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: Unresolved Questions Create Market Uncertainty
00:03:12

Optimistic investors have pushed stocks and bond yields to the high end of the recent range. But inflation, banks and the debt ceiling status are still raising questions that have gone unanswered.


----- 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, May 26th at 2 p.m. in London. 


A hot topic of conversation at the moment is that three big questions that have loitered over the market since January still look unresolved. 


The first of these is whether inflation is actually coming down. Surprisingly, high inflation was a dominant story last year and a major driver of the market's weakness. A number of low inflation readings in January gave a lot of hope that inflation would now start to fall rapidly, as supply chains normalized and the effect of central bank policy tightening took effect. 


Yet the data since then has been stubbornly mixed. Headline inflation is coming down, but core inflation, which excludes food and energy, has moderated a lot less. In the U.S., the annualized rate of core consumer price inflation over the last three, six and 12 months is all about 5%. Today's reading of Core PCE, the Fed's preferred inflation measure, came in above expectations. And in both the UK and the Eurozone, core inflation has also been coming in higher than expected. 


We still think inflation moderates as policy tightening hits and growth slows, but the improvement here has been slow. One reason our economists think that would take quite a bit of economic weakness to push the Fed, the European Central Bank or the Bank of England, to cut rates this year. 


That ties nicely into the second issue. Over the last two months, there's been a lot more excitement that the Federal Reserve may now be done raising interest rates, thanks to all of the tightening they've already done and the potential effect of recent U.S. bank stress. But with still high core inflation and the lowest U.S. unemployment rate since 1968, this issue is looking much less resolved. Indeed, in just the last two weeks, markets have moved to price in an additional rate hike from the Fed over the summer. 


Third and more immediate is the U.S. debt ceiling. Risks around the debt ceiling have been on investors' radar since January, but as U.S. stocks have risen this month and volatility has been low, we've sensed more optimism, that a resolution here is close and that markets can move on to other things. 


But like inflation or Fed rate increases, the U.S. debt ceiling still looks like another key debate with a lot of questions. U.S. Treasury bills or the cost of insuring U.S. debt, have shown more stress, not less, over the last week. As of this morning, a one month U.S. Treasury bill is yielding over 6%. 

Optimism that inflation is now falling, the Fed has done hiking and the debt ceiling will get resolved, have helped push both stocks and bond yields to the high end of the recent range. But with these issues still raising a lot of questions, we think that may be as far as they go for the time being, presenting an opportunity to rotate out of stocks and into the aggregate bond index. 


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.

May 26, 2023
Jonathan Garner: Japan’s Equities Continue to Rally
00:02:47

While Japan's equities have continued to rally, a roster of sector leading companies and a weak Yen could signal this bullish story is only just beginning.


----- 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, I'll be sharing why Japan Equities could be a key part of the bullish story in Asia this year. It's Thursday, May the 25th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Japan equities have rallied substantially during the current earnings season and we think further gains are increasingly likely. The theme of return on equity improvement, driven by productive CapEx and better balance sheet management, is clearly finding traction with a wide group of international investors. We first introduced this theme in our 2018 Blue Paper on Japan, where we described a journey from laggard to leader, which we felt was starting to take place due to a confluence of structural reforms such as the Corporate Governance Code and Institutional Investor Stewardship Code, as well as changes in company board composition and outside activist investor pressure. 


Japan has a formidable roster of world class firms, which we have identified as productivity and innovation leaders in areas such as semiconductor equipment, optical, healthcare, medtech, robotics and traditional heavy industrial automotive, agricultural and commodities trading, specialty chemicals. As well as more recent additions in Internet and E-commerce, many of which sell products far beyond Japan's borders. 


For the market overall, listed equities ROE has more than doubled in the last ten years, and it's now set to approach our medium term target of 11 to 12% by 2025. Company buybacks are analyzing at a record pace and total shareholder return, that is the sum of dividends and buybacks, is running at 3.6% of market capitalization. 


Yet Japan equities are still trading on only around 13 times forward price to earnings. And Japanese firms have a low cost of capital, given the country's status as a high income sovereign, with membership of the G7, as highlighted by Premier Kishida hosting its recent summit in his home town of Hiroshima. 


An additional near-term catalyst for Japan equities is that the yen is tracking significantly weaker year to date at around 135 to the U.S. dollar than company modeling, which was for around 125. Given the export earnings skew of the market, this is a positive.


All in all, Japan equities are set, we think, to more than hold their own versus global peers and be a key part of a bullish story in Asian equities this year. 


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.

May 25, 2023
Michael Zezas: The G7 Meeting and its Impact on Markets
00:02:22

Discussions at the recent Group of Seven Nations meeting point to the continued development of a multipolar world, as supply chains become less global and more local. Investors should watch for opportunities in this disruption.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the recent G7 meetings and its implications for markets. It's Wednesday, May 24th at 9 a.m. in New York. 


Over the weekend, President Biden traveled to Japan for a meeting of the Group of Seven Nations, or G7. G7 meetings typically involve countries discussing and seeking consensus on a wide range of economic and geopolitical issues. And the consensus they achieved on several principles underscores one of our big three secular investment themes for 2023, the transition to a multipolar world. 


Consider some of the following language from the G7 communique. First, there's discussion of efforts to make our supply chains more resilient, sustainable and reliable. Second, they discuss, quote, "Preventing the cutting edge technologies we develop from being used to further military capabilities that threaten international peace and security." Finally, there's also discussion of the, quote, "importance of cooperation on export controls, on critical and emerging technologies to address the misuse of such technologies by malicious actors and inappropriate transfers of such technologies."


So that all may sound like the U.S. is drawing up hard barriers to commerce, particularly with places like China. But importantly, the communique also states an important nuance that's been core to our multipolar world thesis. They say, quote, "We are not decoupling or turning inwards. At the same time, we recognize that economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying.". 


So to understand the practical implications of that nuance, we've been conducting a ton of research across different industries. My colleagues Ben Uglow and Shawn Kim have highlighted that the global manufacturing and tech sectors are very exposed to disruption from this theme. But their work also shows that capital equipment and automation companies will benefit from the global spend to set up more robust supply chains.


So bottom line, the multipolar world theme continues to progress, but the disruption it creates should also create opportunities.  


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. 

May 24, 2023
U.S Housing: Is there Still Strength in the Housing Market?
00:06:37

As the confidence level of homebuilders building new homes is increasing, will home sales go along with it? Jim Egan and Jay Bacow, Co-Heads of U.S. Securitized Products Research 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 the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. It's Tuesday, May 23rd at 2 p.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: It's been a while since we talked about the state of the U.S. housing market. And it seems like if I look at least some portions of the data, things are getting better. In particular, the NAHB confidence just showed for the fifth consecutive month that homebuilders are feeling better about building a house, and we're now finally at the point where they say it is a good time to build a house. When you take a step back and just look at the state of the housing market, do you agree? 


Jim Egan: I think it's a great question. Housing statistics are going in a whole number of different directions right now. So, yeah, let me take a step back. We've talked a lot about affordability on this podcast and it's still challenging. We've talked a lot about supply and it remains very tight, and all of this has really fueled that bifurcation narrative that we've talked about, protected home prices, weaker activity. But if we think about how the lock in effect and that's the fact that all of these current homeowners who have mortgages well below the prevailing mortgage rate just are not going to be incentivized to list their home for sale, then kind of a logical next step from a housing statistics perspective is that new home sales are probably going to increase as a percentage of total home sales. And that's exactly what we're seeing, new home sales in the first quarter of this year, they were roughly 20% of the total single unit sales volumes. That's the largest share of transactions in any quarter since 2006. And this dynamic was actually quoted by the National Association of Homebuilders when describing the increase in homebuilder confidence that you quoted Jay.    


Jay Bacow: Okay, but when I think about that percentage, aren't building volumes in aggregate coming down? 


Jim Egan: They are, though, as a caveat, I would say that if we look at that seasonally adjusted annualized rate, it did increase sequentially a little bit, month-over-month in April. What I would point to here is that from the peak in single unit housing starts, and we think the peak in the cycle was April of 2022, those starts are down 22%. Now, that's finally started to make a dent in the backlog of homes under construction. Now, as a reminder, again, this is something we've talked about here, there are a number of factors from supply chain issues to labor shortages, that we're really serving to elongate, build timelines in the months and years after the onset of COVID. And all of those things caused a real backlog in the number of homes under construction, so homes were getting started, but they weren't really getting finished. We see the number of single unit homes under construction is now down 130,000 units from that peak. Now, don't get me wrong, that number is still elevated versus where we'd expected to be, given the sheer number of housing starts that we've seen over the past year. But this is a first step towards turning more positive on housing starts. And again, homebuilder confidence Jay, as you said, it's climbed higher every single month this year. 


Jay Bacow: Okay, but you said this is a first step in turning more positive on housing starts. We get the start, we get the unit under construction, we get a completion and then eventually we get a home sale, so what does this mean for sales volumes? 


Jim Egan: We would think that it's probably likely for new home sales to continue making up a larger than normal share of monthly volumes, but we don't think that sales are about to really inflect materially higher here. Purchase applications so far in May, they're still down 26% year-over-year versus the same month in 2022. Now, that's the best year-over-year number since August of last year, but it's not exactly something that screams sales are about to inflect higher. Similarly, pending home sales just printed their weakest March in the history of the index, and it's the sixth consecutive month that they've printed their weakest month in index history. So it was their weakest February, their weakest January, and so on and so forth, so we think all of this is kind of emblematic of a housing market, specifically housing sales that are finding a bottom, but not necessarily about to move much higher. 


Jay Bacow: Okay. Now, Jim, in the past, when you've talked about your outlook for home prices, you mentioned your four pillars. There is supply, demand, affordability and credit availability. We've talked about the first three of these, we haven't really talked about credit availability yet. 


Jim Egan: Right. And that's another one of the reasons why we don't necessarily see a real move higher in sales volumes because of the whole new regime for bank assets that we've talked about a lot. Jay, you've talked about how much it's going to impact things like the mortgage market, so what do we mean when we talk about a new regime for bank assets? 


Jay Bacow: Fundamentally, when you think about the business model of a bank, if you're going to simplify it, it's they get deposits in and then they either make loans or buy securities with those deposits and they try to match up their assets to liabilities. Now, in a world where there's a lot more deposit outflows and happening more frequently, banks are going to have to have shorter assets to match that. And as they have shorter assets, that means they're going to have tighter lending conditions, and that tighter lending conditions is presumably going to play into the credit availability that you're looking for in your space. 


Jim Egan: And when we combine that with affordability that's no longer deteriorating, but still challenged, supply that's no longer setting record lows each month, but still very tight. All of that is a world in which we don't think you're going to see significant increases in transaction volumes. I will say one thing on the home price front month-over-month increases are back. We've seen some seasonality from a home price perspective, but we still think that that year over year number is going to soften going forward. It remains positive in the cycle, but we think it will turn negative  in the next few months for the first time since the first quarter of 2012. We don't think those year-over-year drops will be too substantial. Our base case forecast for the end of the year is down 4%, we think it will be a little bit stronger than that down 4% number, but we think it will be negative. 


Jay Bacow: Okay. But I like things to be a little bit stronger. And with that, Jim, 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 Podcasts app and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

May 23, 2023
Mike Wilson: Beware a False Market Breakout
00:04:15

Though the current market narrative has turned bullish, it may not withstand a downturn in earnings.


----- 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, May 22nd at 11a.m in New York. So let's get after it. 


For the past six months, the S&P 500 has been trading in a narrow range with strong rotations under the surface. When we turned tactically bullish on the index last October at 3500, we did so because the price had reached an attractive level and we believed rates and the dollar were topping. When we exited that trade at 4100 in early December, the price was no longer attractive, given our view that 2023 earnings estimates were materially too high. Fast forward to today and the index is showing some signs that it wants to break higher, even though our concerns remain. The primary difference from the early December highs is that we now have dramatically different leadership. 


Back then the leaders were energy, materials, financials and industrials, while technology was the big laggard. Small caps were also doing much better and market breadth was strong. The bullish narrative centered around China's reopening, which would put a floor in for global growth. Today, breadth is very weak. Technology, communication services and consumer discretionary are the only sectors up on the year, and even those sectors are exhibiting narrow breadth. Yet investors are more bullish than in early December, or at least far less bearish. The bullish narrative today focuses on technology, specifically on artificial intelligence. While we believe artificial intelligence is for real and will likely lead to some great efficiency to help fight inflation, it's unlikely to prevent the deep earnings recession we forecast for this year. 


Last week's price action showed frenzied buying by investors who cannot afford to miss the next bull market. We believe this will prove to be a head fake, like last summer for many reasons. 


First, valuations are not attractive, and it's not just the top ten or 20 stocks that are expensive. The median price earnings multiple is  18 times, which is near the top decile the past 20 years. 


Second, a very healthy reacceleration is baked in the second half consensus earnings estimates. This flies directly in the face of our forecasts, which continue to point materially lower. We remain highly confident in our model, given how accurate it's been over time and recently. We first started talking about the oncoming earnings recession a year ago and received very strong pushback, just like today. However, our model proved to be quite prescient based on the results and is now projecting 20% lower estimates than consensus, for 2023. 

 

Third, the markets are pricing in 2 to 3 Fed cuts before year end without any material implications for growth. We think such an outcome is very unlikely. Instead, we think the Fed will only cut rates if we definitively enter into a recession or if credit markets deteriorate significantly. 

May 22, 2023
Ellen Zentner: Is a Soft Landing for the U.S. Still Possible?
00:02:57

While the U.S. economy looks to be on track for a soft landing in 2023, even the smallest of setbacks could spell trouble for the end of the year.


----- 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 view around the soft landing for the U.S. economy. It's Friday, May 19th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Last year, we presented our outlook that 2023 would see a soft landing for the U.S. economy. This out of consensus view continues to be our base case expectation. And we looked at several key data points as evidence to support it, including the U.S. housing cycle, income and spending dynamics, the labor market and inflation. 


To start, economists have long said, "As goes housing, so goes the business cycle." And housing is a very important factor in our outlook for a soft landing. While the decline in housing activity has been record breaking from a national perspective, Morgan Stanley's housing strategists believe the cycle is bottoming. In our forecast, the big drag on economic growth from the housing correction should turn neutral by the third quarter of 2023, providing some cushion against the growth slowdown elsewhere. 


Second, the incoming data on U.S. income and consumer spending also support our expectation that the economy is slowing but not falling off a cliff. On the one hand, discretionary consumer spending is softening. On the other hand, income is the predominant driver of consumer spending, and even as wage growth continues to slow, our forecasted path for inflation suggests that real wages will finally turn positive in the middle of this year. 


Third, we look to labor market dynamics, and the April U.S. employment report provides ample evidence that the labor market is slowing but is also not headed for a cliff. The steady decline in job postings with still low unemployment rates since the middle of last year supports our soft landing view. 


And finally, we closely monitor inflation. The most recent April data suggests that core inflation continues to slowly recede, tracking in line with our forecasts, as well as the Fed's March projections. We think the incoming data continue to support a Fed pause at the June meeting, and after June we can see a wide range of potential outcomes for the policy rate. We expect a gradual slowing in core inflation that keeps the Fed on hold until March 2024, when it begins to normalize policy with quarter percent rate cuts every three months.   


To be sure, the possibility of a recession remains a concern this year amid banking pressures with unknown spillovers to the economy from tighter credit. Should credit growth slow more than expected, it would bring larger spillovers to investment, consumption and labor. Against this backdrop, we expect the U.S. economy to experience a sharp slowdown in the middle two quarters of the year, so even small hiccups could push us into a recession. We'll continue to keep you abreast of any new developments. 

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. 

May 19, 2023
Andrew Sheets: Is Market Volatility on the Decline?
00:03:07

Although markets remain calm for now, incoming developments across the debt ceiling, inflation and monetary policy could quite quickly turn the tide.


----- 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, May 18th at 2 p.m. in London. 


A notable aspect of the current market is its serenity. Over the last 30 days, U.S. stocks have seen the least day-to-day volatility since December of 2021. It's a similar story for stocks in Europe or the movement of major currencies. Across key markets, things have been calm and investors have become more relaxed, with expectations of future volatility also in decline. 


But why is this happening? After all, major uncertainties around the path of inflation and central bank policy still exist. And the United States, the world's largest economy and most important borrower, still hasn't reached an agreement to keep borrowing by raising the debt ceiling, raising the risk, according to the U.S. Treasury secretary, of running out of money in less than a month. Well, we think a few things are going on.

 

With the debt ceiling, we think this is a great example that real world investors genuinely struggle with pricing a binary, uncertain outcome. It's very challenging to put precise odds on what is ultimately a political decision and hard to quantify its impact. And further complicating matters, the conventional wisdom generally appears to be that any debt ceiling deal would only get done at the last possible moment. 


In short, investors are struggling, making big changes to their portfolio in the face of what is little better than a political guess and are finding it easier to wait, and hoping that more clarity emerges. I’d note we saw something very similar before the near-miss on the debt ceiling in 2011. Despite being extremely aware of the deadline back then, stocks moved sideways until the last possible moment in August of 2011, afraid of leaning too heavily in one direction before the event. 


Other factors are also in limbo. We're nearing the end of what was a reasonably solid first quarter earnings season and don't see larger disappointments arriving, potentially, until later in the year. And on our forecasts, the Federal Reserve just made its last rate hike of the cycle and is now on hold for the remainder of 2023. 


And volatility does have the tendency to be self-reinforcing. Low volatility often begets low volatility, and in turn drags down expectations of what future movements will look like. But importantly, this doesn't represent some form of clairvoyance, expectations about future levels of market volatility often deviate from what actually happens, in both directions. 


For now, markets remain calm. But don't assume that means investors have some special insight around the debt ceiling, inflation or monetary policy. Incoming developments across all of these areas can change the picture rather quickly. 


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. 

May 18, 2023
Vishy Tirupattur: The Outlook for Lending
00:03:40

According to the Federal Reserve’s latest Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey, small businesses may be the most vulnerable to banks tightening their lending standards.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Chief Fixed Income Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the takeaways from the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey. It's Wednesday, May 17th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


We've talked a lot about the effects of the turmoil in the regional banks on credit formation, on this podcast. We thought the ongoing liquidity pressures in the regional banking sector may lead to tighter lending standards, which will eventually translate into lower credit formation. The Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey, conducted quarterly by the Federal Reserve, provides a window on bank lending practices, including the standards and terms for banks to make loans, as well as the demand for bank loans to businesses and households. The survey results published last week, reflect conditions during the first quarter of 2023 and provide a first glimpse on the effect of the regional banking turmoil on banks outlook for lending over the remainder of 2023. 


The survey showed that banks expect to tighten standards across all loan categories. Banks cited an expected deterioration in the credit quality of their loan portfolios, customer collateral values, a reduction in risk tolerance, concerns about bank funding costs, banks liquidity position and deposit outflows, as reasons for expecting to tighten lending standards over the rest of 2023. 


While standards for commercial and industrial, the so-called C&I loans, tightened only marginally, the demand for C&I loans fell to levels not seen since the great financial crisis. Even though lending standards only tightened marginally, the tightening came from some loan officers tightening standards considerably. 


Further, banks reported changes to their modalities of their lending quite substantially. For example, the spread on loans or their cost of funding broke above the pandemic period and entered levels last seen during the great financial crisis. Loan officers also changed credit lines to small businesses drastically, especially regarding the size and cost. They reduced the maximum size and maturity of credit lines, as well as increased collateral requirements and the cost of credit lines. For small businesses in the U.S., such credit tightening comes at a very difficult time. Small business optimism and the outlook for business conditions already deteriorated significantly over the past year, and small businesses acknowledge that the environment isn't conducive for expansion or CapEx. 


