress. And so to me, you know, I, I could see our estimates on bonds being a little bit more constructive than where they were with the 10 year yield somewhere in the, in the 2.8 zip code. 


Lisa Shalett: So Andrew we've talked about the stock bond correlation as keying off the direction of inflation and the path of Fed policy. With both of those changing, do you view a positive correlation as likely over the longer term?

Andrew Sheets: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Lisa. So I think this issue of stock bond correlation is, is really interesting and, and gets a lot of attention for, for good reasons. And then, I think, can also be a little bit misinterpreted. So the reason the correlation is important is, I think, probably obvious to the listeners, if you have a diversified portfolio of assets, you want them to kind of not all move together. That's the whole point of diversification. You want your assets to go up and down on different days, and that smooths the overall return. Now, you know, interestingly for a lot of the last hundred years, the stock bond correlation was positive. Stock and bond prices tended to move in the same direction, which means stock and bond yields tended to move in the opposite direction. So higher yields meant lower stock prices.

That was the history for a lot of time, kind of prior to 2000. The reason I think that happened was because inflation was the dominant fear of markets over a lot of that period and inflation was very volatile. And so higher yields generally meant a worsening inflation backdrop, which was bad for stock prices and lower bond yields tended to mean inflation was getting back under control, and that was better for stocks. Now, what's interesting is in the 90s that dynamic really kinda started to change. And after 2000, after the dot-com bubble burst, the fear really turned to growth. The market became a lot less concerned about inflationary pressure, but a lot more concerned about growth. And that meant that when yields were rising, the market saw that as growth being better. So the thing they were afraid of was getting less bad, which was better for stock prices.

So, you had this really interesting flip of correlation where once inflation was tamed really in the 90s, the markets started to see higher yields, meaning better growth rather than higher inflation, which meant that stocks and bonds tend to have a negative correlation. Their prices tend to more often move in opposite directions. And as you alluded to, that really created this golden age of stock bond diversification that created this golden age of 60/40 portfolios, because both of these assets were delivering positive returns, but they were delivering them at different times. And so offsetting and cushioning each other's price movements, which is really, you know, the ideal of anybody trying to invest for the long run and, and diversify a portfolio. So that's changed this year. It's been very apparent this year that both stock and bond prices have gone down and gone down together in a pretty significant way.

But I think as we look forward, we also shouldn't overstate this change. You know, I think your point, Lisa, about just how expensive things were at the start of the year is really important. You know, anytime an asset is very expensive, it is much more vulnerable to dropping and given that both stocks and bonds were both expensive at the same time and both very expensive at the same time, you know, their dropping together I think was, was also a function of their valuation as much of anything else. So, I think going forward, it makes sense to assume kind of a middle ground. You know, I don't think we are going to have the same negative correlation we enjoyed over the last, you know, 15 years, but I also don't think we're going back to the very positive correlations we had, you know, kind of prior to the 1990s.

And so, you know, I think for investors, we should think about that as less diversification they get to enjoy in a portfolio, but that doesn't mean it's no diversification. And given that bonds are so much less volatile than stocks, you know, bonds might have a third of the volatility of the stock market, if we look at kind of volatility over the last five years. That still is some pretty useful ballast in a portfolio. That still means a large chunk of the portfolio is moving around a lot less and helping to stabilize the overall asset pool. 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks for listening. Tomorrow I’ll be continuing my conversation with Lisa Shalett, and as a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Aug 16, 2022
Ellen Zentner: Cooling Inflation and Shifting Labor Trends
00:04:19

Based on July reports inflation may finally be cooling down, and the labor market remains strong, so how might this new data influence policy changes in the September FOMC meeting?


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ellen Zentner, Chief U.S. Economist for Morgan Stanley Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be catching you up to speed on U.S. inflation, the labor market and our outlook for Fed policy. It's Monday, August 15th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Let me start with some encouraging news. If we look at the July readings for both the Consumer Price Index data and the Producer Price Index, inflation finally appears to be cooling. And that should take some pressure off the Fed to deliver another 75 basis point hike in September. So that's the good news. However, inflation is still elevated and that suggests the Fed still has a lot of work to do, even if there's a reduced need for a third consecutive 75. We're forecasting a 50 basis point hike at the September and November meetings and 25 basis points in December for a peak interest rate of 3.625%. 