Why does this matter? As small businesses have continued to lower expectations of sales, there were also moderated plans to raise prices in the near term. We see this dynamic raising the risks of downside surprises to upcoming inflation data. Also worth noting that fewer small businesses describe inflation as their number one concern, in fact, more describe interest rates as the number one concern. 

One of the special questions in this quarter's survey pertained to commercial real estate, so-called CRE. Banks tightened lending standards across all categories of CRE loans. Action cited included, widening loan spreads, reducing loan to value, raising debt service covers ratios and reducing maximum loan sizes. These survey results are consistent with what we had been predicting. Volatility in the regional banking sector has resulted in lower credit formation, due to both lingering liquidity stress and regulatory changes to come. The former is already playing out and the latter is likely to weigh on economic growth over the long term. 


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. 

May 17, 2023
Mike Wilson: Investors Face Uncertainty in Stock Performance
00:04:52

As investors attempt to find opportunities in an uncertain stock market, earnings disappointments and an ongoing debt ceiling debate loom overhead.


----- 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, May 16th, at 1 p.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Having spent the last few weeks on the road engaging with clients from around the world, I figured it would be useful to share some thoughts from our meetings and to touch on the most often asked questions, concerns and pushback to our views. 


First, conviction levels are low, given broadly elevated valuations and a challenging macro backdrop. While many individual longs and shorts have worked well in the context of a buoyant S&P 500, the most favorite trades have largely played out and clients are having trouble finding the next opportunity. Small cap and low quality stocks have underperformed and we continue to see crowding into mega-cap tech and consumer staples stocks as safe havens in a deteriorating growth environment.


Second, there isn't much interest in the S&P 500 as either a long or a short anymore. Most clients we speak with have given up on the idea of a big breakdown of the index level. Conversely, there are few who think the S&P 500 can trade much above 4200, which has proven to be a key resistance since the October lows. What has changed is that the floor has been raised, with the large majority of investors thinking 3800 is now unlikely to be broken to the downside. In short, the consensus believes the bear market ended in October, at least for the high quality S&P 500 and NASDAQ. 


Third, there is little appetite to dive back into the areas of the market that have significantly underperformed like regional banks, small caps and energy. Other deep cyclicals are also out of favor due to either extended valuation and high earnings expectations In the case of industrials, and recession risk in the case of materials. Instead, most clients we spoke with remained comfortably long, large cap tech stocks, especially given the group's recent outperformance. While consumer staples and other defensives have outperformed strongly since March, there's less confidence this outperformance can continue. 


Our take remains the same. The market is speaking loudly under the surface, with its classic late cycle leadership and extreme narrowness, it is bracing for further macro and earnings disappointments. However, it is not yet pricing these outcomes at the index level. Such is the typical pattern exhibited by equity markets until clearer evidence of an economic recession arrives, or the risks of one are fully extinguished. With our economist forecasting close to 0% growth this year for real GDP and just modest growth next year, valuations at full levels and several other risks in front of us, we suspect 4200 will hold to the upside as most clients suggest. However, we continue to hold a more bearish tactical view than most clients in terms of the downside risk given our earnings forecast. The majority of our fundamental debate with clients has been over earnings. More specifically, there is broad pushback to our view that margins have not yet bottomed. In addition, many clients do not think revenue growth can fall towards zero or go negative given the still elevated inflation across the economy. Our take is that while many companies have taken decisive cost action, including layoffs, they have not yet cut cost nearly enough for a zero-to-negative revenue growth backdrop. But the odds of such an outcome increasing, in our view, we find it notable that many investors are more sanguine today on the earnings backdrop than they were five months ago. 


Meanwhile, many clients are worried about the debt ceiling. Most believe it will get resolved, but not without some near-term volatility. However, the discussion has evolved, with many clients framing this event as a lose-lose for markets. Assuming the debt ceiling is not resolved before the Treasury runs out of money, market volatility is likely to pick up meaningfully. Conversely, if the debt ceiling is lifted before the Treasury runs out of money, it will likely come with some concessions on the spending front, which could be a headwind for growth. Secondarily, such an outcome will lead to significant, pent up issuance from the Treasury to pay its bills and rebuild its reserves. This issuance from Treasury, could approach $1 trillion in the six months immediately after the ceiling is lifted, and potentially present a materially tightening to liquidity that could tip the S&P 500 back to the downside. 


To summarize, clients are less bearish on earnings than we are, although most are still fundamentally cautious on growth in the economic backdrop. Given the resilience in the large cap indices and leadership from perennially favored companies this year, many investors are now convicted that the equity market can look through a mild economic or earnings recession at this point. We think this is a very challenging tactical setup should growth or liquidity deteriorate as we expect over the next few weeks and months. We maintain our well below consensus earnings estimates for this year and believe narrow breadth and defensive leadership support our view that this bear market is yet to be completed, especially at the index level. Defensively oriented companies with a focus on operational efficiency should continue to outperform, especially if they exhibit true pricing power. 


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

May 16, 2023
Special Encore: Mark Purcell: The Evolution of Cancer Medicines
00:03:41

Original Release on April 20th, 2023: "Smart chemotherapy" could change the way that cancer is treated, potentially opening up a $140 billion market over the next 15 years.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mark Purcell, Head of Morgan Stanley's European Pharmaceuticals Team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll talk about the concept of Smart Chemotherapy. It's Thursday, the 20th of April at 2 p.m. in London. 


Cancer is still the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for approximately 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020. Despite recent advances in areas like immuno-oncology, we still rely heavily on chemotherapy as the mainstay in the treatment of many cancers. 


Chemotherapy originated in the early 1900s when German chemist Paul Ehrlich attempted to develop "Magic Bullets", these are chemicals that would kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues. The 1960s saw the development of chemotherapy based on Ehrlich's work, and this approach, now known as traditional chemotherapy, has been in wide use since then. Nowadays, it accounts for more than 37% of cancer prescriptions and more than half of patients with colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian and stomach cancers are still treated with traditional chemo. 


But traditional chemo has many drawbacks and some significant limitations. So here's where "Smart Chemotherapy" comes in. Targeted therapies including antibodies to treat cancer were first developed in the late 1990s. These innovative approaches offer a safer, more effective solution that can be used earlier in treatment and in combination with other cancer medicines. "Smart Chemo" uses antibodies as the guidance system to find the cancer, and once the target is reached, releases chemotherapy inside the cancer cells. Think of it as a marriage of biology and chemistry called an antibody drug conjugate, an ADC. It's essentially a biological missile that hones in on the cancer and avoids collateral damage to the healthy tissues. 

 

The first ADC drug was approved for a form of leukemia in the year 2000, but it's taken about 20 years to perfect this "biological missile" to target solid tumors, which are far more complex and harder to infiltrate into. We're now at a major inflection point with 87 new ADC drugs entering development in the past two years alone. We believe smart chemotherapy could open up a $140 billion market over the next 15 years or so, up from a $5 billion sales base in 2022. This would make ADCs one of the biggest growth areas across Global Biopharma, led by colorectal, lung and breast cancer. 


Large biopharma companies are increasingly aware of the enormous potential of ADC drugs and are more actively deploying capital towards smart chemotherapy. It's important to note, though, that while a smart chemotherapy revolution is well underway in breast and bladder cancer, the focus is now shifting to earlier lines of treatment and combination approaches. The potential to replace traditional chemotherapy in other solid tumors is completely untapped. 


A year from now, we expect ADC drugs to deliver major advances in the treatment of lung cancer and bladder cancer, as well as really important proof of concept data for colorectal cancer, which is arguably one of the biggest unmet needs out there. Given vastly improved outcomes for cancer patients, we believe that "Smart Chemotherapy" is well on the way to replacing traditional chemotherapy, and we expect the market to start pricing this in over the coming months. 


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. 

May 15, 2023
Sustainability: Tech Transformation in the Education Market
00:09:37

With technology evolving rapidly in education, investors are taking a closer look at how it will financially impact the global education market. Stephen Byrd and Josh Baer discuss.


----- Transcript -----

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

 

Josh Baer: And I'm Josh Baer from the U.S. Software Team. 


Stephen Byrd: On the special episode of the podcast will discuss the global education market. It's Friday, May 12th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Stephen Byrd: Education is one of the most fragmented sectors globally, and right now it's in the midst of significant tech disruption and transformation. Add to this, a number of dynamically shifting regulatory and policy regimes and you have a complex set up. I wanted to sit down with my colleague Josh to delve into the intersection of the EdTech and the sustainability side of this multi-layered story. 


Stephen Byrd: So, Josh, let's start by giving a snapshot of global education technology, particularly in this post-COVID and rather uncertain macro context we're dealing with. What are some of the biggest challenges and key debates that you're following? 


Josh Baer: Thanks, Stephen. One way that I think about the different EdTech players in the market is through the markets that they serve. So in the context of education, that means early learning, K-12, higher ed, corporate skilling and lifelong learning. The key debates here come down to what it usually comes down to for equities, growth and margins. So on the growth side, there's several conversations that we're constantly having with investors. Some business models are exposed to academic enrollments as a driver. To what extent would a weaker macro with higher unemployment lead to stronger enrollments given their historical countercyclical trends? And enrollments have been pressured as current or potential students were attracted to the job market. And on the margin side, some of the companies that we follow in the EdTech space, they're the ones that were experiencing very rapid growth during COVID and investment mode to really capture that opportunity. And so investors debate the unit economics of some of these business models and really the trajectory of margins and free cash flow looking ahead. One other more topical debate, the impact of generative A.I. on education, and maybe we'll hit on that topic later. 


Josh Baer: Stephen, why do these debates matter from the point of view of ESG, environmental, social and governance perspective? Why should investors view global education through a sustainability lens?

 

Stephen Byrd: Yeah Josh I'd say among sustainability focused investors, typically the number one topic that comes up within the education sector is inequality. So higher education is a key pillar of economic development, but social and economic problems can arise from limited access. Unequal access to education can perpetuate all forms of socioeconomic inequality. It can limit social mobility, and it can also exacerbate health and income disparities among demographic groups. It can also restrict the potential talent pool and diversity of backgrounds and ideas in different academic fields, leading to all kinds of negative economic implications for both growth and innovation. While progress has been made in increasing enrollment among underrepresented students, significant disparities remain in admission and graduation rates. For investors and public equities, I think one of the more useful tools in our note is a proprietary framework that measures sustainability impact. Now that tool is really primarily rooted in the United Nations Sustainable Development goal number four, which lays out targets in education. This framework is rooted in the premise that I mentioned earlier. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated multiple challenges in education. So when we think about business models that we really like, we're focused on models that can improve the quality of student learning, enhance institutions' operations and increase access and affordability. And we think our stocks that we selected really do meet those objectives quite well. 


Stephen Byrd: Josh, what is the current size of the EdTech and education services markets and why invest now? 


Josh Baer: First, on the size of the market, we see global education spend of 6 trillion today going to 8 trillion in 2030. So that's a CAGR below the growth of GDP, but we do see faster growth in EdTech. So there's really compelling opportunities for consolidation in the fragmented education market broadly and for EdTech growing at a double digit CAGR, so much faster than the overall education market. Why invest in EdTech? Well, as just mentioned, EdTech addresses these very large markets. It's increasing its share of education spend because it's aligned to several secular trends. So I'm thinking about digital transformation of the entire education industry. The shift from in-person instructor led training to really more efficient or economic online or digital learning. And positives from this shift, as you mentioned, include better scalability, affordability, global access to really high quality education. These EdTech companies are aligned to corporate skilling, which are aligned to companies, strategic goals, digital transformation initiatives. And then from a stock perspective, there's really low investor sentiment broadly and of course, the exposure to ESG trends around inclusion, skilling, education, access. 


Josh Baer: And Stephen, what is the regulatory landscape around global education and EdTech, both in the U.S. and in other regions? 


Stephen Byrd: So education policy is not really featured heavily in recent sessions of Congress in the U.S., as it tends to develop at more local levels of government than really at the federal level. The federal government in the United States provides less than 10% of funding for K through 12 education, leaving most of regulation and funding to state and local governments. Now, that said, there have been a few large education policy focused bills enacted into law since the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education in the second half of the 20th century. The most recent was in 2015, when President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which granted more autonomy to states to set standards for education that vary based on local needs. In Brazil, there's some really interesting developments that we're very focused on. The Ministry of Education began loosening the rules for distance learning in 2017 to compensate for the lack of public funding and affordability. This was a new modality that didn't depend on campuses and was much cheaper for students. So companies saw this as the next growth opportunity and started investing in digital expansion, especially after COVID-19 lockdowns forced the closure of campuses. Distance learning grew rapidly and surpassed the number of on campus enrollments in 2021. Despite the increase in addressable market, this potential cannibalizes is part of the demand for in-person learning and reduces average prices in the sector. Lastly, in Europe, the European Union has set seven key education targets that it is hoping to achieve by 2025. And by 2030 on education and training. Let me just walk through a couple of the big targets here. By 2025, the goal is to have at least 60% of recent graduates from vocational education and training, that should benefit from exposure to work based learning during their vocational education and training. By 2030, the goal is for less than 15% of 15 year olds to be low achievers in reading, mathematics and science, as well as less than 15% of eighth graders should be low achievers in computer and information literacy. 


Stephen Byrd: Josh, how are emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality disrupting the education space, both in the classroom and in cyberspace? How do you assess their impact and what catalysts should investors watch closely? 


Josh Baer: Great question. Investors are hyper focused on all the generative A.I. hype, all the risks and opportunities for EdTech. And it's important to remember that all EdTech companies serve different markets and they have different business models and they provide varying services and value to all those different markets. And so there's a wide spectrum from risk to opportunity, and in actuality, I think many businesses will actually have both headwinds and tailwinds from A.I.  At the core, the question is not, will generative A.I. change education and learning, but how will it change? And from the way it may change, from the way education content is created and consumed, to the experience of learning and teaching and testing and studying. And on one end of the spectrum, investors should also look for signs of disruption, disruption to the publisher model or tutoring services or solutions, look for signs of students that may meet their learning needs or studying needs with generative A.I. instead of existing solutions. But from an innovation perspective, I think investors should look for new entrants and incumbents to leverage generative A.I. to really enhance the future of education, from personalized and efficient content creation to more adaptive assessments and testing, to more customized learning experiences. And these existing platforms, they're the ones that own vast datasets, really rich taxonomies of learning and skills. And I think those are the ones that are well-positioned to use A.I. technology to vastly improve their capabilities and the education market. Investors can also look for a more direct revenue opportunities, as the EdTech platforms are the platforms that will be teaching and reskilling and upskilling the whole world on how to use these innovative technologies, today and in the future. 


Stephen Byrd: Josh, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Josh Baer: 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 and colleague today.

May 12, 2023
Erik Woodring: Are PCs on the Rebound?
00:03:47

While personal computer sales were on the decline before the pandemic, signs are pointing to an upcoming boost. 


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Erik Woodring. Morgan Stanley's U.S. IT Hardware Analyst. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss why we're getting bullish on the personal computer space. It's Thursday, May 11th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


PC purchases soared during COVID, but PCs have since gone through a once in a three decades type of down cycle following the pandemic boom. Starting in the second half of 2021, record pandemic driven demand reversed, and this impacted both consumer and commercial PC shipments. Consequently, the PC total addressable market has contracted sharply, marking two consecutive double digit year-over-year declines for the first time since at least 1995. 


But after a challenging 18 months or so, we believe it's time to be more bullish on PCs. The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter as it looks like the PC market bottomed in the first quarter of 2023. 


Before I get into our outlook, it's important to note that PCs have historically been a low growth or no growth category. In fact, if you go back to 2014, there was only one year before the pandemic when PCs actually grew year-over-year, and that was 2019, at just 3%. Despite PCs' low growth track record and the recent demand reversal, our analysis suggests the PC addressable market can be structurally higher post-COVID. So at face value, we're making a bit of a contrarian bullish call. 


This more structural call is based on two key points. First, we estimate that the PC installed base, or the number of pieces that are active today, is about 15% larger than pre-COVID, even excluding low end consumer devices that were added during the early days of the pandemic that are less likely to be upgraded going forward. 


Second, if you assume that users replace their PCs every four years, which is the five year pre-COVID average, that about 65% of the current PC installed base or roughly 760 million units is going to be due for a refresh in 2024 and 2025. This should coincide with the Windows 10 End of Life Catalyst expected in October 25 and the 1 to 3 year anniversary of generative A.I. entering the mainstream, both which have the potential to unlock replacement demand for more powerful machines. Combining these factors, we estimate that PC shipments can grow at a 4% compound annual growth rate over the next three years. Again, in the three years prior to COVID, that growth rate was about 1%. So we think that PCs can grow faster than pre-COVID and that the annual run rate of PC shipments will be larger than pre-COVID. 


Importantly though, what drives our bullish outlook is not the consumer, as consumers have a fairly irregular upgrade pattern, especially post-pandemic. We think the replacements and upgrades in 2024 and 2025, will come from the commercial market with 70% of our 2024 PC shipment growth coming from commercial entities. Commercial entities are much more regular when it comes to upgrades and they need greater memory capacity and compute power to handle their ever expanding workloads, especially as we think about the potential for A.I. workloads at the edge. 


To sum up, we're making a somewhat contrarian call on the PC market rebound today, arguing that one key was the bottom and that PC companies should outperform in the next 12 months following this bottom. But then beyond 2023, we are making a largely commercial PC call, not necessarily a consumer PC call, and believe that PCs have brighter days ahead, relative to the three years prior to the pandemic. 


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.

May 11, 2023
Michael Zezas: Debt Ceiling Uncertainty and Financial Markets
00:02:39

With the debt ceiling debate seemingly making little headway, it may be critical for investors to track market developments in the near future.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the debt ceiling and its impact on markets. It's Wednesday, May 10th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Congressional leaders met at the White House on Tuesday to hammer out a deal to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government bond default. Reports following the meeting suggest little progress was made. That news shouldn't necessarily be surprising or discouraging. Initial rounds of legislative negotiations are often just a venue for each side to state their position. It often takes the urgency of a nearby deadline to catalyze compromise. 


While this isn't the first debt ceiling challenge for markets, it may be the most critical one, at least since 2011. As we said before, investors need to take seriously the idea that we do something that hasn't been done before, cross the X-date, the date after which Treasury doesn't have enough cash on hand to meet all obligations as they come due. So it's useful to quickly revisit what that would mean. In short, it puts a bunch of options on the table, but most are not good options, suggesting some markets may have to price in greater downside, at least for a time. 


A benign and plausible outcome would be that if the X-date is crossed, the resulting concern among policymakers, voters and business leaders around missed debt, Social Security, infrastructure and other payments, creates enough pressure on Congress to quickly force a compromise. Other outcomes are less friendly. The White House could choose to avoid default by ignoring the debt ceiling, citing authority under the 14th Amendment, but that could just shift uncertainty from the legislative process to the judicial one, as courts could ultimately decide if the U.S. defaults. The White House could also choose to prioritize payments to bondholders over other government obligations, but this could interrupt payments into the economy that support a substantial amount of consumption and GDP. And, of course, default would be a possibility, but given its far more considerable economic and political downside relative to the other options, this outcome would not be our base case expectation. 


So how could markets react? Here's what to watch for. The Treasury bills curve could invert further, with shorter maturity yields rising more relative to longer maturity yields. In equity markets, volatility should pick up considerably, and any resolution that crimps economic growth further would underscore the cautious stance of our equity strategy team. So developments over the next couple of weeks will be critical to track. 


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.

May 10, 2023
Martijn Rats: A Change in the Global Oil Market
00:03:33

As oil data in 2023 shows that second-half tightening is less likely, it may be time to alter the narrative around the expected market for the remainder of the year.

Important note regarding economic sanctions. This recording 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. Any references in this recording to entities, debt or equity instruments, projects or persons that may be covered by such sanctions are strictly incidental to general coverage of the issuing entity/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 recording are solely responsible for ensuring that their investment activities in relation to any sanctioned country/ies are carried out in compliance with applicable sanctions.