Okay, let's look a bit more under the hood. July CPI on both headline and core measures surprised to the downside, and the PPI came in softer as well. Together, the reports point to a lower than previously anticipated inflation print that will be released on August 26th. Now, the recent blowout July employment report led markets to price a high probability of a 75 basis point hike. But the inflation data then came in lower than expected and pushed the probability back toward 50 basis points. 


Based on the outlook for declining energy prices, we think headline inflation should continue to come down and do so quite quickly. However, core inflation pressures remain uncomfortably high and are likely to persist. For the Fed signs of a turn around in headline inflation are helpful and are already showing up in lower household inflation expectations. However, trends in core are more indicative of the trajectory for underlying inflation pressures, and Fed officials came out in droves last week to stress that the steep path for rates remains the base case. Sticky core inflation is a key reason why we expect the Fed to hold at 3.625% Fed funds, before making the first cut toward normalizing policy in December 2023. 


Now, let me speak to July's surprising employment report. As the data showed, the labor market remains strong, even though some of the data flow has begun to diverge in recent months. Leading up to the recent release, the market had taken the softening in employment in the household survey, so that is the employment measure that just goes out to households and polls them, were you employed, were you not, were you part time, were you full time, and generally because that's been very weak, the market was taking it as a potential harbinger of a turn in the payrolls data, payrolls data are collected from companies that just ask each company how many folks are on your payrolls. Household survey employment was again softer in July, coming in at 179,000 versus 528,000 for the payroll survey. 


Now, this seems like a sizable disparity, but it's actually not unusual for the household and payroll surveys to diverge over shorter periods of time. And these near term divergences largely reflect methodological differences. But what's interesting here and worth noting is that these differences in data likely reflect a shift in the form of employment. 


While the economy saw a large increase in self-employment in the early stages of the pandemic, the data now suggest workers may be returning to traditional payroll jobs, potentially because of higher nominal wages and better opportunities. If the economy is increasingly pulling workers out of self-employment and into traditional payroll jobs, similar pull effects are likely reaching workers currently out of the labor force. 


And this brings me to one of our key expectations for the next year and a half, which is a continued increase in labor force participation, in particular driven by prime age workers age 25 to 54. Higher wages, better job opportunities and rising cost of living will likely bring workers back into the labor force, even as overall job growth slows. Fed researchers, in fact, have recently documented that a delayed recovery in labor force participation is quite normal, and that's something we think is likely to play out again in this cycle. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Aug 15, 2022
Consumer Spending: Have Consumers Begun to Trade Down?
00:05:40

As inflation persists, economic concerns such as recession rise, and consumer spending patterns begin to shift, is there any evidence to suggest consumers are already trading down to value and discount products? U.S. Softlines Analyst Kimberly Greenberger and Hardlines, Broadlines and Food Retail Analyst Simeon Gutman discuss.


-----Transcript-----


Kimberly Greenberger: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Kimberly Greenberger, Morgan Stanley's U.S. Softlines Analyst. 


Simeon Gutman: And I'm Simeon Gutman, Hardlines, Broadlines and Food Retail Analyst. 


Kimberly Greenberger: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll be discussing shifting consumer spending patterns amid persistent inflation and concerns about the economy. It's Friday, August 12th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Kimberly Greenberger: As our listeners are no doubt aware, many retail segments were big pandemic beneficiaries with record sales growth and margins for 2+ years. But now that spending on goods is normalizing from high levels and consumers are facing record high inflation and worrying about a potential recession, we're starting to see signs of what's called "trade down", which is a consumer migration from more expensive products to value priced products. So Simeon, in your broad coverage, are you seeing any evidence that consumers are trading down already? 