----- Transcription -----

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 how the 2023 global oil market story is changing. It's Tuesday, May the 9th at 4 p.m. in London. 


Over the last several months, the dominant narrative in the oil market was one of expected tightening in the second half. Although supply outstripped demand in the first quarter, the assumption was that the market would start to tighten from the second quarter onwards and be in deficit once again by the second half, which would lead to a rise in price. At the start of the year, this was also our thesis for how 2023 would play out. However, as of early May, it seems this narrative needs to change. 


The expectation of second half tightness was largely based on two key assumptions. One, that China's reopening would boost demand, and two, the Russian oil production would  start to decline. By now, however, it seems that these assumptions have run their course and are in fact behind us. 


On China, both the country's crude imports and its refinery runs were already back at all time highs in March, leaving little room for further improvement. On Russia, oil production has fallen from recent peaks, but probably only about 400,000 barrels a day. From here, we would argue that it's becoming increasingly unlikely it will fall much further. The EU's crude and product embargoes have been in place for some time now. Russian oil that flows now will probably continue to flow. 


That raises the question whether the second half tightening thesis can still be sustained. After OPEC announced production cuts at the start of April, we argued that OPEC was mostly responding to a weakening in the supply demand outlook. Perhaps counterintuitive, but we lowered oil price forecasts already significantly at the time those cuts were announced. Still, with those cuts, we thought that the second half balances would be about 600,000 barrels per day undersupplied, and that that would be enough to keep Brent in the mid-to-upper $80 per barrel range. 


New data from this past month, however, has further chiseled away at this deficit, which we now project at just 300,000 barrels a day. This is in effect getting very close to a balanced market, and that limits upside to oil prices, at least in the near term. 


Even this modest undersupply now mostly depends on seasonality in demand and OPEC production cuts. However, when the second half arrives, oil prices will start to reflect expected balances for early 2024. In the first half of '24, seasonality may turn the other way and OPEC production cuts are scheduled to come to an end. Our initial estimate of 2024 balances showed the market in a small surplus, especially in the first half. 

Looking beyond the next 12 months, oil prices still have long term supportive factors. Demand is likely to continue to grow over the rest of the decade, while investment levels have been low for some time now. However, the structural and the cyclical don't always align, and this is one of those moments. The second half tightness thesis does not appear to be playing out, and we don't see much tightness in the period just beyond that either. We expect Brent oil prices to stay in their recent $75 to $85 per barrel range, probably skewed towards the bottom end of that range later this year when the market enters a period of seasonal softness again and OPEC's voluntary cuts come to an end. 


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.

May 09, 2023
Mike Wilson: Earnings, The Fed and Consumer Spending
00:03:36

With all the volatility surrounding the banking sector, the Fed raising rates and the continued debt ceiling debate, are consumers finally pulling back on spending? 


----- 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 a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, May 8th, at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


In this week's podcast, I will discuss three major topics on investors' minds. First quarter Earnings results, the Fed's decision to raise rates last week, and how the consumer is holding up in the face of a debt ceiling debate with no easy solutions. 


First, on earnings, the first quarter earnings per share beat consensus expectations by 6 to 7%. Furthermore, second quarter guidance is held up better than we expected coming into the quarter. That said, it's important to provide some context. First quarter estimates came down 16% over the past year, double the 20 year average decline over equivalent periods and a more manageable hurdle for companies to clear. Furthermore, the macro data improved in January and February as seasonal adjustments and easy comparisons, with the early 2022 break out of Omicron flattered the growth rate. Nevertheless, this improvement also helped earnings results on a year-over-year basis and provided a boost to company confidence about where we are in the cycle. Unfortunately, many of the leading macro data we track have fallen and are now pointing to a similar reacceleration in earnings per share growth that the consensus expects. Ironically, this comes as many companies position 2023 growth recoveries as being contingent on a solid macro backdrop. If one is to believe our leading indicators that point pointed downward trends in earnings per share surprise and margins over the coming months, stocks will likely follow that negative path lower. 


With regards to the Fed, Chair Powell pushed back on the likelihood of interest rate cuts that are now priced in the bond markets. While bonds and stocks faded after these comments, they closed the week on a strong note. We believe the equity market continues to expect the best of both worlds, interest rate cuts and durable growth. We view the likelihood of reacceleration in growth in conjunction with interest rate cuts is very low. Instead, we believe another chapter of our fire and ice narrative is possible. In other words, a tighter Fed even as growth slows towards recession. This would be a difficult environment for stocks. 


So what are consumers telling us? Today, we published our latest AlphaWise Consumer Survey. Consumers continue to expect a pullback in spending for most categories over the next six months. Consumers still plan to spend more on essentials like groceries and household supplies. However, they are looking to pull back on discretionary goods spending categories with the most negative net spending intentions are consumer electronics, leisure activities, home appliances and food away from home. Grocery is the only category where low and middle income consumers said they’re planning to spend incrementally more over the next six months. They are not planning to spend more on any services categories. For high income consumers, travel is the only services category where spending intentions are positive and grocery is the only goods category where spending intentions are positive. Interestingly, the high income group indicated negative spending intentions for food away from home and leisure services. 


Bottom line, the consumer looks to finally be pulling back from an incredible two year run of spending. That was always unsustainable in our view. Some of this may be due to inflation and dwindling savings, but also the very public debate around the debt ceiling, which does not appear to have any easy solution. This is just another wildcard risk for stocks as we head into the summer. 


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 for people to find the show. 

May 08, 2023
Andrew Sheets: The Prospect of a Pause in Rate Hikes
00:02:46

The Federal Reserve pausing on hiking interest rates has historically been good for markets. But given current conditions, history may not repeat itself.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Assets 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, May 5th at 2 p.m. in London. 


The Federal Reserve raised interest rates 25 basis points this week and have now raised their benchmark policy rate 5% over the last 14 months. That's the fastest increase in over 40 years, and for now we think it's enough. Morgan Stanley's economist forecasts the Fed won't make additional rate hikes or cuts for the rest of this year. In market parlance, the Fed will now pause. 


The question, of course, is whether the so-called pause is good for markets. In 1985, 1995, 1997, 2006 and 2018, buying stocks once the Fed was done raising rates resulted in good returns over the following 6 to 12 months. And this result does make some intuitive sense. If the Fed is no longer increasing rates and actively tightening policy, isn't that one less challenge for the stock market? 


Our concern, however, is that current conditions look different to these past instances, where the last rate hike was a good time to be more optimistic. Today, current levels of industrial production and leading economic indicators are weaker, inflation is higher, bank credit is tighter, and the yield curve is more inverted than any of these prior instances since 1985, where a pause boosted markets. 


In short, current data suggest higher inflation and a sharper slowdown than past instances where the last Fed hike was a good time to buy. And for these reasons, we worry about lumping current conditions in with those prior examples. 


So far, I've focused on performance following a pause in Fed rate hikes from the perspective of equity markets. Yet the picture for bonds is somewhat different. Whereas future performance for stocks is quite dependent on the growth outlook, U.S. Treasury bonds have historically done well after the last Fed rate hike under a variety of growth scenarios, whether good or poor. 


For now, we continue to favor high grade bonds over equities, even if we think the Fed may now be done with its rate hikes. We think that's consistent with the current data looking weaker than prior instances. In turn, stronger growth and lower inflation than we forecast would make conditions start to look a little bit more similar to instances where the last rate hike was a buy signal and would make us more optimistic. 


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.

May 05, 2023
Graham Secker: Will European Equity Resilience Continue?
00:03:40

The banking sector appears stronger in Europe than it does in the U.S., but some other European sectors may be at risk of lower profitability.


----- 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 our latest thoughts on European equities. It's Thursday, May the 4th at 3 p.m. in London. 


Over the last couple of months, we have seen global technology stocks significantly outperform global financial stocks, aided by lower bond yields and concerns around the health of the U.S. regional banking sector. Historically, when we have seen tech outperform financials in the past, it has usually been accompanied by material underperformance from European equities. However, this time the region has proved much more resilient. Part of this reflects the benefits of lower valuation and lower investor positioning. However, we also see two broader macro supports for Europe just here. 


First, we see less downside risk to the European economy than that of the U.S., where many of the traditional economic leading indicators are down at recessionary levels. In contrast, similar metrics for Europe, such as consumer confidence and purchasing managers indices, have actually been rising recently. In addition, a healthier and more resilient banking sector over here in Europe suggests there is potentially less risk of a credit crunch developing here than we see in the U.S.. 


Second, we think Europe is also seen as an alternative way to get exposure to an economic recovery in China, given that the region has stronger economic ties and greater stock market exposure than most of its developed market peers. While this is not necessarily manifesting itself in overall aggregate inflows into European equity funds at this time, we can clearly see the theme benefiting certain sectors, such as luxury goods, which has arguably become one of the most popular ways to express a positive view on China globally.

 

Notwithstanding these relative advantages, we do expect some near-term weakness in European stocks over the next quarter, with negative risks from the U.S. potentially outweighing positive risks from China and Asia. While first quarter results season has started strongly, we believe earnings disappointment will gradually build as we move through 2023 and our own forecasts remain close to 10% below consensus. Catalysts for this disappointment include slower economic growth, from the second quarter onwards, continued falls in profit margins and building FX headwinds given a strengthening euro. 


Our negative view on the outlook for corporate profitability often prompts the question as to which companies are over-earning and hence potentially most at risk from any mean reversion. To help answer this question, we ranked European sectors across five different profitability metrics where we compared their current levels to their ten year history. This analysis suggests that the European sectors who are currently over-earning, and hence most at risk of future disappointment include transport, semiconductors, construction materials, energy and autos. 


In contrast, sectors where profitability does not look particularly elevated at this time include retailing, diversified financials, media, chemicals, real estate and software. 

  

More broadly, we believe this analysis supports our cautious view on cyclical stocks within Europe just here, particularly for the likes of energy and autos, where profits are already falling year on year and where we see more downgrades ahead. Instead, we maintain a preference for stocks with higher quality and growth characteristics. We think these should be relative outperformers against the backdrop of economic weakness, falling bond yields and better relative earnings trends. 


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. 

May 04, 2023
Michael Zezas: Congress Contends with the Debt Ceiling
00:02:33

Congress is finally set to begin debt ceiling negotiations. What are some possible outcomes and how might the negotiations affect economic growth?


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the debt ceiling and its impact on markets. It's Wednesday, May 3rd at 9 a.m. in New York. 


Earlier this week, the Treasury Department informed Congress that at the start of June, it could run out of money to pay government obligations as they come due. This X-date appears much earlier than most forecasters expected, catching markets by surprise. Some investors even expressed to us disbelief, pushing the idea that the real X-date would be later, and Treasury is just trying to stir negotiations in Congress to raise the debt ceiling. Here's our take. 


The X-date is likely a moving target due the complex interplay of the timing of incoming tax receipts, government outlays and maturing debt securities. So, while it's possible the date ends up being sometime later this summer, the government might not be able to forecast that with a high degree of certainty. In that case, negotiations have to start now to avoid a situation where the X-date sneaks up on Congress, leaving little time to deliberate and risking default. 


And that seems to have prompted negotiations, with a May 9th meeting at the White House set to kick things off. But we emphasize that an early resolution remains uncertain. Both parties remain far apart on how they'd like to deal with the debt ceiling and in some ways haven't formed consensus within their own parties on the issue either. So the negotiating dynamic is likely to be tricky. That in turn means a range of policy solutions are plausible here, including a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling, unilateral measures by the administration to avoid default, a budget austerity package in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, or perhaps a clean debt ceiling raise. 


Of course, that level of uncertainty is generally not something markets like. Not surprisingly, we're seeing further inversion of the yield curve for Treasury bills, with notes maturing in June rising to around 5.3%. However, it does dovetail with our general preference for bonds over equities in developed markets this year. If the negotiation lingers too long, investors could become more concerned about the impact of the economic growth outlook, either because payment prioritization puts government transfer payments at risk or budget austerity reduces the trajectory of net government spending. In that case, equity markets could come under pressure, but longer maturity bonds could benefit. 


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. 

May 03, 2023
Global Economy: Global Challenges Drive Productivity Investment
00:06:09

With the trend toward a multipolar world accelerating, companies are finding that investing in productivity may help protect margins. Ravi Shanker and Diego Anzoategui discuss.


----- Transcript -----

Ravi Shanker: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ravi Shanker, Morgan Stanley's North American Freight Transportation Analyst. 


Diego Anzoategui: And I'm Diego Anzoategui from the U.S. Economics Team. 


Ravi Shanker: And on this special episode of the podcast, we discuss what we see as The Great Productivity Race, that's poised to accelerate. It's Tuesday, May 2nd at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Ravi Shanker: The transition away from globalization to a decentralized multipolar world means companies' ability to source labor globally is contracting. This narrowing of geographical options for companies is making cheap labor, particularly for skilled manufacturing, harder to find. But there is a potential positive, a rebound in productivity which has been anemic for more than a decade.

 

Ravi Shanker: So Diego, what's the connection that you see between the slowing or even reversal of globalization and productivity trends? 


Diego Anzoategui: If you think about it, the decision to upgrade technologies and increase productivity is like any other type of capital investment. Firms decide to improve their production technologies, either to deal with scarce  factors of production or to meet increasing demand. COVID 19 was a negative shock to the labor supply in the U.S., and there is still a long road ahead to reach pre-pandemic levels. On top of that, we think that slowing globalization trends will likely limit labor supply further, causing real wages to increase, and keeping firms under pressure to improve productivity to protect margins. But we think firms will boost productivity investment in the medium term once business sentiment picks up again. And we are past the slowdown in economic activity that we expect in 2023 and into 2024. Expectations are key because the decision to innovate is forward looking, adopting new technologies takes time and the benefits of innovation come with a lag. 


Diego Anzoategui: Ravi, as a result of COVID and the geopolitical uncertainties from the war in Ukraine, companies have been dealing with a number of significant challenges recently, from supply chain disruptions to worker shortages and energy security. How are companies addressing these hurdles and what kinds of investments do they need to make in order to boost productivity? 


Ravi Shanker: Look, it's a good question and certainly a focus area for virtually every company anywhere in the world. The last five years have been very challenging and a lot of those challenges have revolved around labor availability and labor cost in particular. So I think companies are approaching this with two broad buckets or two broad focus areas. One is, I think they are trying to reinvest in their labor force. I think for too long companies' labor force was viewed as sort of a source of free money, if you will, an area to cut costs and gain efficiency. But I think companies have realized that, hey, we need to reinvest in our workforce, we need to raise their wages, improve their benefits, give them better working conditions, and make them a true resource that will obviously contribute to the success of the company over time. And the second bucket they're looking at is just broader long term investments in things like automation and productivity technologies, because many of these labor trends are structural, that are demographic issues, that are geopolitical issues, that are not going to reverse anytime soon. So you do need to look for an alternative, particularly in areas where, you know, jobs that people don't want to take on or where the value added from a labor is not as good as automating it. That's where companies are highly focused on the next generation of tools, whether that's automation or A.I. and machine learning. 


Diego Anzoategui: It seems that A.I. technology holds great promise when it comes to raising productivity growth. In fact, our analysts here at Morgan Stanley believe that A.I. focused productivity revolution could be more global than the PC revolution. What is your thinking around this? 


Ravi Shanker: Look, I think it's still too early to tell what impact A.I. will have on labor productivity as a whole and the impact of labor at corporations around the world. Take, for example, my sector of freight transportation. We don't make anything, but we move everybody else's stuff. And so by nature of freight transportation, is a very process driven industry and process driven industries by nature kind of iterate to find more efficiency and better ways of doing things, and that's where a lot of these new productivity tools can be very helpful. At the same time, it is also a very labor intensive industry that has some significant demographic challenges, whether it's a truck driver shortage, the inability to find rail workers, warehouse workers on the airline side of the house, the inability to find pilots and so the training and the desire of people to do this job over time may be changing. And that's where something like, you know, automation or A.I. tools can be very, very helpful going forward. However, I think this is still very early innings and we will see how this evolves in the coming years.

 

Ravi Shanker: So finally, Diego, what is your outlook for the US labor market and wages over the next 5 to 10 years and how persistent do you think this productivity race is going to be? 


Diego Anzoategui: We think that a persistently lower labor supply should gradually boost wages. So far nominal wages have increased less than inflation, but we believe the modest increase in nominal wages is simply evidence of typically sluggish response of wages to price shocks. We expect real wages to pick up ahead and regain lost ground, and without this catch up in wages we leave firms to raise prices rather than upgrade their technologies. Evidence of strong price passthrough in the U.S. is limited and structural changes have made wage price spirals less relevant. 


Ravi Shanker: Diego, thanks so much for taking the time to talk. 


Diego Anzoategui: Great speaking with you Ravi.

May 02, 2023
Vishy Tirupattur: Liquidity, Regional Banks and Potential Regulation
00:03:09

As the banking sector is in the news again, investors wonder about an increase in borrowing from the Fed and possible restrictions on the horizon.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Chief Fixed Income Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of  perspectives, I'll be talking about the ongoing tensions in the regional banking sector. It's Monday, May 1st at 2 p.m. in New York. 


At the outset, I would note that the news we woke up to this morning about JP Morgan's acquisition of First Republic is an important development. As Betsy Graseck, our large cap banks equity analyst noted, as part of this transaction JP Morgan will assume all $92 billion remaining deposits at First Republic, including the $30 billion of large bank deposits which will be repaid in full post consolidation. We believe that this is credit positive for the large cap bank group, as investors have been concerned that large banks would have to take losses against their $30 billion in deposits in the event First Republic was put into FDIC receivership. 


That said, we will be watching closely a key metric of demand for liquidity in the system, the borrowings from the Fed by the banks. The last two weeks saw consecutive increases in the borrowings from the Fed facilities by the banks, the discount window and the Bank Term Funding Program. That the banking system needed to continue to borrow at such high and increasing levels suggested that liquidity pressures remained and may have actually been increasing over the past two weeks. In light of the developments over the weekend, it will be useful to see how these borrowings from the Fed change when this week's data are released on Thursday. 


Last Friday, the Federal Reserve Board announced the results from the review of the supervision and regulation of the Silicon Valley Bank, led by Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr. The regulatory changes proposed are broadly in line with our expectations. The most important highlights from a macro perspective include the emphasis on banks management of interest rate risk and liquidity risk. Further, the report calls for a review of stress testing requirements. The Fed is now proposing to extend the rules that already apply to large banks now to smaller banks, banks with $100 billion to $700 billion in assets. These changes will be proposed, debated, reviewed and these changes will not be effective for a few years because of the standard notice and common periods in the rulemaking process. 


What are the market implications? We think that the recent events in the regional banking sector will cause banks to shorten assumptions on deposit durations, while potential regulatory changes would likely impact the amount of duration banks can take on their asset side. This is a steepener for rates, negative for longer duration securities such as agency mortgage backed securities and a dampener for the bank demand for senior tranches of securitized credit. While the implementation of these rules will take time, markets would be proactive. In the near-term, the challenges in the regional banks sector will likely result in lower credit formation and raise the risk of a sharper economic contraction.  


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.

May 01, 2023
Ed Stanley: The Risky Path to a Multipolar World
00:03:12

With the world moving towards a more complex and decentralized multipolar structure, how will technology and infrastructure markets fare going forward?


----- Transcript -----

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 talking about the complex issue of security in the multipolar world. 


For some time, the world has been trending away from a globalized, unipolar structure characterized by stability and mutual cooperation. And in its place, we've been moving towards a multipolar structure, more complex, more decentralized. And this theme is one that Morgan Stanley's Global Research Department has been exploring deeply over the last three years. 