Simeon Gutman: We're seeing it in two primary ways. First, we're seeing some reversion away from durable, high ticket items away to consumable items. And the pace of consumption of some of these high ticket durable items is waning and pretty rapidly. Some of these are items that were very strong during the pandemic, electronics, some sporting goods items, home furnishings, to name a few. So these items we're seeing material sales deceleration as one form of trade down. As another in the food retail sector, we're definitely seeing signs of consumers spending less or finding ways to spend less inside the grocery store. They can do that by trading down from national brands to private brands, buying less expensive alternative, buying frozen instead of fresh and even in the meat counter, buying less expensive forms of protein. So we're seeing it manifest in those two ways. What is the situation in softlines, Kimberly? Is your coverage vulnerable to trade down risk? 


Kimberly Greenberger: Absolutely. In softlines retail, which is apparel, footwear, accessories retail, these are discretionary categories. Yes, there's sort of a minimum level of spending that's necessary because clothing is part of the essentials, food, shelter, clothing. But Americans' closets are full and they're full because last year there was a great deal of overspending on the apparel category. So where we have seen trade down impact our sector this year, Simeon, is we have seen consumers budget cutting and moving away from some of those more discretionary categories like apparel especially. We just have not yet seen any benefits to some of the more value oriented retailers that we would expect to see in the future if this behavior persists. 


Simeon Gutman: So when we're thinking about the context of our collaborative work with other Morgan Stanley sector analysts around trade down risks, what do you hear, Kimberly, about the impact on segments such as household products and restaurants? 


Kimberly Greenberger: We have found most fascinating, actually, the study of those real high frequency purchases. Because in order to understand how consumer behavior is changing at the margin, we think it's most important to look at what consumers were spending on last week, two weeks ago, three weeks ago as a better indication of what they're likely to spend on for the next three or six months. How that behavior has been changing is that on those of very high frequency purchases like the daily tobacco purchase or the daily food at home purchase, as you mentioned, is that there is trade down from higher priced brands and products into more value oriented brands and products. The same thing is happening in fast food. Another category that we consume on a somewhat more frequent basis than, for example, eating in casual dining restaurants where we're sitting down for a meal. So now we've got a good number of months of evidence that this is, in fact, happening, and that gives us more conviction that it's likely to continue through the second half of the year. So Simeon, in your view, what parts of retail are the likely winners and laggards should this trade down behavior persist and broaden out, particularly if a recession did materialize? 


Simeon Gutman: So in the event of a recession, I think the typical answers here are a little bit easier to identify. The two big beneficiaries, the channel beneficiaries, would be the dollar slash discount stores and then secondarily, off price. First, the dollar and discount stores, they are already seeing some initial signs of trade down and that is mostly in the consumable area. That is the place where the consumer feels the pinch immediately. The other piece of it is the discretionary spend. The longer these conditions persist, high inflation and potential other pressures on the consumer, then you'll start to see a more pronounced trade down and shift of discretionary purchases. And that's where off price plays a role. 


Kimberly Greenberger: Simeon, thanks so much for taking the time to talk. 


Simeon Gutman: Great speaking with you, Kimberly. 


Kimberly Greenberger: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people to find the show. 

Aug 12, 2022
Sheena Shah: When will Crypto Prices Find a Bottom?
00:03:55

As bitcoin has been experiencing a steep decline in the last 6 months, investors are beginning to wonder when Cryptocurrencies will finally bottom out and start the cycle anew.


Digital assets, sometimes known as cryptocurrency, are a digital representation of a value that function as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, or a store of value, but generally do not have legal tender status. Digital assets have no intrinsic value and there is no investment underlying digital assets. The value of digital assets is derived by market forces of supply and demand, and is therefore more volatile than traditional currencies’ value. Investing in digital assets is risky, and transacting in digital assets carries various risks, including but not limited to fraud, theft, market volatility, market manipulation, and cybersecurity failures—such as the risk of hacking, theft, programming bugs, and accidental loss. Additionally, there is no guarantee that any entity that currently accepts digital assets as payment will do so in the future. The volatility and unpredictability of the price of digital assets may lead to significant and immediate losses. It may not be possible to liquidate a digital assets position in a timely manner at a reasonable price.

Regulation of digital assets continues to develop globally and, as such, federal, state, or foreign governments may restrict the use and exchange of any or all digital assets, further contributing to their volatility. Digital assets stored online are not insured and do not have the same protections or safeguards of bank deposits in the US or other jurisdictions. Digital assets can be exchanged for US dollars or other currencies, but are not generally backed nor supported by any government or central bank.