And the time is right to revisit that theme now because it's accelerating. And we see two plausible outcomes from here, a de-risking or a decoupling, lie ahead for companies. Our base case is still for a gradual phased de-risking between regions and companies are already in the process of facing up to that new reality, by diversifying their highly concentrated supply chains. But the possibility of a full and disorderly decoupling scenario now warrants more serious consideration. It's no longer the tail risk it was when we first addressed the theme three years ago. 


What has acted as a more recent accelerant to this trend is the extent of top down policy measures we've witnessed over recent years. The number of such policies designed to restrict trade have increased fivefold in the last five years, as measured by the UN. And these restrictions have covered everything from rare earth battery minerals, to grain exports and solar panel imports, to specialist machinery for microchip production. 


Add to this the ever greater incentives to reshore supply chains and critical components back to the U.S. and Europe, in the form of the CHIPS Act, the U.S. IRA and Europe's response to it, and it becomes clearer why this multipolar world and de-risking theme continue to gather pace. After all, Europe's market share of critical inputs and technologies stand at about 6% versus China's at over 50%. And that scale of imbalance will take time and substantial resources to even partially reverse. 


And while this is a complex theme with many moving parts, there is one relatively simple conclusion. Whether the world continues to gradually de-risk or more abruptly decouple, greater spending on security and critical infrastructure will be essential. 


Consequently, the industrial and tech sectors will likely need to allocate the most capital to achieve this de-risking process. But we also see promise for more than 80 companies exposed to the critical infrastructure buildout, which should see higher demand and should be able to generate strong return on capital in the process. These are the types of companies that should be well-placed, as this theme evolves. Our new security framework suggests that space infrastructure, artificial intelligence and batteries may be areas of greatest focus for the markets going forward. 


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.

Apr 28, 2023
Matthew Hornbach: The Return of Government Bonds
00:03:22

While government bonds have been less than desirable investments for the past two years, the tide may be turning on bond returns.


----- Transcript -----

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, April 27th at 2 p.m. in New York. 


Over the past 2 years, government bonds have been less than desirable investments. This year, the inflation phenomena came out of hibernation and appears unwilling to go away anytime soon. 


In 2022, one of the worst years on record, U.S. Treasuries delivered a total return of -12.5%. Securities that offer fixed interest payments like government bonds tend to lose value when inflation rises, because the future purchasing power of those cash flows declines. But that doesn't always happen, of course, and certainly not to this degree. 


For most of the past 20 years, government bonds dealt reasonably well with positive inflation rates, even if those rates were rising. But last year was different, for two reasons primarily. First, inflation rose at a rate we haven't seen since the late 1970s. And second, central banks responded aggressively by tightening monetary policies. 


How have these factors changed so far this year? Well, inflation has started to moderate both in terms of consumer prices and wages. And in response, central banks have become less aggressive in their recent policy maneuvering. Investors have also benefited from the clarity on the speed with which central banks have moved and how fast they may move in the future. This would seem like good news for government bond returns, and so far it has been. However, at the same time, investor nerves remain frayed, even if less so than last year. But why? 


First, investors remain worried about inflation, but for different reasons than last year. Throughout 2022 concern focused on the speed with which inflation was rising and just how high it would go. This year, however, concerns remain around how far inflation will fall, a process known as disinflation. 


The consensus view amongst investors is that inflation will remain above the Fed's 2% goal unless the Fed engineers a deep recession. And to do so, the Fed will either have to tighten monetary policy even further or keep monetary policy tight for an extended period of time. Neither scenario seems particularly supportive of government bond returns. 


Second, investors are worried about the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations. The concern isn't so much that the government will default on its debt obligations, although that is a possibility. Rather, it's more about whether the government will have to delay paying other obligations, such as federal employee salaries or Social Security. A cessation of those payments, even if temporary, could slow economic activity in the United States. And even if the debt ceiling is raised in time, material risks to regional banking institutions still remain. 


Putting it all together, the higher yields available in the government bond markets and the increasing risk to economic activity, including those from the lagged effects of monetary policy tightening, leave us hopeful on the future returns of the asset class. 


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. 

Apr 27, 2023
Michael Zezas: The Great Productivity Race
00:02:42

As multinational companies look towards a future of higher innovation costs and a shrinking labor pool, some corporate sectors may fare better than others in the multipolar world.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the great productivity race and the multipolar world. It's Wednesday, April 26th at 9 a.m. in New York. 


Client questions this week have focused on the U.S. debt ceiling, as Republicans in the House of Representatives work to pass their version of a debt ceiling raise. But we think this bill is just one step in a longer process, so we'll return to this topic when there's something more concrete to say about the ultimate resolution and its market implications. 


Stepping away from that topic gives us the opportunity to focus on a longer term trend impacting the markets, something our research team is calling the Great Productivity Race. It's the idea that U.S. multinational companies in particular will have to spend to develop and integrate new technologies, including artificial intelligence , into their production in order to keep up output. Why is that? In part, it has to do with one of our big three themes for 2023, the transition to a multipolar world. 


In a multipolar world, where the U.S. is looking to safeguard advantages and technologies and key areas of production, the labor pool for U.S. multinationals is contracting. Efforts to re-friend, and near-shore critical industries have strong political support. But this narrows the geographical options for companies making cheap labor, particularly for skilled manufacturing, harder to find. And that exacerbates a U.S. economic challenge already present for several reasons. That means companies are likely to invest in improving their own productivity through technology. And as our economists point out, there's historical precedent for this. 


For one academic study, the great Mississippi Flood of 1927 led many people to emigrate from some adjacent counties. Those areas modernized agricultural production much faster than others. Another academic study shows that conversely, metro areas that had a significant inflow of low skilled workers in the eighties and nineties were slow to adopt automated production processes. So investors need to know that some corporate sectors will be able to handle this well and others will be challenged. Those best positioned are ones less reliant on labor and with ample resources to invest in productivity. Those more challenged rely heavily on labor and have less resources on their balance sheets.  


Our colleagues in equity research are digging into which sectors fit into which category, and in a future podcast we’ll share with you what they're learning. 

Apr 26, 2023
Andrew Sheets: The U.S. Dollar and Cross-Asset Portfolios
00:02:59

With many investors predicting the U.S. dollar to continue to weaken, its potential for diversification and high yields may indicate otherwise.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Assets 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 Tuesday, April 25th at 2 p.m. in London. 


The U.S. dollar has fallen about 11% from its highs last September. We think a majority of investors expect that weakness to continue, driven by factors ranging from expensive valuations to potential slowing of the U.S. economy, to the view that a more fragmented geopolitical backdrop will lead to less trade and transactions in U.S. dollars. 


In contrast, our foreign exchange strategists think it's more likely that the dollar strengthens. I want to discuss the idea of dollar strength from a larger lens and what it could mean for a cross-asset portfolio. 


For a multi-asset investor, the greatest appeal of the U.S. dollar comes from its diversification. At present, it is one of the few positive carry diversifiers, which is another way of saying that it's one of the few assets out there that pays you while also acting as a portfolio hedge, thanks to the dollar generally moving in the opposite direction of riskier assets like stocks or high yield bonds. 


Importantly, that diversification from the U.S. dollar makes a lot of intuitive sense to us. We think the dollar could do well if U.S. growth is very hot, as investors are drawn to even higher U.S. rates under that scenario, or if growth is very weak as investors seek out safety and liquidity. These extremes in growth, we think, represent two of the key risks, for riskier assets.

 

In contrast, the dollar probably does weaken if growth is down the middle and a so-called soft landing for the economy. In this case, modest Fed easing without the fear of recession would likely cause investors to seek out cheaper, more volatile currencies. But this soft landing scenario is probably the best outcome for the riskier other parts of one's portfolio, allowing the dollar to provide diversification as it zigs while other assets zag. 


But what about the dollar's higher valuation or the threat of geopolitical shifts? Well, on valuation, our work suggests that it tends to be a pretty weak predictor of foreign exchange returns over the next 6 to 12 months, for better or for worse. And on geopolitical shifts, the dollar remains the dominant currency of global trade. And importantly, over the last year, a year that’s contained quite a bit of geopolitical uncertainty, it's continued to show diversification benefits. 


In summary, many investors expect U.S. dollar weakness to continue. Thanks to its high yield and powerful potential for diversification, we think it's more likely to appreciate. 


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. 

Apr 25, 2023
Sustainability: Decarbonization in the Steel Industry
00:08:29

The drive to reduce carbon emissions could trigger the biggest transformation of the steel industry in decades. Global Head of Sustainability Research, Stephen Byrd, Head of European Metals and Mining Research, Alain Gabriel, and Head of the Americas Basic Materials Team, Carlos De Alba, discuss. 


----- Transcript -----

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


Alain Gabriel: And I’m Alain Gabriel, Head of Europe Metals and Mining Research. 


Carlos De Alba: I am Carlos De Alba, Head of the Americas Basic Materials Team. 


Stephen Byrd: On this special episode of the podcast, we'll discuss the implications of decarbonization in the steel industry. It's Monday, April 24th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Alain Gabriel: And 3 p.m. in London. 


Stephen Byrd: Achieving net zero is a top priority as the world moves into a new phase of climate urgency, and global decarbonization is one of the three big themes for 2023 for Morgan Stanley research. Within this broader theme, we believe that decarbonizing steelmaking has the potential to trigger the biggest transformation of the steel industry in decades. 


Stephen Byrd: Alain to set the stage and just give our listeners a sense of the impact of steelmaking, just how much does steel contribute to global CO2 emissions? 


Alain Gabriel: Thank you, Stephen. In fact, the steel industry emits around 3.6 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum. And this enormous carbon footprint puts the industry at the heart of the climate debate, and public policy is rapidly evolving towards stricter emissions reductions targets, but also shorter implementation timelines. So for instance, in Europe, which is leading this transformation by simultaneously introducing a carbon border adjustment mechanism, which is otherwise known as CBAM and gradually reducing free CO2 allowances until their full removal by 2034.  


Stephen Byrd: So, Alain, given the size of Steel's contributions to emissions, it should come as no surprise that decarbonizing steel would likely really reconfigure the entire supply chain, including hydrogen, renewable energy, high quality iron ore and equipment providers. So, Alain, given this impending paradigm shift, what is the potential impact on upstream resources? 


Alain Gabriel: Yes, the steel value chain is collectively exploring various ways to reduce carbon emissions, whether it was miners, steelmakers or even capital equipment providers. However, we think the most promising path from today's perspective appears to be via the hydrogen direct reduced iron electric arc furnaces process, which is also known as H2DRIEAF in short. Admittedly, if we were to have this conversation again in three years, this conclusion might be different. But back to the H2DRIEAF process, it promises to curb emissions by 99% by replacing carbon from coal with hydrogen to release the oxygen molecules from iron ore and convert it to pure iron. The catch is that this process is resource intensive and would face significant supply constraints and bottlenecks, which in a way is positive for upstream pricing.So if we were to hypothetically convert the entire industry in Europe today, we will need more than 55% of Europe's entire production of green hydrogen last year. And we'll also need more than double the global production of DRI grade pellets, which is a niche high grade iron ore product. 


Stephen Byrd: Alain, you believe that steel economics in Europe is really at an inflection point right now, and given that Europe will likely see the biggest disruption when it comes to the green steel transformation, I wondered if you could give us a snapshot of the current situation in Europe and of your outlook there.  


Alain Gabriel: Should steel mills choose to adopt the H2DRIEAF proccess, they would need to build out an entire infrastructure associated with it, and we detail each component of that chain in our note. But in aggregate, we estimate that the average capital intensity would be approximately $1,200 per ton, and this excludes the build up of renewable electricity. So on OpEx, green hydrogen and renewable electricity will constitute more than 50% of production costs and this will lead to wide disparities between regions. So the economics of this transformation will only work, in our view, under effective policy support to level the playing field. And this would include a combination of grants, subsidies and carbon border taxes. Fortunately, the EU policy is moving in that direction but is lagging the United States. 


Stephen Byrd: So, Carlos, as we heard from Alain, Europe is leading this green steel transformation. But at the same time, the U.S. has the greenest steel footprint and is benefiting from some relative advantages vis a vis Europe and the rest of the world. Could you walk us through these advantages and the competitive gap between the U.S. and other regions? 


Carlos De Alba: Yeah, I mean, definitely the U.S. is already very well positioned. And what drives this position of strength is the fact that about 70% of the steel production in the U.S. is made out of electrical furnace, and that emits roughly around half a ton of CO2 per ton of steel, which is significantly better than the average of 1.7 tons per ton of steel and the blast furnace route average of around 2 tons per ton of steel. So that is really the genesis of the better position that the U.S. has in terms of emissions. Another way of looking at it is the U.S. produces around 6% of the global crude steel and it only makes around 2% of the overall steel emissions in the world. 


Stephen Byrd: That's a good way of laying it out, Carlos. It's interesting, in the U.S., the cost of electricity being relatively low certainly does help with the cost of making steel as well. I wanted to shift over to China and India, which are responsible for two thirds of global steel emissions. How are they positioned for this green steel transition? 


Carlos De Alba: Yeah, I mean, these two countries are significant contributors to the emissions in the world. And when you take the average emission per ton of steel produced in India, it's around 2.4 tons and in China it's around 1.8 tons. And the reason being is that they have a disproportional majority of their steel made under the blast furnace route that, as I alluded to previously, emits more CO2 per ton of steel than other routes like the electrical furnaces. So it's going to take some time definitely for them to reposition their massive steel industry steel capacity and reduce their emissions. We need to keep in mind that these two countries in particular have to weigh not only the emissions that their steel sector provides, but also the economic implications of such an important sector. They contribute to jobs, they contribute to economic activity, they provide the raw material for their infrastructure and the development of their cities and their urbanization trends. So for them, it is not necessarily just straightforward a matter of reducing their emissions, but they need to weigh it and make sure that they have a balance between economic growth, urbanization, infrastructure buildup and obviously the environment. 


Carlos De Alba: So Stephen, given the scale of the global steel industry, what are some of the broader sustainability implications of the shift towards green steel production? How do you view this transition through the lens of your environmental, social and governance or ESG framework? 


Stephen Byrd: Yeah Carlos as Alain started the scope of emissions from the steel industry certainly is worthy of attention. We think a lot about the supply chain required to provide the clean energy and electrolyzers necessary to achieve this transformation that you both have laid out. Now, green hydrogen supply in particular is limited and will take some time to ramp up. So while technically feasible, there are numerous hurdles to overcome to make widespread green hydrogen use a reality. We do expect the ramp up to be gradual. A lot of capital is being deployed, but this will take time. Now, on clean energy, I think it's a bit more straightforward. 

The cost of clean energy has been dropping for years, just as a frame of reference in the United States from 2010 to 2020, the cost of clean energy dropped annually by about 15% per year, which is quite remarkable. Now, the levelized cost of electricity from renewables is lower in the US and China relative to Europe. So we think a lot about the growth in clean energy. We do think that the capital will be there. The cost of clean energy we believe will continue to drop. So that is a hopeful development that over time should result in a lower and lower cost for green steel. 


Stephen Byrd: Alain, Carlos, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Alain Gabriel: Great speaking with you both.


Carlos De Alba: Thank you very much. I enjoy your discussions as well. 


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. 

Apr 24, 2023
Andrew Sheets: What is Behind Equity Market Strength?
00:03:15

With equity markets showing strength in the face of slowing growth, investors are left wondering how, or if, they can remain resilient.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross Assets 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, April 21st at 2 p.m. in London. 


Meeting with investors over the last several weeks, there's one question above all others that seems to be on people's mind. In the face of slowing growth, tightening policy, banking sector stresses and uninspiring valuations, why are markets, especially equity markets, so resilient? 


Like many things in the market, there is no one reason, and it's also impossible to know for sure. But we have some suspicions about what is and isn't behind the strength and what that means going forward. 


One trio of factors rolled out to explain this resiliency, is the idea that growth and earnings are holding up well, the Fed is once again injecting liquidity into the system, given recent banking sector challenges and investors are already so negative that the risks are well known. Yet each of these explanations seems to come up a little short. 


Global growth in the first quarter was better than expected, but markets should care more about the forward looking outlook, which looks set for deceleration, while estimates for corporate earnings have generally been falling throughout the year. While the Fed did provide extra liquidity given recent banking sector challenges, this looks very different from traditional quantitative easing, especially as the banks continue to tighten their lending activity. And while sentiment feels cautious, perhaps as evidenced by the popularity of this question, measures that try to quantify that fear have generally normalized quite a bit and look a lot closer to average than extreme. 


So what do we believe is going on? First, the stock market is often seen as a broad proxy for the economy or risk appetite, but in 2023 it's been unusually swayed by a small number of very large stocks in the U.S. and Europe. That still counts, of course, but it makes drawing broad conclusions about what the stock market is doing or saying a lot more difficult.

 

Second, recent banking issues created an odd dynamic where markets could celebrate the possibility of easier central bank policy almost immediately, while the real economic impact of tighter lending standards arrives at some uncertain point in the future. That provides an immediate boost for markets, but the fundamental challenges of that tighter bank lending are still to come. 


Third, and just as important, the market tends to take a view that the end of central bank interest rate increases will be a positive. That is what the data says if you look across all hiking cycles since, say, 1980. But if you only look at times when the yield curve is inverted and the Fed has stopped hiking, like it is today, the picture looks a lot less rosy. 


Market resilience has likely had several drivers. But with measures of sentiment starting to look more balanced, growth still set to slow and markets already expecting easier central bank policy than our economists expect, we think the outlook remains challenging as we look beyond April.

 


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. 

Apr 21, 2023
Mark Purcell: The Evolution of Cancer Medicines
00:03:33

"Smart chemotherapy" could change the way that cancer is treated, potentially opening up a $140 billion market over the next 15 years.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mark Purcell, Head of Morgan Stanley's European Pharmaceuticals Team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll talk about the concept of Smart Chemotherapy. It's Thursday, the 20th of April at 2 p.m. in London. 


Cancer is still the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for approximately 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020. Despite recent advances in areas like immuno-oncology, we still rely heavily on chemotherapy as the mainstay in the treatment of many cancers. 


Chemotherapy originated in the early 1900s when German chemist Paul Ehrlich attempted to develop "Magic Bullets", these are chemicals that would kill cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues. The 1960s saw the development of chemotherapy based on Ehrlich's work, and this approach, now known as traditional chemotherapy, has been in wide use since then. Nowadays, it accounts for more than 37% of cancer prescriptions and more than half of patients with colorectal, pancreatic, ovarian and stomach cancers are still treated with traditional chemo. 


But traditional chemo has many drawbacks and some significant limitations. So here's where "Smart Chemotherapy" comes in. Targeted therapies including antibodies to treat cancer were first developed in the late 1990s. These innovative approaches offer a safer, more effective solution that can be used earlier in treatment and in combination with other cancer medicines. "Smart Chemo" uses antibodies as the guidance system to find the cancer, and once the target is reached, releases chemotherapy inside the cancer cells. Think of it as a marriage of biology and chemistry called an antibody drug conjugate, an ADC. It's essentially a biological missile that hones in on the cancer and avoids collateral damage to the healthy tissues. 

 

The first ADC drug was approved for a form of leukemia in the year 2000, but it's taken about 20 years to perfect this "biological missile" to target solid tumors, which are far more complex and harder to infiltrate into. We're now at a major inflection point with 87 new ADC drugs entering development in the past two years alone. We believe smart chemotherapy could open up a $140 billion market over the next 15 years or so, up from a $5 billion sales base in 2022. This would make ADCs one of the biggest growth areas across Global Biopharma, led by colorectal, lung and breast cancer. 


Large biopharma companies are increasingly aware of the enormous potential of ADC drugs and are more actively deploying capital towards smart chemotherapy. It's important to note, though, that while a smart chemotherapy revolution is well underway in breast and bladder cancer, the focus is now shifting to earlier lines of treatment and combination approaches. The potential to replace traditional chemotherapy in other solid tumors is completely untapped. 