Before purchasing, investors should note that risks applicable to one digital asset may not be the same risks applicable to other forms of digital assets. Markets and exchanges for digital assets are not currently regulated in the same manner and do not provide the customer protections available in equities, fixed income, options, futures, commodities or foreign exchange markets.

Morgan Stanley and its affiliates do business that may relate to some of the digital assets or other related products discussed in Morgan Stanley Research. These could include market making, providing liquidity, fund management, commercial banking, extension of credit, investment services and investment banking.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Sheena Shah, Lead Cryptocurrency Strategist for Morgan Stanley Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I address the question everyone seems to be asking about the crypto cycle: when will crypto prices find a bottom? It's Thursday, August 11th, at 5 p.m. in London. 


After a 75% peak to trough fall in bitcoin's price between November 2021 and June this year, it seems like almost everyone in the market is asking the same question. When will crypto prices find the bottom? We will discuss three topics related to this question; the pace of new bitcoin creation, past bitcoin cycles and dollar liquidity. 


What can bitcoin's creation tell us about where we are in the crypto cycle? Bitcoin's relatively short history means there is little available data, and yet the data is quite rich. In its short 12 year history, bitcoin has experienced at least 10 bull and bear cycles. Bitcoin creation follows a 4 year cycle. Within these 4 year cycles, price action has so far followed three distinct phases. First, there is a rapid and almost exponential rise in price. Second, at a peak in price, a bear market follows. And third, prices move sideways, eventually leading into a new bull market. 


The question for investors today is, is bitcoin's price moving out of the second phase and into the third? Only time will tell. There have only been three of these halving cycles in the past, and so it is difficult to conclude that these cycles will repeat in the future. 


What about past bear markets? The 75% peak to trough fall in bitcoin's price and this cycle is currently faring better than previous cycles, in which the falls after peaks in 2011, 2013 and 2017 ranged between 85 and 95%. There is, therefore, speculation about whether this cycle has further to drop. 


Previous cycles have shed similar characteristics. In the bull runs there was speculation about the potential of a particular part of the crypto ecosystem. In 2011, it was the excitement about Bitcoin and the development of ecosystem technologies like exchanges and wallets. In 2020 to 2021, this cycle, there were NFTs, DeFi and the rising dominance of the institutional investor. 


In previous cycles, the bear runs were triggered by regulatory clampdowns or a dominant exchange being hacked. In 2013, a crackdown in China led to the world's largest exchange at that time, BTC China, stopping customer deposits. In this cycle, the liquidity tap dried up as inflation concerns gripped the market. 


Central bank liquidity and government stimulus fueled the speculation driven 2020-2022 crypto cycle. For this reason, day to day crypto traders are focusing on what the U.S. Federal Reserve plans to do with its interest rates and availability of dollars. 


To find a bottom, there are two liquidity related factors to look out for. First, market expectations that central banks will continue to tighten the money supply, turn into expectations that central banks will resume monetary expansion. Second, crypto companies increase appetite to build crypto leverage again. Both of these would increase liquidity and drive a new cycle of speculation. 


Which brings us back to the question about the bottom of the crypto cycle that almost everyone is asking: are we there yet? To answer that question, look at bitcoin creation, past cycles and above all, liquidity. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed Thoughts on the Market, share this and other episodes with a friend or colleague today. 

Aug 11, 2022
U.S. Public Policy: Will the Inflation Reduction Act Actually Reduce Inflation?
00:04:48

The Senate just passed the Inflation Reduction Act which seeks to fight inflation on a variety of fronts, but the most pressing question is, will the IRA actually impact inflation?


-----Transcript-----


Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Head of U.S. Public Policy Research and Municipal Strategy. 


Ellen Zentner: And I'm Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley's Chief U.S. Economist. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, with a focus on its impact on the U.S. economic outlook. It's Wednesday, August 10th, at noon in New York. 


Michael Zezas: So, Ellen, the Senate just passed the Democrats Inflation Reduction Act on a party line vote. And we know this has been a long awaited centerpiece to President Biden's agenda. But let me start with one of the more pressing questions here; from your perspective, does the Inflation Reduction Act reduce inflation? Or maybe more specifically, does it reduce inflation in a way that impacts how the Fed looks at inflation and how markets look at inflation? 