A year from now, we expect ADC drugs to deliver major advances in the treatment of lung cancer and bladder cancer, as well as really important proof of concept data for colorectal cancer, which is arguably one of the biggest unmet needs out there. Given vastly improved outcomes for cancer patients, we believe that "Smart Chemotherapy" is well on the way to replacing traditional chemotherapy, and we expect the market to start pricing this in over the coming months. 


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. 

Apr 20, 2023
Michael Zezas: The Costs of a Multipolar World
00:02:38

Recent interactions between China and Europe signal a continuing reorganization of global commerce around multiple power bases, bringing new and familiar challenges for companies.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the U.S.-China relationship and the shift to a multipolar world. It's Wednesday, April 19th, at 9 p.m. in New York. 


As listeners here already know, one of the big secular themes we've been tracking in recent years is the shift to a multipolar world, one where instead of having one major power base, the United States, you now have multiple power bases to organize global commerce around, including China and Europe. And recent interactions between China and Europe underscore this trend. For example, President Macron of France recently noted following a trip to China that Europe need not precisely follow the U.S. in how it approaches its relationship with China. While those comments have received pushback in other European capitals, it's fair to say that Europe, with its relatively more interconnected and trade-based economy, may have a more nuanced approach to China than its traditional ally in the U.S.. In any case, multiple power bases mean multiple challenges for companies doing business on a global scale. 


This trend is most noticeable to U.S. investors in large cap stocks, where multinationals continue to announce shifts in the geographic mix of their supply chains. While incremental, some of these changes seemed unfathomable just a few years ago. Take a recent Bloomberg News report about a major tech company that continues to shift, again incrementally, new production of some products out of China and into places like India. While the news report doesn't draw an explicit link between those moves and U.S. policy choices, we think such a story speaks to the influence of the non-tariff barriers that the U.S. has raised in recent years as it seeks to protect new and emerging tech industries in its jurisdiction that it deems important for national and economic security. This includes existing export restrictions and the potential for outbound investment restrictions, which could hamper companies seeking to build production facilities in countries like China, where sensitive technologies would either be produced or be part of the production process. 


To keep it simple, the multipolar world comes with new costs for many types of companies, and it's becoming clearer and clearer who will bear those costs and who will benefit from that spend. We've previously highlighted potential geographical beneficiaries like Mexico and India and will continue to check in with new work on specific sector impacts to 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. 

Apr 19, 2023
Vishy Tirupattur: Tumult in the Banking Sector
00:04:03

As the U.S. banking sector faces oncoming regulatory changes, how will the smaller banks react to these new requirements and what will the impact be on markets?


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Chief Fixed Income Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the impact of potential regulatory changes on bank assets. It's Tuesday, April 18th at 11a.m in New York. 


In the wake of the tumult in the banking sector since early March, and the significant intervention by the authorities, it is likely that a regulatory response will follow, particularly focused on the regulation of regional banks. President Biden has already called on the federal banking agencies in consultation with the Treasury Department, to consider a set of reforms that will reduce the risk of future banking crises. A review led by Michael Barr, the Vice Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve Board, is set to be released by May 1st and will likely offer some indication as to where future bank regulation might be headed. In this context, it is worthwhile to examine potential changes to regional bank regulation, reflect on how banks would respond to such changes and consider their impact on markets. 


Across all banks, there are approximately 4.7 trillion of non-interest bearing deposits with the duration of about seven years. Banks will likely need to either review and re-justify or shorten such deposits. Our bank equity analysts expect two key regulatory changes TLAC, total loss absorbing capacity and LCR, liquidity coverage ratio, to be extended to smaller banks, about $100 billion in assets, though this process will likely not get fully implemented until 2027. 


From the perspective of rates markets, these changes make the case for steepening of the curve. Our rate strategists see bank demand for treasuries increasing relative to other assets with greater LCR requirements. Both shortening deposit duration and implementing LCR suggest that banks would favor shorter dated Treasuries over longer dated Treasuries. More longer term issuance due to TLAC, drives higher long term yields and fixed income, with support curve steepeners for Treasuries over the medium term. 


For agency mortgage backed securities, these changes will result in less demand from banks and consequently wider mortgage spreads. For munis, these changes would likely imply a lower footprint from banks with available for sale securities favored or held to maturity securities. For securitized credit markets, we see downside in demand ahead. Longer term outlook for securitized credit depends on the specifics of regulatory reform, but is likely to remain tepid for some time to come. 


The expansion of TLAC to smaller banks could intensify supply headwinds in the medium term. Our credit strategists believe that supply risks in bank credit are now skewed to the upside. The emphasis on funding diversity and shift away from deposits to wholesale funding, is likely to keep regional bank issuance elevated for longer. 


An important lesson from recent events in the banking sector, is that the risks to the asset banks hold, extend beyond credit risk into other risks, most notably interest rate risk. While interest rate and convexity risks are reflected in Comprehensive Capital Analysis Review, CCAR and Horizontal Liquidity Review, HLR test, arguably not having an interest rate component to risk weights enable banks, and regional banks in particular, to seek term premia to support their earnings. It is not our base case that this will change. However, it is possible that regulators would at least consider enacting some type of a charge for owning longer-duration securities. At a minimum, we expect the regulators could require all banks to flow marked-to-market hits from available-for-sale securities through their regulatory capital ratios, something that the big banks have been doing already. Ultimately, new regulations for regional banks will take time for formulation and implementation. We'll be watching developments in this space closely. 


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.

Apr 18, 2023
Mike Wilson: Credit Crunch in the U.S Equity Markets
00:04:06

While some investors may be cheering due to softer than expected inflation data, revenues may begin to disappoint in the face of a credit crunch brought on by recent banking stress.


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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, April 17th, at 11:30 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


A month ago, when the banking stress first surfaced, my primary takeaway for U.S. equity markets was that it would lead to a credit crunch. Given our already well below consensus outlook for corporate earnings, it simply gave us more confidence in that view. Fast forward to today and the data suggests a credit crunch has started. More specifically, they show the biggest two week decline in lending by banks on record as they simultaneously sell mortgages and treasuries at a record pace to offset deposit flight. In fact, since the Fed began raising rates a year ago, almost $1 trillion in deposits have left the banking system. Throw in the already tight lending standards and it's no surprise credit growth is shrinking. If that isn't enough, last week, the latest small business survey showed that credit availability had its biggest drop in 20 years, while interest costs are at a 15-year high. 


There's a passage in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, in which a character is asked how he went bankrupt. "Two ways", he answers. "Gradually, then suddenly". This is a good description of recent bank failures. The losses from long duration Treasury holdings and concentrated deposit risk built up gradually over the past year and then suddenly accelerated, leading to the surprising failures of two large and seemingly safe banks. In hindsight, these failures seem predictable given the speed and magnitude of the Federal Reserve's rate hikes, some regrettable regulatory treatment of bank assets and concentrated deposits from corporates. Nevertheless, most did not see the failures coming, which begs the question of what other surprises may be coming from the Fed's abrupt monetary policy adjustment? 


In contrast to what we expected, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have traded well since these bank stresses appeared. However, small caps, banks and other highly leveraged stocks have traded poorly as the market leadership turned more defensive and in line with our sector and style recommendations. Our contention is that the major averages are hanging around current levels due mostly to their defensive and high quality characteristics. However, that should not necessarily be viewed as a signal that all is well. On the contrary, the gradual deterioration in the growth outlook continues, which means even these large cap indices are at risk of a sudden fall like those that we have witnessed in the regional banking and small cap indices. 


The analogy with Hemingway's poetic description of bankruptcy can extend to the earnings growth deterioration observed over the past year. Until now, the decline in earnings estimates for the S&P 500 has been steady and gradual. Since peaking in June of last year, the forward 12 month bottoms up consensus earnings per share forecast for the S&P 500 has fallen at a rate of approximately 9% per annum, which is not severe enough for equity investors to demand the higher equity risk premium we think they should. Further comforting investors is the consensus earnings forecast that implies first quarter will be the trough rate of change for S&P 500 earnings per share. This is a key buy signal that we would normally embrace, if we believed it. 


Instead, if we are right on our well below consensus earnings forecast, the rate of decline in these estimates should increase materially over the next few months as revenue growth begins to disappoint. To date, most of the disappointment in earnings has been a result of lower profitability, particularly in the technology, consumer goods and communication services sectors. 


To those investors cheering the softer than expected inflation data last week, we would say, be careful what you wish for. Falling inflation last week, especially for goods, is a sign of waning demand, and inflation is the one thing holding up revenue growth for many businesses. The gradually eroding margins to date have been mostly a function of bloated cost structures. If and when revenues begin to disappoint, that margin degradation can be much more sudden, and that's when the market can suddenly get in front of the earnings decline we are forecasting, too. 


Bottom line, continue to favor companies with stable earnings that are defendable in the deteriorating growth environment we project. 


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. 

Apr 17, 2023
Sustainability: The Risks and Benefits of A.I
00:08:22

Artificial Intelligence is clearly a powerful tool that could help a number of sustainability objectives, but are there risks attached to these potential benefits? Global Head of Sustainability Research Stephen Byrd and Global Sustainability Analyst Brenda Duverce discuss.


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Stephen Byrd: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Stephen Bryd, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Sustainability Research. 


Brenda Duverce: And I'm Brenda Duverce from the Global Sustainability Team.

 

Stephen Byrd: On the special episode of the podcast, we'll discuss some key A.I. related opportunities and risks through the lens of sustainability. It's Friday, April 14th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Stephen Byrd: Recent developments in A.I. make it clear it's a very powerful tool that can help achieve a great number of sustainability objectives. So, Brenda, can you maybe start by walking us through some of the potential benefits and opportunities from A.I. that can drive improved financial performance for companies? 


Brenda Duverce: Sure, we think A.I. can have tremendous benefits to our society and we are excited about the potential A.I. can have in reducing the harm to our environment and enhancing people's lives. To share a couple of examples from our research, we are excited on what A.I. can do in improving biodiversity protection and conservation. Specifically on how A.I. can improve the accuracy and efficiency of monitoring, helping us better understand biodiversity loss and support decision making and policy design. Overall, we think A.I. can help us more efficiently identify areas for urgent conservation and provide us with the tools to make more informed decisions. Another example is what we see A.I. can do in improving education outcomes, particularly in under-resourced areas. We think A.I. can help enhance teaching and learning outcomes, improve assessment practices, increase accessibility and make institutions more operationally efficient. Which then goes into financial implications A.I. can have in improving margins and reducing costs for organizations. Essentially, we view A.I. as a deflationary technology for many organizations. So Stephen, the Morgan Stanley's Sustainability Team has also done some recent work around the future of food. What role will A.I. play in agriculture in particular? 


Stephen Byrd: Yeah, we're especially excited about what A.I could do in the agriculture sector. So we think about A.I. enabled tools that will help farmers improve efficiencies while also improving the quantity and quality of crop production. For example, there's technology that annotates camera images to differentiate between weeds and crops at the pixel level and then uses that information to administer pesticides only to weed infested areas. The result is the farmer saves money on pesticides, while also improving agricultural production and enhancing biodiversity by reducing damage to the ecosystem. 


Brenda Duverce: But there are also risks and negative implications that ESG investors need to consider in exploring A.I. driven opportunities. How should investors think about these? 


Stephen Byrd: You know, we've been getting a lot of questions from ESG investors around some of the risks related to A.I., and there certainly are quite a few to consider. One big category of risk would be bias, and in the note, we lay out a series of different types of bias risks that we see with A.I. One example would be data selection bias, another would be algorithmic bias, and then lastly, human bias. Just as an example on human bias, this bias would occur when the people developing and training the algorithm introduce their own biases into the data or the algorithm itself. So this is a broad category that's gathered a lot of concern, and that's quite understandable. Another area would be data privacy and security. An example in the utility sector from a research entity focused on the power sector, they highlight that the data collected for A.I. technologies while being meant to train models for a good purpose, could be used in ways that violate the privacy of the data owners. For instance, energy usage data can be collected and used to help residential customers be more energy efficient and lower their bills, but at the same time, the same data could also be used to derive personal information such as the occupation and religion of the residents. 


Stephen Byrd: So Brenda, keeping in mind the potential benefits and risks for me that we just touched on, where do you think A.I's impact is likely to be the greatest and the most immediate? 


Brenda Duverce: Beyond the improvements A.I. can have on our society, in our ESG space in particular, we are excited to see how A.I. can improve the data landscape, specifically thinking about corporate disclosures. We think A.I. can help companies better predict their scope through emissions, which tend to be the largest component of a company's total greenhouse gas emissions, but the most difficult to quantify. We think machine learning in particular can be useful in estimating these emissions by using statistical learning techniques to develop more accurate models. 

 

Stephen Byrd: But it's ironic that when we talk about A.I., within the context of ESG, one of the drawbacks to consider around A.I. is its potential carbon footprint and emissions. So is this a big concern? 


Brenda Duverce: Yes, we do think this is a big concern, particularly as we think about our path towards net zero. Since 2010, emissions at data centers and transmission networks that underpin our digital environment have only grown modestly, despite rapid demand for digital services. This is largely thanks to energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy purchases and a broader decarbonization of our grids. However, we are concerned that these efficiencies in place won't be enough to withstand the high compute intensity required as more A.I. models come online. This is a risk we hope to continue to explore and monitor, especially as it relates to our climate goals. 


Stephen Byrd: In terms of the latest developments around risk from A.I, there's been a call to pause giant A.I. experiments. Can you give us some context around this? 


Brenda Duverce: Sure. In a recent open letter led by the Future of Life Institute, several A.I. researchers called for a pause for at least six months on the training of A.I. systems more powerful than GPT-4. The letter highlighted the risk these systems can have on society and humanity. In our view, we think that a pause is highly unlikely. However, we do think that this continues to bring to light why it is important to also consider the risk of A.I. and why A.I. researchers must follow responsible ethical principles. 


Brenda Duverce: So, Stephen, in the United States, there's currently no comprehensive federal regulation specifically dedicated to A.I.. What is your outlook for legislative action and policies around A.I., both here in the U.S. and abroad? 


Stephen Byrd: Yeah, Brenda, I'd say broadly it does look like the pace of A.I. development is more rapid than the pace of regulatory and legislative developments, and I'll walk through some developments around the world. There have been several calls across stakeholder groups for effective regulation, the US Chamber of Commerce being one of them. And last year we did see some state level regulation focused on A.I. use cases and the risks associated with A.I. and unequal practices. But broadly, in our opinion, we think that the likelihood of legislation being enacted in the near term is low, and that in the U.S. in particular, we expect to see more involvement from regulatory bodies and other industry leaders advocating for a national standard. The European approach to A.I. is focused on trust and excellence, aiming to increase research and industrial capacity while ensuring safety and fundamental rights. The A.I. ACT is a proposed European law assigning A.I. to three risk categories. Unacceptable risk, high risk and applications that don’t fall in either of those categories which would be unregulated. This proposed law has faced significant delays and its future is still unclear. Proponents of the legislation expect it to lead the way for other global governing bodies to follow while others are disappointed by its vagueness, the potential for it to stifle innovation and concerns that it does not do enough to explicitly protect against A.I. systems used for weapons, finance and health care. 


Stephen Byrd: Finally, Brenda, what are some A.I. related catalysts that investors should pay attention to? 

 

Brenda Duverce: In terms of catalysts, we'll continue to see innovation updates from our core A.I. enablers, which shouldn't be a surprise to our listeners. But we plan to continue to monitor the ever evolving regulatory landscape on this topic and the discourse from influential organizations helping to push for A.I. safety around the world. 


Stephen Byrd: Brenda, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Brenda Duverce: 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.

Apr 14, 2023
Jonathan Garner: Asia Equities Rally Once More
00:03:03

After a correction that took place in recent months, Asia and emerging markets are once again rallying. But how have these regions sustained their ongoing bull markets?


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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, today I'll be talking about the recent correction and ongoing bull market in Asia and emerging market equities. It's Thursday, April 13th, at 10 a.m. in London. 


Asia and emerging market equities underwent a six week correction in February and March, in what we think is an ongoing bull market. However, they've recently stabilized and begun to rally once more as we head into the new quarter. 


Importantly, the catalyst for the correction came from outside the asset class in the form of banking sector risks in both the U.S. and Europe. EM assets suffered some limited challenges, for example, at one point major EM currencies gave up most of that year to date gains against the U.S. dollar. However, as investors appraised the situation, they recognized that little had actually changed in the investment thesis for the EM asset class this year. 


At the core of this thesis is the ongoing recovery in China. After an initial surge in mobility indicators and services spending, there is now a broadening out of the recovery to include manufacturing production and even recent strength in property sales. Like the rest of Asia and EM these days, Chinese growth is self-funded in the main from domestic banking systems which are generally well capitalized and liquid. Indeed, just as question marks are now appearing over bank credit growth prospects in the U.S. in segments like commercial real estate lending, the opposite is taking place in China as the authorities encourage more bank lending. 


Elsewhere, we're also seeing an encouraging set of developments in the semiconductors and technology hardware cycles, which matter for the Korea and Taiwan markets. Although end use demand in most segments remained very weak in the first quarter, we believe our thesis that we are passing through the worst phase of the cycle was confirmed by positive stock price reactions to news of production cuts by industry leaders. We think stock prices in these sectors troughed last October, as usual about six months ahead of the weakest point of industry fundamentals and the industry now has a lower production base to begin to recover from the second half of the year onwards. 

  

Elsewhere in EM, we recently adopted a more positive stance on the Indian market after being cautious for six months. Valuations adjusted meaningfully lower in that timeframe and we think Indian equities are now poised to join in the rally from here on an improving economic cycle outlook, as well as heightened structural interest in the market by overseas investors. India continues to benefit from ongoing positive household formation, industrialization and urbanization themes which are well represented in domestic equity benchmarks. 


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.

Apr 13, 2023
Chetan Ahya: Global Impacts on Asia's Growth
00:03:47

Given the recent developments in developed markets banking sectors, can Asia’s economic growth continue to outperform?


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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 why Asia remains better placed despite recent global financial developments. It's Wednesday, April 12, at 9 a.m in Hong Kong. 


With the recent issues in the Developed Markets banking sector, investors are asking if Asia could face similar funding challenges and if Asia will still be able to outperform on growth. 


On the funding challenge, a key point to keep in mind is that interest rates have not risen as much in Asia compared to the U.S.. Asia's inflation was more cost-push driven, i.e commodity prices driven, and has already started to decelerate, and so central banks did not have to hike rates as much as the Fed. For instance, on July 21, policy rates rose by 4.75% in the U.S., but in Asia, it has risen only by one percentage point on an average. In a similar vein, prior to recent developments, 10 year bond yields rose by 2.8 percentage points in the U.S., but have only risen by just 0.9% in Asia. Another important distinguishing factor has to do with the setup of the banking sector. In Asia, liquidity coverage ratios are well above 100%, loans tend to be more floating rather than fixed, and deposit franchises are more diversified. 


Turning to the second question on whether Asia can still outperform. We think that recent developments will pose downside risks to both developed markets and Asia's growth but on net, Asia will still be able to outperform. 


In the case of a meaningful slowdown or a mild technical recession in the U.S., there will be three mitigating factors for Asia's growth outlook. 


First, the impact from weaker trade would be partially offset by easier financial conditions from lower market pricing of Fed's path, as well as lower commodity prices, leading to an improvement in Asia's terms of trade. The more stable macroeconomic backdrop in Asia means central banks in the region do have more room to ease monetary policy. In our base case, we expect rate cuts starting from the first quarter of 2024, but if downside risks emerge, these rate cuts could come into play sooner than we anticipate. 


Second, we expect China's GDP to recover to 5.7% in 2023. Reopening is lifting economic activity in China and also helping to generate positive spillovers for the rest of the region. 