Ellen Zentner: So for it to impact the Fed today and how the markets are looking at inflation, it really has to show very near term effects here, where the IRA focuses more on longer term effects on inflation. So today we've got recent inflation report that came out this week showing that inflation moved lower, so softened. Especially showing the effects of those lower energy prices, which everyone notices because you go and gas up at the pump and so, you know right away what inflation is doing. And that's led to some more optimism from households. That at least gives the Fed some comfort, right, that they're doing the right thing here, raising rates and helping to bring inflation down. But there's a good deal more work for the Fed to do, and we think they raise rates by another 50 basis points at their September meeting. The rates market also took note of some of the inflation metrics of late that are looking a little bit better. But still, it's not definitive for markets what the Fed will do. We need a couple of more data points over the next few months. So the IRA is just a completely separate issue right now for the Fed and markets because that's going to be in the longer run impact. 


Michael Zezas: So the bill is constructed to actually pay down the federal government deficit by about $300 billion over 10 years, and conventional wisdom is that when you're reducing deficits, you're helping to calm inflation. Is that still the case here? 


Ellen Zentner: So it's still the case in general because it means less government debt that has to be issued. But let's put it in perspective, $300 billion deficit reduction spread over ten years is 30 billion a year in an economy that's greater than 20 trillion. And so it's very difficult to see. 


Michael Zezas: Okay, so the Inflation Reduction Act seems like it helps over the long term, but probably not a game changer in the short term. 


Ellen Zentner: That's right. 


Michael Zezas: Let's talk about some of the more specific elements within the bill and their potential impact on inflation over the longer term. So, for example, the IRA extends Affordable Care Act subsidies. It also allows Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, or at least some prescription drugs, for the first time. How do you view the impacts of those provisions? 


Ellen Zentner: So these are really the provisions that get at the meat of impacting inflation over the longer run. And I'll focus in on health care costs here. So specifically, drug prices have been quite high. Being able to lower drug prices helps lower income households, that helps older cohorts, and the cost of medical services gets a very large weight in overall consumer inflation and it gets a large weight because we spend so much on it. The other thing I'd note here, though, is that since it allows Medicare to negotiate prices for some drugs for the first time, well, that word negotiate is key here. It takes time to negotiate price changes, and that's why this bill is more something that affects longer run inflation rather than near term. 


Michael Zezas: Right. So bottom line, for market participants, this Inflation Reduction Act might ultimately deliver on its name. But if you want to understand what the Fed is going to do in the short term and how it might impact the rates markets, better off paying attention to incoming data over the next few months. It's also fair to say there's other market effects to watch emanating from the IRA, namely corporate tax effects and spending on clean energy. Those are two topics we're going to get into in podcasts over the next couple of weeks. 


Michael Zezas: Ellen, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Ellen Zentner: Great speaking with you, Michael. 


Michael Zezas: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app. It helps more people find the show.

Aug 10, 2022
U.S. Housing: Will New Lending Standards Slow Housing Activity?
00:06:34

As lending standards tighten and banks get ready to make some tough choices, how will the housing market fare if loan growth slows? Co-Heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research Jim Egan and Jay Bacow discuss.


-----Transcript-----


Jay Bacow: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jay Bacow, Co-Head of U.S. Securitized Products Research here at Morgan Stanley. 


Jim Egan: And I'm Jim Egan, the other Co-Head of U.S. Securitized Products Research. 


Jay Bacow: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing how tightening lending standards could impact housing activity. It's Tuesday, August 9th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Jim Egan: Now Jay, you published a high level report last week with Vishy Tirupattur, who is the Head of Fixed Income Research here at Morgan Stanley, on the coming capital crunch. Basically, rising capital pressures will mean that banks will have to make tough choices in their lending books. Is that about right? 