Third, the three of the other large economies in Asia, Japan, India and Indonesia all have economy specific factors driving domestic demand. Japan's accommodative macro policies should keep private sector demand supported. For India, balance sheets for the financial and non-financial private sector have been cleaned up over the years. The private sector is thus pricing with a healthy risk appetite for expansion. In Indonesia, macro stability risks have been well managed, hence, rates have not had to rise as much in other emerging markets, and domestic demand has therefore remained robust. However, we do think that the risks are skewed to the downside. 


In a hard landing scenario, which we would characterize as U.S. full year GDP contracting by 1% or more, Asia may not be able to escape the downdraft and could recouple on the downside, at least during the worst point of the shock. But once we see a stabilization of global financial conditions with policy response, we believe Asia will be able to recover faster than the U.S. and Europe and resume its growth outperformance. 


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.

Apr 12, 2023
U.S Housing: The Future of Mortgage Markets
00:04:13

Banks and the Fed are winding down activity in the mortgage market amid recent funding challenges, signaling a potential new regime for the asset class. Co-Heads of 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 mortgage markets. It's Tuesday, April 11th, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Jim Egan: Now, Jay, there has been lots of news recently about bank funding challenges, and the FDIC put both Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in receivership. They just announced last week that $114 billion of their securities will be sold, over time, with those securities being primarily agency MBS. Now, that sounds like a pretty big number, can you tell us what the impact of this is? 


Jay Bacow: Sure. So, I think it's important first to realize that the agency mortgage market is the second most liquid fixed income market in the world after treasuries, and so the market is pretty easily able to quickly reprice to digest this news. And as a reminder, agency mortgages don't have credit risk, given the agency guarantee. Now, that $114 billion is a big number and about $100 billion of them are mortgages, and putting that $100 billion in context, we're only expecting about $150 billion of net issuance this year. So this is two thirds of the net supply of the market is going to come just from these portfolio liquidations. That's a lot, and that's before we even get into the composition of what they own. 


Jim Egan: Isn't a mortgage a mortgage? What do you mean by the composition of what they own? 


Jay Bacow: Well, yes, a mortgage is a mortgage, but what banks can do is that they can structure the mortgages to better fit the profile of what they want. And based on publicly disclosed data of when they bought, we assume that most of those mortgages right now have very low fixed coupons—in the context of 2%, well below the current prevailing rate for investors. Furthermore, about a third of the mortgages that the FDIC holds in receivership are these structured mortgages, they're still guaranteed, there's no credit risk, but these would be out of index investments for most money managers. 


Jim Egan: Well, can't banks buy them, though? Like, aren't these pretty typical bank bonds, two banks owned them in the first place? And if the bonds worked for a bank that time, why don't they work for a different bank now? 


Jay Bacow: So, part of what made them work for those banks is that they bought them around “par,” and given the low coupons that they have now, they're no longer at par. And for accounting reasons that we probably don’t need to get into right now, banks typically don't like to buy bonds that are far away from par. Furthermore, the recent events have made banks likely to need to revisit a lot of the assumptions that they're making on the asset and liability side. In particular, they probably going to want to revisit the duration of their deposits, which is going to bias them towards owning shorter securities. The regulators are probably also going to want to revisit a lot of assumptions as well. And we think what's likely to happen is that they're going to make a lot of the smaller banks have the mark-to-market losses on their available for sale securities flow through to regulatory capital, which in conjunction with some of the other changes probably means banks are going to further bias their security purchases shorter in duration and lowering capital charges. 


Jim Egan: Okay. So, if the banks aren't going to be active and the Fed is already winding down their portfolio, who's really left to buy? 


Jay Bacow: Basically, money managers and overseas. And while spreads have widened out some, we think they're biased a little wider from here. Effectively, this is going to be the first year since 2009 that neither domestic banks or the Fed were net buying mortgages. And when you take away the two largest buyers of mortgages, that is a problem for the asset class. And so we think we're in a new regime for mortgages and a new regime for bank demand. 


Jim Egan: Jay, thank you for that clear explanation, and it's always great talking to you. 


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


Jim Egan: 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.

Apr 11, 2023
Diego Anzoategui: Goods, Services and the Shape of China’s Reopening
00:03:45

China’s growth is expected to be strong this year. However, it is being driven by services more than goods, meaning the news for other economies may not be as good as it initially appears. 


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Diego Anzoategui from the Global Economics Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about the global impact of China's reopening. It's Monday, April 10th, at 3 p.m. in New York. 


At the end of 2022, China scrapped all COVID zero policies and laid out a growth focused policy agenda for 2023. By mid-January, around 80% of the population had had COVID, but infections are now much lower, mobility is improving, and China's economy seems to be taking off. We estimate China's growth will reach 5.7% in 2023, primarily driven by a rebound in private consumption. 


This is the first time in four years that COVID, regulatory and economic policy are all pushing in the same direction. Since the Chinese Party Congress in October 2022, the administration has swung to a pro-business stance, and we expect fiscal and monetary support to continue. Furthermore, China's big tech regulation has entered an institutionalized and stable stage, and we don't expect new, aggressive measures any longer. 


Although China's growth is expected to be strong in 2023, it is off a low base and it will take time for private sentiment to come back. So we expect fiscal easing to continue at least through the first half of 2023. As for monetary policy, the People's Bank of China may continue to provide targeted support towards economic recovery while private demand gets on a surer footing. As growth becomes more self-sustaining in the second half of 2023, cyclical policy could start to normalize, but not turn to outright tightening. 


Against this macro backdrop, we believe that services such as tourism, transportation and food services will drive the recovery. During the pandemic, mobility restrictions and social distancing policies caused a much more serious drag on services compared to good producers- and China is no exception to this pattern. 


But the services versus goods distinction is also key for assessing the global implications of China's reopening. Investors often ask to what extent China's reopening will translate into higher economic growth elsewhere. Historically, the China economic acceleration typically acts as a demand shock to the global economy. China's higher aggregate demand means higher exports to China from the rest of the world and greater economic activity globally. And more global growth coming from a demand push usually contributes to higher commodity prices, a weaker dollar and potential higher risk appetite leading to lower interest rates in emerging markets. This, of course, is good news, especially for EM. But the devil is in the details, and China's recovery being primarily driven by services is a key factor. One perhaps underappreciated by the market. 


It's important to keep in mind that services are less tradable and therefore less relevant to international trade. If China's acceleration were to be goods driven, Asia and LatAm commodity exporters would be clear beneficiaries, particularly economies like Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. But the situation is different when services lead the way, and the relative advantage of manufacture-intensive Asian economies is less obvious in this case. Ultimately, our work suggests a more services driven rebound in China would be less relevant for the global economy. 


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.

Apr 10, 2023
Ellen Zentner: The Lagging Effects of Loan Growth
00:03:12

While banking conditions seem to have stabilized for now, tighter credit conditions could still hit U.S. economic growth.


----- 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 how recent developments in the banking sector could impact the U.S. economy. It's Thursday, April 6, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Events over the past several weeks have led to disruptions in the financial system that we believe will leave a mark on the real economy. Our banking analysts here at Morgan Stanley Research see permanently higher funding costs for banks going forward, and that will likely lead to tighter credit conditions beyond what was already embedded in our previous baseline for the economy. 


At its March meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee explicitly added a reference to tightening credit conditions and the effects on growth and inflation. But in the press conference, Chair Powell also highlighted wide uncertainty around the magnitude of tightening. The lack of visibility into the extent and persistence of current bank funding pressures, as well as the banking systems response, are contributing to this uncertainty. 


Our banking analysts believe that higher operating costs should drive tougher standards for new loans and higher loan spreads. These drivers set the stage for an even sharper deceleration in credit growth over the course of this year. Put simply, when it's more difficult or expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow money, it creates challenges for economic growth. 


While our baseline forecast for the U.S. economy already included a meaningful slowdown in loan growth over the coming months, further tightening in lending standards and greater pullback in bank lending will weigh further on GDP. That said, our modeling shows the effects are likely to take some time to build, with a meaningful slowing starting in the third quarter of this year and the largest impact occurring across the fourth quarter of 2023, and the first quarter of 2024. We think the impact of tighter credit on consumption and business investment is roughly equal, though we expect that the effects on business investment will likely peak in the fourth quarter of this year, one quarter ahead of consumption. 


On the back of this analysis, we've lowered our forecast for U.S. GDP growth this year and now look for 0.3% growth on a Q4 over Q4 basis. That's 1/10 lower than where we had it prior to the emergence of these new bank funding pressures. For next year we took our GDP forecast down by 2/10 to just 1%. Again, because it takes time for the cumulative impacts to build, we see the largest impacts as we're moving into 2024. 


So to sum up, the risk to the U.S. economic growth outlook and the labor market are large and two sided. A quicker resolution of financial system troubles could help keep the economy on solid footing, in line with recent monthly payroll data, which has been resilient. On the other hand, more volatile financial conditions from here could see a larger and more rapid deterioration in growth and the labor market. For now, banking conditions seem to have stabilized, which has given investors a bit of relief. 


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.

Apr 06, 2023
Michael Zezas: What the ‘X-Date’ Means for Investors
00:02:43

With the deadline to raise the debt ceiling looming closer, will recent banking challenges reduce Congress's willingness to take risks with the economy?


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Welcome to the Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the debt ceiling and financial markets. It's Wednesday, April 5th at 9 a.m. in New York. 


Markets have focused in recent weeks on key long term debates, such as sizing up the long term effects of Fed policy and bank liquidity challenges. But investors should be aware that there may be at least a temporary interruption for focus on the debt ceiling in the coming weeks. That's because tax receipts will soon start rolling in, which should give the government and markets a clearer assessment of the timing of the x-date, that's the date after which the Treasury no longer has cash on hand to pay all its bills as they come due. Said differently, it's the date that investors would focus on as a potential deadline for raising the debt ceiling in order to avoid a government bond default, or a messy workaround to such a default that could rattle markets. 


Some clients have suggested to us that there should be less concern about Congress raising the debt ceiling in a timely manner ahead of that x-date, the reason being that recent banking challenges and resulting economic fears may have reduced Congress's willingness to take risks with the economy. We disagree, and still expect Congress will at least take this negotiation down to the wire, perhaps even going past the x-date, which, to be clear, wouldn't necessarily cause a default, but it would up the risk meaningfully. So what's the basis for our argument? 


First, remember, Republicans have a very slim majority in the House, meaning only a handful of objectors to any legislation could potentially create gridlock. There was already public reticence by Republicans about raising the debt ceiling unless paired with spending cuts, something Democrats have not been interested in. That position appears unchanged, despite recent bank issues, with some Republicans linking government spending to banking sector challenges, drawing a line from spending to the increase in interest rates that drove mark-to-market losses in bank portfolios. And second, some lawmakers have publicly speculated that the Fed and Treasury's reassurances that the U.S will not default suggest that they would step in in any emergency. This dynamic of a perceived safety net could incentivize Congress to debate the debt ceiling for an uncomfortably long amount of time for markets. 


Where would such stress first show up? We’d watch the T-bills market, where recent history suggests that the shortest maturity Treasuries would come under above normal selling pressures as investors try to steer clear of maturities closest to the x-date. We'll of course be tracking this, and the broader debt ceiling dynamic carefully and keep you updated. 


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.

Apr 05, 2023
Seth Carpenter: China’s Impact on Global Growth
00:03:41

As the economic growth spread between Asia and the rest of the world widens, China’s reopening is unlikely to spur growth that spills over globally.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's Global Chief Economist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about the outlook for global economic growth. It's Tuesday, April 4th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


How is the outlook evolving after one quarter of 2023? The key trends in our year ahead outlook remain, but they're changing. The spread between Asian growth and the rest of the world is actually a bit wider now. And within developed market economies, downgrades to the U.S. forecast largely on the back of banking sector developments and upgrades to the euro area, largely on the back of stronger incoming data, now have Europe growing faster than the U.S. in 2023. In China, the data continue to reinforce our bullish call for about 5.7% GDP growth this year, and if anything, there are risks to the upside, despite the official growth target from Beijing coming in at about 5%. 


Had it not been for the banking sector dominating the market narrative, I suspect that China reopening would still be the most important story. But China's recovery has always had a critical caveat to it. We've always said that the rebound would be much more domestically focused than in the past and more weighted towards services than industry in the past. We don't think you can apply historical betas, that is the spillover from Chinese growth to the rest of the world, the way you could in the past. 


I want to highlight a recent piece that quantifies how China's global spillovers are different this time. Two main points deserve attention. First, the industrial economy never contracted as much as the services economy in China did, and that means that the rebound will be much bigger in services than it could be in the industrial economy. And second, we do try to estimate those betas, as they're called for the spillover from China to the global economy, excluding China. And what we conclude is that the effect is smaller the more important the services economy in China is for growth. Put differently, the three percentage point acceleration from last year to this year will not carry the same punch for the rest of the world that a three percentage point acceleration would have done years ago. 


The modest upgrade we've made to the euro area growth is not as a result supported by the China reopening, but instead is coming from stronger incoming data that we think reflect lower energy prices and more sustained fiscal impetus. The modestly stronger outlook, though, doesn't change the fact that the distribution of likely outcomes over the next year, it's skewed to the downside. Seven months from now Europe will be starting the beginning of another winter and with it the risk of exhausting gas inventories, and with core inflation in the euro area not yet at its peak, stronger real growth is simply a reason for more hiking from the ECB. 


In contrast, we have nudged down our already soft forecast for the U.S. for 2023. Funding costs for banks are higher, the willingness to lend is almost surely lower than before, but that restriction in loan supply is coming at a time where we are already expecting material slowing in the U.S. economy and therefore falling demand for credit. So the net effect is negative, but banks willingness to lend matters a lot less if there are fewer borrowers around. 


So where does this all leave us? The EM versus DM theme we have been highlighting continues and if anything it's a bit stronger. The China reopening story remains solid and the U.S. is softening. Within DM the stronger growth within Europe compared to the U.S. is notable both for its own sake, but also because it will mean that the ECB hiking will look closer to the Fed's hiking than we had thought just three months ago. 


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. 

Apr 04, 2023
Mike Wilson: Not All Bank Reserves Are Created Equal
00:03:42

Recent increases in the Fed’s balance sheet may not have the same impact on money supply, growth and equities as in previous cycles.


----- 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, April 3rd at 11:30 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Over the past month, market participants have been focused on how the government will deal with the stress in the banking system and whether the economy can withstand this latest shock. After a rough couple of weeks, especially for regional banks, the major indices appear to be shrugging off these risks. Many are interpreting the sharp increase in bank reserves as another form of quantitative easing and are exhibiting the Pavlovian response that such programs are always good for equity prices. As we discussed in prior podcasts, we do not think that's the right interpretation of this latest increase in the Fed's balance sheet. 


In our view, all bank reserves are not created equal. True money supply as a function of reserves and the velocity of money which is difficult to measure in real time. As a comparison, inflation did not appear after the first wave of quantitative easing used during the great financial crisis because the velocity of money simultaneously collapsed. This was despite the fact that the percentage increase in the Fed's balance sheet dwarfed what we experienced during COVID. The primary difference was that the increase in reserves during the great financial crisis was simply filling holes left on bank balance sheets from the housing crisis. Therefore, the increase in reserves did not lead to a material increase in true money supply in the real economy. In contrast, during COVID, the increase in reserves are pushed directly into the economy via stimulus checks, PPP loans and other programs to keep the economy from shutting down. However, these fiscal programs were overdone and the result was money supply moved sharply higher because the velocity of money remained stable and even increased slightly. 


During this latest increase in Fed balance sheet reserves, the total liabilities in the US banking system have continued to fall. This suggests to us that the velocity of money is falling quite rapidly, more than offsetting the increase in bank reserves. In fact, these bank liabilities are falling at a rate of 7% year-over-year, the biggest decline in more than 60 years. Even during the Great Financial Crisis, money supply growth never went into negative territory. The kind of contraction we are witnessing today suggests this is not anything like the QE programs experienced during COVID or the 2009 to 2013 period. Secondarily, it also means that both economic and earnings growth are likely to remain under pressure until money supply growth reverses. 


This leads me to the second part of this podcast. Year to date, major U.S. stock indices have performed well, led by technology heavy NASDAQ. This is partially due to the snap back from such poor performance last year, led by the NASDAQ. But it's also the view that unlevered, high quality growth stocks are immune from the potential oncoming credit crunch. It's important to note that the rally to date in U.S. stocks has been very narrow, with just eight stocks accounting for 80% of the entire returns in the NASDAQ 100. Meanwhile, only ten stocks have accounted for 95% of the entire returns in the S&P 500, with all ten of those stocks being technology-related businesses. Such an erroneous performance is known as bad breadth, and it typically doesn't bode well for future prices. 


The counterargument is that technology already went through its own recession last year and it's taken its medicine now with respect to cost reductions and layoffs. Therefore, these stocks can continue to recover and carry the overall market, given their size. We would caution on such conclusions, given the increased risk of a credit crunch that suggests the risk of a broader economic recession is far from extinguished. Recessions are bad for technology companies, which are generally pro cyclical businesses. Instead, we continue to prefer more defensive sectors like consumer staples and health care.


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.



Apr 03, 2023
Andrew Sheets: Be Careful What You Wish For
00:03:20

Given recent signs of slowing in a previously strong economy, investors may want to look to history before wishing for weaker growth.


----- Transcript -----

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Chief Cross-Assets 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, March 31st at 2 p.m. in London. 


Here at Morgan Stanley Research, we are cautious on global equities relative to high grade bonds. So what would change our mind? We think the bull case for markets is better than expected growth, even if that means higher interest rates. On the other hand, investors should be careful about wishing for weaker growth, even if that would mean easier policy. 


Central to our thinking is the observation that a sharp slowing of a previously strong economy has repeatedly been poor for stocks relative to high grade bonds. And we think signs of such an environment of a hot economy that's slowing abound. Inverted yield curves, falling earnings expectations, high inflation, tight labor markets, weak commodity prices and tightening bank lending standards are all consistent with a strong economy that's slowing and are all present to an unusual degree. Historically, the-more of these factors one has seen, the worst the forward looking environment for stocks versus bonds. 


In short, much of our caution is driven by concerns around the growth outlook and its deceleration. So if growth is better than we expect, we think that's a positive surprise. 


But wouldn't better growth mean higher interest rates, which were bad for markets last year? Shouldn't investors be wishing for weaker growth that would bring back lower rates and policy easing? 


First, we would view 2022 as something of an outlier, the first time in 150 years that both U.S. stocks and long-term bonds fell by more than 10%. Today, the starting point for valuations in both equities and fixed income is better, leaving more room to absorb the impact of higher rates. 


Second, the way that stocks and bonds are moving relative to each other is shifting and different from last year. Throughout 2022, stocks generally fell if yields rose, implying higher rates were a concern. But over the last 60 days, stocks have generally fallen with lower yields. That pattern is more consistent with growth being the dominant concern of equity markets. 


But wouldn't weaker growth help if it meant central banks start to cut interest rates? Here, we think the historical evidence is less supportive than appreciated. In 1989, 2001, 2007, and 2022, the Federal Reserve eased policy as growth weakened. All saw stocks underperform bonds, consistent with our current recommendations. 


In addition, the amount of easing already expected by markets matters. U.S. markets are already expecting the Fed to cut rates by about 1.7% over the next two years. Such large easing doesn't match times when relatively smaller levels of rate cuts did boost markets like in ‘95, ‘97, ‘99 or 2019. 


In short, we think the bull case through markets lies through growth that's better than our economists expect. Hoping for weaker growth and lower interest rates that might go along with it has a more volatile track record. Be careful what you wish for. 


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. 

Mar 31, 2023
Vishy Tirupattur: A Challenging Road for Commercial Real Estate
00:03:18

As regional banks contend with sector volatility, commercial real estate could face challenges in securing new loans and refinancing debt when it matures.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I am Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Chief Fixed Income Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about some of the challenges facing the commercial real estate markets. It's Thursday, March 30th at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Commercial real estate market, or CRE in short, is a hot topic, especially in the context of recent developments in the banking sector. As we have discussed on this podcast, even though banks were already tightening lending standards, given recent events their ability and willingness to make loans is diminished. 


Besides making loans, banks enable credit formation as buyers of senior tranches of securitizations. A regulatory response to recent events will likely decrease the ability of regional banks to be buyers of such tranches, if risk rates and liquidity capital ratio requirements are revised to reflect duration in addition to credit risk. 


It's against this backdrop that we think about the exposure of regional banks to CRE. Understanding the nature of CRE financing and getting some numbers is useful to put this issue in context. 


First, commercial real estate mortgage financing is different from, say, residential real estate mortgage financing in that they are generally non-amortizing mortgages with terms usually 5 or 10 years. That means at term there is a balloon payment due which needs to be refinanced into another 5 or 10 year term loan. 


Second, there is a heightened degree of imminence to the refinancing issue for CRE. $450 billion of CRE debt matures this year and needs to be refinanced. It doesn't really get easier in the next few years, with CRE debt maturing and needing to be refinanced of about $550 billion per year until 2027. In all, between 2023 and 2027, $2.5 trillion of CRE debt is set to mature, about 40% of which was originated by the banking sector. 


Third, retail banks' exposure to CRE lending is substantial and their share of lending volumes has been growing in recent years. 70% of the core CRE debt in the banking sector was originated by regional banks. These loans are distributed across major CRE sub-sectors and majority of these loans are under $10 million loans. That the share of the digital banks in CRE debt has ramped up meaningfully in the last few years is actually very notable. That means the growth in their CRE lending has come during a period of peaking valuations. 


Even in sub-sectors such as multifamily, where lending has predominantly come from other sources, such as the GSEs, banks play a critical role in that they are the buyers of senior tranches of agency commercial mortgage backed securities. As I said earlier, if banks' ability to buy such securities decreases because of new regulations, this indirectly impacts the prospects for refinancing maturing debt in the sector as well. 


So what is the bottom line? Imminent refinancing needs of commercial real estate are a risk and the current banking sector turmoil adds to this challenge. We believe CRE needs to reprice and alternatives to refinance debt are very much needed. 


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. 

Mar 30, 2023
Lauren Schenk: Analyzing the Online Dating Market
00:03:02

Many investors are questioning if the online dating market has become saturated and, in turn, if there is still a growth runway for the industry.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Lauren Schenk, Equity Analyst covering Small and Mid-Cap Internet stocks. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss the next leg of growth for the online dating industry. It's Wednesday, March 29th at noon in New York. 


Investors are understandably focused on turmoil in banking, but today we'll be taking a break from banks to cover a hot topic in any macro environment, online dating. 


Almost every investor call I get includes the question, "Is online dating just becoming saturated, mature or over-monetized?" Several data points have driven this market view. First, revenue growth at the top dating apps slowed in 2022 and provided more modest fiscal year 2023 guides and expected. Second, survey data suggests U.S. online dating adoption slowed over COVID. Third, app data implies U.S. monthly active users have been flat for five plus years, suggesting that monetization has driven all the growth and may slow from here. 


This data prompted us to dig deeper into the multiple growth drivers of online dating revenue growth to see if investor concerns are well founded. And we found that online dating is not just about users and user growth. Today, roughly 32% of the U.S. addressable single population uses online dating and 26% of that 32% pay for online dating either through a subscription or a la carte purchase. 


In fact, our analysis suggests there's still plenty of growth runway. There are effectively four key drivers of online dating growth between users and monetization, potential users, or total addressable market, online dating usage, payer penetration and revenue per payer. Most dating apps employ a "Freemium" model, meaning the service and platform are free to use, but the experience and success rate can be improved via a monthly subscription of bundled features or one-off a la carte purchases. 


To be sure, user growth has provided a solid boost to revenue growth over the last many years as mobile swipe apps expanded usage among young users. However, we see slowing U.S. single population growth and a slowing of user penetration from here. We estimate that user growth will likely contribute only 3% of industry revenue growth from 2022 to 2030, while the bulk of online dating revenue growth will increasingly come from monetization. 


With that said, compared to user growth, monetization growth is far more dependent on execution, which could make the industry growth inherently more volatile going forward, supporting our thesis that the leading apps' steep recent slowdown is not a function of oversaturation so much as mis-execution. 


Given all this, we believe the U.S. online dating industry will see durable, above consensus revenue growth medium to long term. We think the 2022 slowdown was due to mis-execution and monetization, with almost no payer growth and macro challenges, rather than saturation, as three of the four primary industry growth drivers, online dating usage, payer penetration and revenue per payer, are still on a growth path. 


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. 

Mar 29, 2023
Introducing: What Should I Do With My Money?
00:02:50

If you're a listener to Thoughts on the Market you may be interested in our new podcast: What Should I Do With My Money? 

----------------

Managing our money can be ... a lot. It's one of the most important aspects of our lives, and yet, many of us just muddle through, without any help, hoping that we haven’t made a mistake. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. At Morgan Stanley, we help people manage their money at all stages of their lives, whether a young person just starting out or an executive planning their retirement. And while each person's situation is unique, many of their concerns are common. 

On this podcast, we match real people, asking real questions about their money, with experienced Financial Advisors. You’ll hear answers to important questions like: Is now the right time to buy a house? What to do if your business fails? How should I be saving to cover the cost of college? How much do I really need to retire and am I on track? 

Having an experienced Financial Advisor on your side can go a long way. Someone who you can trust, who gets you, who has tackled these same issues before and who has the expertise to develop a plan that fits your goals. 

Join us as our guests share their stories around life's major moments. And hear the difference a conversation can make. Hosted by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s Jamie Roô. 

For more information visit morganstanley.com/mymoney.  

Mar 29, 2023
Graham Secker: A Moment of Calm for European Equities
00:03:08

Amid uncertainty in the global banking sector, are European equities a safe haven for investors to weather the storm?


----- 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 implications on European equities from the increased uncertainty surrounding the global banking sector. It's Tuesday, March 28th at 3 p.m. in London. 


After the turbulence of mid-March, a degree of calm has descended over markets recently, which has lifted European equities back to within 3% of their prior high and pushed equity volatility down to more normal levels. In effect, we think investors are now in 'wait and see' mode as they try to assess the forthcoming consequences and investment implications of recent events within the global banking sector. 


Our recent discussions with investors suggests a potential lack of willingness to get too bearish at this time, with some still hopeful the markets can navigate a path of modestly weaker growth, with lower inflation and less hawkish central banks. For us, we view this outcome as a possibility rather than a probability and reflective of the fact that investors have been positively surprised by the general resilience of economies and equity markets to date. 


However, this viewpoint ignores the fact that something has changed in the overall macro environment. First, yield curves are starting to steepen from very inverted levels, a backdrop that has traditionally been negative for risk markets as it reflects lower interest rate expectations due to rising recession risk. And second, we now have clear evidence, we think, that tighter monetary policy is beginning to bite. 


Over the coming weeks, we may see anecdotal stories emerge of problems around credit availability, followed thereafter by weaker economic data and ultimately lower earnings estimates. We also suspect that more financial problems or accidents will emerge over the coming months as a result of the combination of higher interest rates and lower credit availability. These issues may not necessarily manifest themselves in the mainstream European banking sector this time, however asset markets will still be vulnerable if risks emerge from other areas such as U.S. banks, commercial real estate or other financial entities. 


As a result of this increased uncertainty, we have taken a more cautious view on European equities in the near-term and forecast the region's prior outperformance of U.S. stocks to pause for a while. Within the European market, we see a trickier outlook for banks, given crowded positioning and less upside risk to earnings estimates than previously thought. However, the area of greatest caution for us is cyclicals, with the group most exposed to rising recession risk and weaker equity markets, and we are particularly cautious on those sectors most sensitive to credit dynamics such as autos. 


On the more positive side, we continue to like longer duration sectors such as luxury goods and technology, and believe they will continue to act as safe havens while market uncertainty remains high. In addition, we think the telecom sector offers an attractive mix of low valuation, healthy earnings resilience and the potential for more corporate activity and increased policy support from regulators going forward.  


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.

Mar 28, 2023
Mike Wilson: Is Banking Stress the Last Straw for the Bear Market?
00:03:58

After the events of the past few weeks, earnings estimates look increasingly unrealistic and the bear market may finally be ready to appropriately factor-in elevated earning risks.


----- 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, March 27th at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Back in October, when we turned tactically bullish, we wrote that markets often need the engraved invitation from a higher power to tell them what's really going on. For bond markets, that higher power is the Fed, and for stocks it's company earnings guidance. 


Our assumption at the time was that we were unlikely to get the negative messaging on earnings from companies necessary for the final bear market low. Instead, our view is that it would likely take another quarter for business conditions to deteriorate enough for companies to finally change their minds on the recovery that is still baked into consensus forecasts. 


Fast forward to today and we are seeing yet another quarter where estimates are being lowered to the same degree we have witnessed over the past two. In other words, it doesn't appear that the earnings picture is bottoming as many investors were starting to think last month. In fact, these downward revisions are progressing right in line with our earnings model, that suggests bottoms up estimates remain 15 to 20% too high. 


More specifically, consensus estimates still assume a strong recovery in profitability. This flies directly in the face of our negative operating leverage thesis that is playing out. Our contention that inflation increases operating leverage and operating leverage cuts both ways, is a concept that is still under appreciated. We think that helps to explain why we are so far below the consensus now on earnings. More importantly, it doesn't necessarily require an economic recession to play out, although that risk is more elevated too. 


This leads us to the main point of this week's podcast. With the events of the past few weeks, we think it's becoming more obvious that earnings estimates are unrealistic. As we have said, most bear markets end with some kind of an event that is just too significant to ignore any longer. We think recent banking stress and the effects they are likely to have on credit availability is a risk that the market must consider and price more appropriately. 


Three weeks ago, the bond market did a striking reversal that caught many market participants flat footed. In short, the bond market appeared to have decided that the recent bank failures were the beginning of the end for this cycle. More specifically, the yield curve bull steepened by 60 basis points in a matter of days. Importantly, it was the first time we can remember the bond market trading this far away from the Fed's dot-plot. It was dismissing the higher powers guidance. We think this is important because now in our view it's likely to be the stock market's turn to think for itself, too. 


To date, the bear market has been driven almost entirely by higher interest rates and the impact that it has had on valuations. More specifically, when the bear market started, the price earnings multiple was 21.5x versus today's 17.5x. Importantly, this multiple troughed at 15.5x in mid-October, the lows of this bear market to date. Well, that's a relatively attractive multiple and one of the reasons we turned tactically bullish at the time, we think it never reflected the growth concerns that should now dominate the market and investor sentiment. Our evidence for that claim is based on the fact that the equity risk premium is actually lower by 110 basis points than it was at the start of this bear market. In other words, the portion of the price earnings multiple related to growth expectations is far from flashing concern. Based on our analysis, the equity risk premium is approximately 150 to 200 basis points too low, which translates into stock prices that are 15 to 20% lower at the index level. The good news is that the average stock is getting cheaper as small cap stocks have underperformed, along with banks and other areas most affected by recent events. Areas that appear most vulnerable to the further correction we expect include technology, consumer goods and services and industrials. Remain patient until the market has appropriately discounted the earnings risk that we think has moved center stage. 


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. 

Mar 27, 2023
Global Economy: Central Bank Policy in a Time of Volatility
00:09:03

As markets contend with the recent volatility in the banking sector, global central banks face the challenge of continuing to combat inflation against this updated backdrop. 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. 


Seth Carpenter: And I'm Seth Carpenter, Global Chief Economist. 


Andrew Sheets: And today on the podcast we'll be talking about Global Central Bank policy and what's next amidst significant market volatility. It's Friday, March 24th at 4 p.m. in London. 


Seth Carpenter: And it's noon here in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So Seth I know that both of us have been running around over the last week speaking with clients, but it's really great to catch up with you because we're coming to the end of the first quarter and yet I feel like a year's worth of things have happened in global central banks and the economic narrative. Maybe just take a step back and help us understand how you're thinking about the global economy right now. 


Seth Carpenter: You're absolutely right, Andrew. There is so much going on this year, so it's worth taking a step back. Coming into this year, we were looking for the economy to slow down. And I think it's just critical to remember why, central banks everywhere that are fighting inflation are raising interest rates intentionally to tighten financial conditions in order to slow their economies down and thereby bring down inflationary pressures. The trick, of course, is not slowing things down so much that they actively cause a recession. So the Fed having hiked interest rates already, we came into the year expecting a few more hikes, but then the data got stronger and Chair Powell opened the door to maybe going back to 50 basis point hikes. And now we've got this development in the banking sector. But it's not as if so far the central banks have seen evidence that things have gone so far that they're going to cause a recession. So all of this sounds a little bit simple maybe, but the key thing here is how can they calibrate whether or not they've done enough in terms of tightening financial conditions or if they've gone too far. 


Andrew Sheets: That's a really important point, because if you look at what the market is now pricing from the Federal Reserve, it's expecting significant rate cuts through the end of the year. And it's pricing in a scenario where the Fed has effectively gone far enough or maybe they've even gone too far and has to reverse their policy pretty quickly. How do you think about the path forward from here and how likely is it that central banks will ease as much as markets are currently pricing? 


Seth Carpenter: I mean, I do think there is a path for central banks to ease, but that is not and let me just start off with that is not our baseline scenario for this year. You led off with inflation and I think that's an appropriate place to start because what we heard clearly from central bankers in all of the developed markets was they are still hyper focused on inflation being too high and the need to bring it down. So one way of thinking about what's going on is that there's just a continuation of the normal tightening of monetary policy, so bank funding costs have gone up. If you read the the publications that our colleague Betsy Graseck, who runs Bank Equity Research in North America, she's pointed out that there's been a clear increase in bank funding costs that compresses net interest margins and that should, as a result, have an effect on what's going on with credit extension. In that version of the world, the Fed is in this fine tuning version of the world where they have to feel their way to the right degree of tightness and maybe they overdo it a little bit and then eventually pull back. I think the other version of the world that's very hard to get your mind around it is absolutely not our best case scenario right now, is that there's just a wholesale pulling back in terms of the availability and willingness of banks to make credit, either because of what's going on with their own funding or because of risk in the economy. And if there's an immediate cessation of lending, well, then I think you're talking about small and medium sized businesses that rely on bank loans not being able to say cover payrolls, or not being able to cover working capital. I think that version of the world is very, very different and that would lead to a much sharper slowdown in the economy and I think, again, would elicit some reaction from the Fed.

 

Andrew Sheets: So Seth, I'm really glad you brought the banking sector and its uncertain impact on the economy, because it goes to this broader question of lags and how that impacts some of the big debates that investors are having in the market. You have central banks that are looking at inflation and labor market data, that's arguably some of the more lagging economic data we have, by which I mean it historically tends to show weakness later than other economic indicators. So how do you think about those lags in inflation, in monetary policy and in bank credit when you're thinking about both Morgan Stanley's forecasts, but also how central banks navigate the picture here? 


Seth Carpenter: Very key part of what's going on is to try to understand that lag structure. I would say the best estimates are changes in monetary policy that tighten financial conditions, probably affect the real economy with a lag of two, three, maybe four quarters. And then from the real side of the economy to inflation, there's probably another lag of two or three or maybe four quarters. So we're talking about at least a year from policy to inflation and maybe as much as two years. One thing to keep in mind though, about those lags is we can look at the Fed and what they tell us about their own projections for how the economy would evolve under what they consider appropriate policy. And the answer is the median member of the Federal Open Market Committee sees core inflation at about 2.1%, so almost, but not quite back to target at the end of 2025. So if you think about when they started hiking rates until the end of 2025, they're thinking it's an appropriate time horizon for it to take well over three years. I think that's the kind of time horizon we should be thinking about in general, when everything goes, shall we say, roughly according to plan. Now, the banking system developments throw a big monkey wrench into everything. And to be clear, confounding all of this, even before we had any of the volatility in the banking sector, we were already seeing slowing, that always happens when interest rates rise. Deposits were coming down in the United States, even before any of the recent developments, the rate of growth of loans was coming down. We had on a three month basis, C&I loan growth slowed to about zero. So we were already seeing the slowing happening in the banking sector. I think the real question is, are we going to see just incrementally more or is there something more discontinuous? Our baseline view relies on this being sort of an incremental additional tightness in conditions, but we have to keep monitoring to make sure we know what happens. 


Andrew Sheets: Seth maybe my last question would be, given everything that's been going on, what do you think is something that is most misunderstood by the market or least understood by the market? 


Seth Carpenter: I definitely hear in conversations with clients and others this idea that there might be a dichotomy. Are central banks going to give up their concern about inflation and instead turn their focus to financial stability? And I always try to push back on that and say that that's a bit of a bit of a false dichotomy. Why do I say that? Because, remember, fundamentally, central banks are trying to tighten financial conditions in order to slow the economy, in order to bring inflation down. And so if what we're seeing now is just further tightening of financial conditions, that will help them slow the economy down, there's no trade off to be made. And in fact, Chair Powell, at the last press conference said what's going on in banking system is something like the equivalent of one or two interest rate hikes. So in that sense, there's clearly no dichotomy to be had. So I would say that's for me, the biggest misunderstanding in the way the debate is going on is whether central banks have to focus either on financial stability or on inflation. But if I can, let me turn the tables and ask a question of you. We came into this year with our outlook called the year of Yield, but now the world is very different. You've talked about how much volatility there is. So when you're talking to clients, how are they supposed to navigate these very turbulent waters with lots of cross-currents going in different directions? 


Andrew Sheets: One thing that I hope listeners understand is that when we set our views from the strategy side at Morgan Stanley, we work very closely with you and the Global Economics Team. And I think one of the core themes this year is that even though we've seen a lot of volatility in the narrative and in the data, the core message is that 2023 is a year where growth is decelerating meaningfully in the U.S and Europe and the 2023 is a year where growth is decelerating meaningfully in the U.S and Europe, and that's the case if you have a recession, which is not our base case, or if you avoid a recession, which is. And I think we've seen developments in the banking sector since we've and I think the developments that we've seen in the banking sector only reinforce this view, only reinforce the idea that growth is going to slow, given how hot it was coming in, given the effect of higher rates and now given the additional impact of a more conservative bank of a more conservative banking sector. I think you make a great point that there's a lot we don't know about how banks will react or how consumers will react to tighter credit conditions. Regardless, I still think at the core we should be investing for a decelerating growth environment. And I think that's an environment that argues for more conservatism in portfolios, owning less equities than normal and owning more bonds than normal. And that's very much premised on the idea that growth will decelerate from here and strategies will and that investing will follow a pattern similar to other periods of significant deceleration. Well, Seth, it was great talking with you. 


Seth Carpenter: It's great speaking with you Andrew. 


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.

Mar 25, 2023
Special Encore: U.S. Pharmaceuticals - The Future of Genetic Medicine
00:08:00

Original Release on February 6th, 2023: As new gene therapies are researched, developed and begin clinical trials, what hurdles must genetic medicine overcome before these therapies are commonly available? Head of U.S. Pharmaceuticals Terence Flynn and Head of U.S. Biotech Matthew Harrison discuss. 


----- Transcript -----


Terence Flynn: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Terence Flynn, Head of U.S. Pharma for Morgan Stanley Research. 


Matthew Harrison: And I'm Matthew Harrison, Head of U.S. Biotech. 


Terence Flynn: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll be discussing the bold promise of genetic medicine. It's Monday, February 6th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Terence Flynn: 2023 marks 20 years since the completion of the Human Genome Project. The unprecedented global scientific collaboration that generated the first sequence of the human genome. The pace of research in molecular biology and human genetics has not relented since 2003, and today we're at the start of a real revolution in the practice of medicine. Matthew what exactly is genetic medicine and what's the difference between gene therapy and gene editing? 