Jay Bacow: Yeah, that's it. Basically, we don't think that markets have really appreciated the impact of the combination of how rising rates caused losses on banks portfolios, the regulatory changes and the results of the stress test capital buffers. All of these things are going to require banks to look at the composition of not just the assets that they own, but their business models in general. Our large cap banking analyst Betsy Graseck thinks that banks are going to look at things differently to come up with different solutions depending on the bank, but in general across the industry, expects lending standards to tighten for this year and in 2023, and for loan growth to slow. So, Jim, if banks are going to tighten lending standards then what does that mean for housing activity? 


Jim Egan: I think, especially if we look at home sales, that's a negative for sales volumes and home sales are already falling. We've talked about affordability deterioration on this podcast a few times now, not just the fact of where affordability is in the housing market, but how rapidly it's deteriorating. If lending standards are going to tighten on top of those affordability pressures, then that just argues for potentially an even more substantial decrease in sales volumes going forward, and we're already seeing this in the data. Through the first half of the year new home sales are down 14% versus the first half of 2021. Purchase applications, that's our highest frequency data point that we have, they're getting progressively weaker each month. They were down 17% year over year in June, 19% year over year in July. Existing home sales, and that's referencing a much larger volume of sales then new home sales, they're down a comparatively strong 8% year to date. But with all of the dynamics that we're discussing, we believe that they're going to see a much more precipitous drop in the second half of the year. We have it down over 15% year over year versus 2021. Now, that's because of affordability pressures. It's because of the potential for tightening lending standards. It's also because of the lock in effect from a rate perspective. 


Jay Bacow: On that lock in effect, with just 2% of the market having incentive to refinance, lenders are sitting there and saying, well, what do we do in this environment where we can't just give people a rate refi? Now, you mentioned the purchase activity, that's obviously one area, but Black Knight just reported another quarterly record of untapped equity in the housing market, and consumers would love to be able to tap that. The problem is when you do a cash out refinance, you end up increasing the rate on your entire mortgage. And homeowners don't want to do that. So they'd love to do something like a home equity line of credit or second lien where they're getting charged the higher rate on just the equity they take out. But the problem is it's harder to originate those in an environment where lending standards are tightening, particularly given the capital allocation against those type of loans can be onerous. 


Jim Egan: Right. And the level of conversations around an increase in kind of the second lien or the hill market have certainly been picking up over the past weeks and months, both on the originator side, on the investor side, as people look to find ways to access that record amount of equity that you mentioned in the housing market. 


Jay Bacow: Thinking about trying, people are still trying to sell houses and you just commented on the housing activity, but what about the prices they're selling at? Some of the recent data was pretty surprising. 


Jim Egan: The most recent month of data, I think the point that has raised the most eyebrows was the average or median price of new home sales saw a pretty significant month over month decrease. We continue to see month over month increases in the median and average price of existing home sales at. When we think about average and median prices, there's a mix shift issue there. So month over month, depending on the types of homes that sell things can move. What we actually forecast, the repeat sales index Case-Shiller, we're starting to see a slowdown in growth. The past two months have been consecutive deceleration in the pace of home price growth. I think the thing that we'd highlight most is the growing geographic pervasiveness of the slowdown. Two months ago, 11 of the Case-Shiller 20 city index was showing a deceleration month over month. This past month, it was 16. Now, all 20 cities continue to show home price growth, but again, 16 are showing that pace slowdown. There is some regional specificity to this, the cities that continue to accelerate largely in Florida, Miami and Tampa to name two. 


Jay Bacow: Okay. So that's what we've seen. What do we expect to see on a go forward basis? 


Jim Egan: We talked about our expectations for sales a few minutes ago. I think the one thing that we do want to highlight is on the starts front, we think that single unit starts are going to start to decrease over the course of the back half of this year. There's a couple of reasons for that. We talked about affordability pressures, another dynamic that's been playing out in the space is that there's been a backlog not just of housing starts, but before those starts to get the completion units under construction has swollen back to 2004 levels, starts themselves are only at 1997 levels. We do think that that is going to kind of disincentivize starts going forward. We're already starting to see it a little bit in the underlying data, trailing 12 month single unit starts had plateaued for largely a year. They've been down the past two months, we think that they're going to continue to fall in the back half of this year. It's already playing through from a sentiment perspective, homebuilder confidence is down 39% from its peak in November of 2020, and that's being driven by their perception of traffic on their sites as well as their perception of future sales conditions. So we do think that starts are going to fall because a number of these dynamics. And we think that home price growth is going to remain positive and we've highlighted this on this podcast before, but the pace is going to start slowing pretty materially in the back half of this year. The most recent print was 19.7%, down from over 20%, but we think it gets all the way to 9% by December 2022, 3% by December 2023. So continued home price growth, but the pace is going to slow pretty materially. 


Jim Egan: Jay, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Jay Bacow: Jim. Always a pleasure. 


Jim Egan: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today. 

Aug 09, 2022
Josh Pokrzywinski: Deflationary Opportunities
00:03:59

While inflation remains high and the battle to bring it down is top of mind, there may be some opportunities in technologies that could help bring down inflation in some sectors.


-----Transcript-----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Josh Pokrzywinski, Morgan Stanley's U.S. Electrical Equipment and Multi-Industry Analyst. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about deflationary opportunities in this high inflation environment. It's Monday, August 8th, at 4 p.m. in New York. 


As most listeners no doubt know, the battle to bring down inflation is the topic of 2022. But today I want to talk about inflation from a slightly different perspective, and that's how automation and productivity enhancing technologies could actually help bring down inflation in areas such as labor, supply chain procurement and energy. 


And while these technologies require capital investment, something that's often difficult when the economy is uncertain, we believe structural changes in demographics, energy policy and security, and an aging capital base make technologies focused on cost reductions and productivity actually more valuable. 


So for investors focusing on stocks that enable productivity and cost reduction through automation, efficiency, or their own declining cost curves while maintaining strong barriers to entry and attractive equity risk/reward, is something to consider. 


To dig into this, the U.S. Equity Strategy Team and equity analysts across the spectrum at Morgan Stanley Research created a deflation enabler shopping list. And that list is composed of stocks that produce tangible cost savings for their customers, where costs themselves are rising due to inflation, such as labor and energy, or scarcity, for example semiconductors or materials. In many cases, the cost of the product itself has also come down through technology or economies of scale, benefitting the purchaser and therefore adoption on both lower cost to implement and higher cost avoidance through use. 


So where should investors look? Although there are a number of deflationary companies across areas such as automation and semiconductors, we identified three major deflationary technologies which permeate across sectors and which are at long term inflection points in their importance for both enterprise and consumer. 


The first is artificial intelligence or AI. AI is proving relentless and increasingly deflationary. In biotech, AI could shorten development timelines, lower R&D spend and improve probability of success. 


The second is clean energy. My colleague Stephen Burd, who covers clean energy and utilities, has pointed out that against the backdrop of inflationary fossil fuels and utility bills, companies with deflationary clean energy technologies and high barriers to entry will be able to grow rapidly and generate increasing margins. 


And finally, mass energy storage and mobility. Although the cost of batteries have been falling for some time, competition in the space has led to heightened investment. In addition, ambitious top down government emissions goals have facilitated an exponential uplift in demand for batteries and their component raw materials. 


Although supply chains for batteries remain immature, battery storage technology is only beginning to have profound effects on society mobility, inclusivity and ultimately climate. As investment by automakers rises along with generous European subsidies aimed at staying competitive with U.S. and Chinese investment, the supply chain and innovation in new battery technologies such as solid state mean that the price should continue to fall as innovation and demand rise. 


This is extended beyond the personal vehicle market, with the cost savings and efficiency improvements driving profound changes and improvements in the range and cost of heavy duty and long haul trucking EV, and ultimately autonomous, markets. 


To sum up, in an inflationary world we believe companies that have developed deflationary products and services will become increasingly valuable, as long as they have significant barriers to entry with respect to those products and services. 


Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.

Aug 08, 2022
Andrew Sheets: What Can We Learn from Market Prices?
00:03:13

The current market pricing can tell investors a lot about what the market believes is coming next, but the future is uncertain and investors may not always agree with market expectations. Chief Cross-Asset Strategist Andrew Sheets explains.


--- Transcript ---

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Asset Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Friday, August 5th, at 2 p.m. in London.

Trying to predict where financial markets will go is difficult. The future, as they say, is uncertain, and even the most talented investors and forecasters will frequently struggle to get these predictions right.

A different form of this question, however, might be easier. What do markets assume will happen? After all, these assumptions are the result of thousands of different actors, most of which are trying very hard to make accurate predictions about future market prices because a lot of money is on the line. Not only is there a lot of information in those assumptions, but understanding them are table stakes for a lot of investment strategy. After all, if our view only matches what is already expected by the market to happen, it is simply much less meaningful.

Let's start with central banks, where current market pricing can tell us quite a bit. Markets expect the Fed to raise rates by another 100 basis points between now and February to about three and a half percent. And then from there, the Fed is expected to reverse course, reducing rates by about half a percent by the end of 2023. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank is expected to raise rates steadily from a current level of 0 to 1.1% over the next 12 months.

Morgan Stanley's economists see it differently in both regions. In the U.S., we think the Fed will take rates a little higher than markets expect by year end and then leave them higher for longer than markets currently imply. In the U.S., we think the Fed will take rates higher than markets expect by year end and then leave them higher for longer than is currently implied. In Europe, it's the opposite. We think the ECB will raise rates more slowly than markets imply. The idea that the Fed may do more than expected while the ECB does less is one reason we forecast the US dollar to strengthen further against the euro.

A rich set of future expectations also exists in the commodity market. For example, markets expect oil prices to be about 10% lower in 12 months time. Gasoline is priced to be about 15% lower between now and the end of the year. The price of gold, in contrast, is expected to be about 3% more expensive over the next 12 months.

I’d stress that these predictions are not some sort of cheat code for the market. The fact that oil is priced to decline 10% doesn't mean that you can make 10% today by selling oil. Rather, it means that foreign investor, a 10% decline in oil, or a 3% rise in gold will simply mean you break even over the next 12 months.

Again, all of this pricing informs our views. We forecast oil to decline less and gold to decline more than market prices imply. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley equity analysts can work backwards looking at what these commodity expectations would mean for the companies that produce them. We won't get into that here, but it's yet another way that we can take advantage of information the market is already giving us.

Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Aug 06, 2022
Michael Zezas: The U.S. and China, a History of Competition
00:02:42

As investors watch to see if tensions between the U.S. and China will escalate, it’s important to understand the underlying competitive dynamic and how U.S. policy may have macro impacts.


--- Transcript ---

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Head of Public pPolicy Research and Municipal Strategy for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It's Thursday, August 4th, at 1 p.m. in New York.

This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's Asia trip had the attention of many investors as they watched to see whether her actions would escalate tensions between the U.S. and China. In our view, though, this event wasn't a potential catalyst for tensions, but rather evidence of tensions that persist between the two global powers. Hence, we think investors are better served focusing on the underlying dynamic rather than any particular event.

The U.S.-China rivalry has many complicated causes, many of which we've covered on previous podcasts. But the point we want to reemphasize is this; this rivalry is going to persist. China is interested in asserting its global influence, which in ways can be at odds with how the U.S. and Europe want the international economic system to function. Nowhere is this clearer than in the policies the U.S. has adopted in recent years aimed at boosting its competitiveness with China.

The latest is the enactment of the Chips Plus Bill, which allocates over $250 billion to help US industries, in particular the semiconductor industry, to devolve its supply chain reliance on China for the purposes of economic security and to protect sensitive technologies. Policies like this have more of a sectoral effect than the macro one. But the primary market impact here being a defraying of rising costs for the semiconductor industry. But investors should be aware that there's potential policy changes on the horizon that could have macro impacts. For example, Congress considered creating an outbound investment restriction mechanism in that Chips Plus bill. Such a restriction could have significantly interrupted foreign direct investment in China with substantial consequences for China equity markets.

That provision didn't make it into this bill, and with little legislative time between now and the midterm elections, it's unlikely to resurface this year. That's cause some to conclude that it's likely to be years before such a provision could become enacted, particularly if Republicans take back control of one or both chambers of Congress creating a risk of gridlock.

But we'd caution that's too simple of a conclusion. The concept of outbound investment restrictions enjoys bipartisan support. So we think investors should be on guard for this provision to get serious consideration in 2023. We'll, of course, track it and keep you informed.