Matthew Harrison: As I think about this, I think it's important to talk about context. And so as we've thought about medical developments and drug development over the last many decades, you started with pills. And then we moved into drugs from living cells. These are more complicated drugs. And now we're moving on to editing actual pieces of our genome to deliver potentially long lasting cures. And so this opens up a huge range of new treatments and new opportunities. 


And so in general, as we think about it, they're basically two approaches to genetic medicine. The first is called gene therapy, and the second is called gene editing. The major difference here is that in gene therapy you just deliver a snippet of a gene or pre-programmed message to the body that then allows the body to make the protein that's missing, With gene editing, instead what you do is you go in and you directly edit the genes in the person's body, potentially giving a long lasting cure to that person. 


So obviously two different approaches, but both could be very effective. And so, Terence, as you think about what's happening in research and development right now, you know, how long do you think it's going to be before some of these new therapies make it to market? 


Terence Flynn: As we think about some of the other technologies you mentioned, Matthew, those took, you know, decades in some cases to really refine them and broaden their applicability to a number of diseases. So we think the same is likely to play out here with genetic medicine, where you're likely to see an iterative approach over time as companies work to optimize different features of these technologies. So as we think about where it's focused right now, it's being primarily on the rare genetic disease side. So diseases such as hemophilia, spinal muscular atrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which affect a very small percentage of the population, but the risk benefit is very favorable for these new medicines. 


Now, there are currently five gene therapies approved in the U.S. and several more on the horizon in later stage development. No gene editing therapies have been approved yet, but there is one for sickle cell disease that could actually be approved next year, which would be a pretty big milestone. And the majority of the other gene editing therapies are actually in earlier stages of development. So it's likely going to be several years before those reach the market. As, again as we've seen happen time and time again in biopharma as these new therapies and new platforms are rolled out they have very broad potential. And obviously there's a lot of excitement here around these genetic medicines and thinking about where these could be applied. 


But I think before we go there, Matthew, obviously there are still some hurdles that needs to be addressed before we see a broader rollout here. So maybe you could touch on that for us. 


Matthew Harrison: You're right, there are some issues that we're still working through as we think about applying these technologies. The first one is really delivery. You obviously can't just inject some genes into the body and they'll know what to do. So you have to package them somehow. And there are a variety of techniques that are in development, whether using particles of fat to shield them or using inert viruses to send them into the body. But right now, we can't deliver to every tissue in every organ, and so that limits where you can send these medicines and how they can be effective. So there's still a lot of work to be done on delivery. 


And the second is when you go in and you edit a gene, even if you're very precise about where you want to edit, you might cause some what we call off target effects on the edges of where you've edited. And so there's concern about could those off target effects lead to safety issues. And then the third thing which we've touched on previously is durability. There's potentially a difference between gene therapy and gene editing, where gene editing may lead to a very long lasting cure, where different kinds of gene therapies may have longer term potential, but some may need to be redosed. 


Terence, as we turn back to thinking about the progress of the pipeline here, you know, what are the key catalysts you're watching over 23 and 24? 


Terence Flynn: You know, as everyone probably knows, biopharma is a highly regulated industry. We have the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration here in the U.S., and we have the EMA in Europe. Those are the bodies that, you know, evaluate risk benefit of every therapy that's entering clinical trials and ultimately will reach the market. So this year we're expecting much of the focus for the gene editing companies to be broadly on regulatory progress. So again, this includes completion of regulatory filings here in the U.S. and Europe for the sickle cell disease drug that I mentioned before. And then something that's known as an IND filing. So essentially what companies are required to do is file that before they conduct clinical trials in humans in the U.S. There are companies that are pursuing this for hereditary angioedema and TTR amyloidosis. Those, if successful, would allow clinical trials to be conducted here in the U.S. and include U.S. patients. 


The other big thing we're watching is additional clinical data related to durability of efficacy. So, I think we've seen already with some of the gene therapies for hemophilia that we have durable efficacy out to five years, which is very exciting and promising. But the question is, will that last even longer? And how to think about gene therapy relative to gene editing on the durability side. And then lastly, I'd say safety. Obviously that's important for any therapy, but given some of the hurdles still that you mentioned, Matthew, that's obviously an important focus here as we look out over the longer term and something that the companies and the regulators are going to be following pretty closely. 


So again, as we think about the development of the field, one of the other key questions is access to patients. And so pricing reimbursement plays a key role here for any new therapy. There are some differences here, obviously, because we're talking about cures versus traditional chronic therapies. So maybe Matthew you could elaborate on that topic. 


Matthew Harrison: So as you think about these genetic medicines, the ones that we've seen approved have pretty broad price ranges, anywhere from a million to a few million dollars per patient, but you're talking about a potential cure here. And as I think about many of the chronic therapies, especially the more sophisticated ones that patients take, they can cost anywhere between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So you can see over a decade or more of use how they can actually eclipse what seems like a very high upfront price of these genetic medicines. 


Now, one of the issues obviously, is that the way the payers are set up is different in different parts of the world. So in Europe, for example, there are single payer systems for the patient never switches between health insurance carriers. And so therefore you can capture that value very easily. In the U.S., obviously it's a much more complicated system, many people move between payers as they switch jobs, as you change from, you know, commercial payers when you're younger to a government payer as you move into Medicare. And so there needs to be a mechanism worked out on how to spread that value out. And so I think that's one of the things that will need to evolve. 


But, you know, it's a very exciting time here in genetic medicine. There's significant opportunity and I think we're on the cusp of really seeing a robust expansion of this field and leading to many potential therapies in the years to come. 


Terence Flynn: That's great, Matthew. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk today. 


Matthew Harrison: Great speaking with you, Terrence. 


Terence Flynn: 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.

Mar 23, 2023
Global Thematics: Emerging Markets Face Rising Debt Levels
00:06:36

As investors focus on the risks of debt, can Emerging Markets combat pressure from wide fiscal deficits? Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research Michael Zezas, Global Head of EM Sovereign Credit Strategy Simon Waever and Global Economics Analyst Diego Anzoategui discuss.


----- Transcript -----


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


Simon Waever: I'm Simon Waever, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of EM Sovereign Credit Strategy. 


Diego Anzoategui: And I'm Diego Anzoategui from the Global Economics Team. 


Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss how emerging markets are facing the pressures from rising debt levels and tougher external financing conditions. It's Wednesday, March 22nd at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Michael Zezas: The bank backdrop that's been unfolding over the last couple of weeks has led investors in the U.S. and globally to focus on the risks of debt right now. Emerging markets, which have seen sovereign debt levels rise in part due to the COVID pandemic, is one place where debt concerns are intensifying. But our economists and strategists here at Morgan Stanley Research believe this concern is overdone and that there might be opportunities in EM. Diego, can you maybe start by giving us a sense of where debt levels are in emerging markets, post-COVID, especially amidst rising interest rates globally? 


Diego Anzoategui: The overall EM debt to GDP ratio increased 11% from 2019, reaching levels above the 60% mark in 2022. Just a level, leveled by some economists, that's a warning sign because of its potential effects on the growth outlook. But without entering the debate on where this threshold is relevant or not, there is no doubt that the increase is meaningful and widespread because nearly every team has higher debt levels now. And broadly speaking, there are two factors explaining the rise in EM debt. The first one is a COVID, which was a hit on fiscal expenditure and revenues, overall. Many economies implemented expansionary fiscal policies and lockdowns caused depressed economic activity and lower fiscal revenues. The second one is the war in Ukraine, that caused a rise in oil and food commodity prices, hitting fiscals in economies with government subsidies to energy or food. 


Michael Zezas: And, Simon, while most emerging markets continue to have fiscal deficits wider than their pre-COVID trends, you argue that there's still a viable path to normalization against the backdrop of global economic conditions. What are some risks to this outlook and what catalysts and signposts are you watching closely? 


Simon Waever: Sure. I'm looking at three key points. First, the degree of fiscal adjustment. I think markets will reward those countries with a clear plan to return to pre-pandemic fiscal balances. That's, of course, easier said than done, but at least for energy exporters, it is easier. Second market focus will also be on the broader policy response. Again, I think markets will reward reforms that help boost growth, and inbound investment. It's also important as central banks respond to the inflation concerns, which for the most part they have done. And then I think having a strong sustainability plan also increasingly plays a role in achieving both more and cheaper financing. Third and lastly, we can't avoid talking about the global financial conditions. While, of course that's not something individual countries can control, it does impact the availability and cost of financing. In 2022, that was very difficult, but we do expect 2023 to be more supportive for EM sovereigns. 


Michael Zezas: And with all that said, you believe there may be some opportunities in emerging markets. Can you walk us through your thinking there? 


Simon Waever: Right. So building on all the work Diego and his team did, we think solvency is actually okay for the majority of the asset class, even if it has worsened compared to pre-COVID. Liquidity is instead the weak spot. So, for instance, some countries have lost access to the market and that's been a key driver of why sovereign defaults have picked up already. But looking ahead, three points are worth keeping in mind. One, 73% of the asset class is investment grade or double B rated, and they do have adequate liquidity. Two, for the lower rated countries valuations have already adjusted. For instance, if I look at the probability of default price for single B's, it's around double historical levels already. And then three, positioning to EM is very light. It actually has been for the last three years. So these are all reasons why we're more upbeat on EM longer term, even if near-term, it'll be driven more by a broader risk appetite. 


Michael Zezas: And Simon, what happens to emerging markets if, say, developed market interest rates move far beyond current expectations and what we in Morgan Stanley research are currently forecasting? 


Simon Waever: In short, it would be very difficult for EM and I would say especially high yield to handle another significant move higher in either U.S. yields or the U.S. dollar. As I mentioned earlier, market access for single B's needs to return at some point in 2023 as countries already drew down on alternative funding sources. And even within the IG universe, it would make debt servicing costs much higher. 


Michael Zezas: And Diego, when you look beyond 2023, what are you focused on from an economics perspective? 


Diego Anzoategui: Beyond 2023, we're going to focus on fiscal balances mainly. The expenditure side of the equation has broadly normalized after COVID. So it's currently at pre-COVID levels. But the revenue side of the economy is lagging, so its revenues are below pre-COVID trends. So we're going to be focused on the economic cycle to check where revenue picks up again to pre-COVID levels. 


Michael Zezas: And, last question Simon, which countries within emerging markets are you watching particularly closely? 


Simon Waever: So overall, the investment grade and double B rated countries are largely priced for a more benign outlook already, which we agree with. But I would highlight Brazil as an exception, as one place that's not pricing the fiscal risks ahead. For the lower rated credits, I would highlight Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya as key countries to watch. They are large index constituents, still have relatively high prices and they all have upcoming maturities. Pakistan and Tunisia are at even higher risk of being the next countries to see a missed payment, but the difference here is that they're also priced much more conservatively. 


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


Simon Waever: Great speaking with you, Mike. 


Diego Anzoategui: Great talking to 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. 

Mar 22, 2023
Vishy Tirupattur: The Coming Challenges for Bank Credit
00:03:10


Against the backdrop of volatility in the banking sector, tightening in consumer and commercial credit may have far-reaching impacts for economic growth.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Vishy Tirupattur, Chief Fixed Income Strategist here at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the impact of the current volatility in the banking sector on credit. It's Tuesday, March 21st at 11 a.m. in New York. 


On the back of the developments over the last two weeks, our banking analysts see a meaningful increase in funding costs ahead, which should lead to tighter lending standards, lower loan growth and wider loan spreads. Our economists were already expecting a meaningful slowdown in growth and job gains over the coming months, and the prospect of incremental tightening of credit conditions raises the risk that a soft landing turns into a harder one. 


According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses are those that employ fewer than 500 workers, and between 1995 and 2021, they accounted for nearly 63% of the net new job creation. Today, nearly 47% of all private sector employees work at small businesses. In the banking sector, small banks account for 38% of total loans in the U.S. and 30% of commercial and industrial loans. Businesses rely on C&I loans for short term funding of activities such as hiring, paying workers, purchasing supplies, equipment and building inventories. 


We now expect this C&I lending to slow down the most based on our prior experience. We also expect that lending to commercial real estate sector to decline given the stresses that are building over there. On the other hand, we are looking for lending to consumer to grow, but more slowly than what we thought before. 


Beyond their normal lending activity, banks enable credit formation in the economy by being buyers of senior tranches of securitized credit, providing senior leverage to securitization vehicles, which is a major source of credit formation. Well, we don't exactly know how bank regulations will change in response to the developments of last two weeks, there is the potential for bank sponsorship of securitized credit to diminish and thus indirectly affect credit formation. 


From a corporate bond investor perspective, the view has been that the banking sector fundamentals have been in a good place, and last year's underperformance versus non financials was largely a technical story. The developments of the last two weeks have undermined this thesis. Looking beyond the near-term uncertainty, we believe that the supply risks in bank credit are now skewed to the upside. The emphasis on funding diversity shifting away from deposits to wholesale funding is likely to keep regional bank issuance elevated for much longer. While the Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP) may alleviate the urgency to issue these bonds, it by no means provides a permanent solution. So looking beyond the near-term uncertainty, new assurance from banks, regional banks in particular, is likely to persist. 


Given that the sector was a consensus overweight and is also likely to see more supply when markets normalize, we see continued volatility and increased tiering within bank credit. 


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.

Mar 21, 2023
Mike Wilson: The Risk of a Credit Crunch
00:03:55

As markets look to recent bank failures, how are valuations for both stocks and bonds likely to change with this risk to growth?


----- 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, March 20th at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Over the past few weeks, the markets have fixated on the rapid failure of two major banks that, up until very recently, have been viewed as safe depository institutions. The reason for their demise is crystal clear in hindsight, and not that surprising when you see the interest rate risk these banks were taking with their deposits, and the fact that the Fed has raised rates by five percentage points in the past year. The uninsured deposit backstop put in place by the Fed and FDIC will help to alleviate further major bank runs, but it won't stop the already tight lending standards across the banking industry from getting even tighter. It also won't prevent the cost of deposits from rising, thereby pressuring net interest margins. In short, the risk of a credit crunch has increased materially. 


Bond markets have exhibited volatility around these developments as market participants realize the ramifications of tighter credit. The yield curve has steepened by 60 basis points in a matter of days, something seen only a few times in history and usually the bond market's way of saying recession risk is now more elevated. An inversion of the curve typically signals a recession within 12 months, but the real risk starts when it re-steepens from the trough. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank decided to raise rates by 50 basis points last week, despite Europe's own banking issues and sluggish economy. The German bund curve seemed to disagree with that decision and steepened by 50 basis points, signaling greater recession risk like in the U.S. 


If growth is likely to slow further from the incremental tightening in the U.S. banking system and the bond market seems to be supporting that conclusion, why on earth did U.S. stocks rally last week? We think it had to do with the growing view that the Fed and FDIC bail out of depositors is a form of quantitative easing and provides a catalyst for stocks to go higher. While the $300 billion increase in Fed balance sheet reserves last week does re liquefy the banking system, it does little in terms of creating new money that can flow into the economy or markets, at least beyond a brief period of, say, a day or a few weeks. Secondarily, the fact that the Fed is lending, not buying, also matters. If a bank borrows from the Fed, it's expanding its own balance sheet, making leverage ratios more binding. When the Fed buys a security outright, the seller of that security has more balance sheet space for renewed expansion. That is not the case in this situation, in our view. 


As of Wednesday last week, the Fed was lending depository institutions $300 billion more than it was the prior week. Half was primary credit through the discount window, which is often viewed as temporary borrowing and unlikely to translate into new credit creation for the economy. The other half was a loan to the bridge the FDIC created for the failed banks. It's unlikely that any of these reserves will transmit to the economy as bank deposits normally do. Instead, we believe the overall velocity of money in the banking system is likely to fall sharply and more than offset any increase in reserves, especially given the temporary emergency nature of these funds. 


Over the past month, the correlation between stocks and bonds has reversed and is now negative. In other words, stocks go down when rates fall now and vice versa. This is in sharp contrast to most of the past year when stocks are more worried about inflation, the Fed's reaction to it and rates going higher. Instead, the path of stocks is now about growth and our belief that earnings forecasts are 15 to 20% too high has increased. From an equity market perspective, the events of the past week mean that credit availability is decreasing for a wide swath of the economy, which may be the catalyst that finally convinces market participants that valuations are way too high. We've been waiting patiently for this acknowledgment because with it comes the real buying opportunity, which remains several months away. 


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.

Mar 20, 2023
Sustainability: Energy-Efficient Buildings in Europe
00:05:40

As Europe commits to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, one hurdle will be the energy emissions caused by buildings’ operations. What investment opportunities might come from energy renovation? European Building and Construction Equity Analyst Ceder Ekblom and European Property Analyst Sebastian Isola discuss. 


----- Transcript -----


Cedar Ekblom: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Cedar Ekblom, Equity Analyst covering European Building and Construction for Morgan Stanley research. 


Sebastian Isola: And I'm Sebastian Isola from the European Property Team. 


Cedar Ekblom: On this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss Europe's commitment to building energy efficiency. 


Cedar Ekblom: Sebastian when I talk to investors and talk about energy emissions, most people immediately think of cars and transportation. But according to the International Energy Agency, in 2021 the operation of buildings accounted for 30% of global final energy consumption and 27% of total energy sector emissions. That's a huge number. A lot of people don't realize that. So it's clear that decarbonizing building stock is essential to achieving a net zero by 2050 scenario. Sebastian, we recently wrote about this and with this big goal in mind, can you give us an overview of where Europe is right now and what the biggest opportunities are that you see? 


Sebastian Isola: I think to start, Europe's building stock is old and inefficient. More than 40% was built before 1970 when the first energy efficiency standards were introduced, and we're currently renovating just 1% of building stock a year. The European Commission thinks that this needs to at least double to meet its 2030 target for a 55% cut in emissions. If we successfully lift innovation spend, there is a big opportunity for makers of solar, heating and ventilation equipment, building automation, energy efficient lighting, and any product linked to the building envelope from insulation to roofing and windows. 


Cedar Ekblom: So it sounds like there's great opportunity here, but investors often push back with the argument that energy renovation is a 'hope' rather than a reality. What are your views on the economics of investment? 


Sebastian Isola: I think firstly, I'd say that our alphawise survey gives us a proprietary insight into what's really happening on the ground. It confirms renovation spend is on the rise, there was a 10% increase in the number of people that renovated their homes to save energy in 2022 versus 2021. Secondly, for commercial property landlords, the economics of investment is clear. Green buildings are attracting higher rents, and in some markets, office buildings with sustainability ratings are being awarded materially higher valuations, sometimes more than a 20% premium. And Cedar, what are the key renovation categories and what is the driving motivation behind them? 


Cedar Ekblom: Well, if you talk to anyone in the industry, they'll tell you that fabric first is where we need to start. So what does that actually mean? We have to look at improving the insulation of the walls, the roofs, and looking at new windows and doors. And the reason why we need to prioritize this is ultimately space heating accounts for about two thirds of total energy consumption. The good thing is that our survey told us that in the nonresidential market, these types of investments are the ones being prioritized. Installation is expected to be one of the key renovation categories for 2023. Building managers told us that they plan to boost spend on installation by 8%. After upgrading the building envelope, you need to think about tackling HVAC equipment and rolling out building automation. And finally solar continues to rank as the most attractive for residential energy renovation upgrades. In terms of the motivations, 59% of consumers and building managers say that lowering energy costs was the biggest driver for investment. I think that ultimately makes sense when we think about the landscape of the energy market in Europe over the last 12 months with the big increases in gas and electricity prices. 


Sebastian Isola: And with that in mind Cedar, what's your near-term and longer term outlook for renovation spend? 


Cedar Ekblom: Well, look, the runway for investment is huge. The European Commission estimates that an additional €275 billion of investment in building energy efficiency is required annually to 2030. And that's only an interim goal. If we really want to reach a 2050 net zero ambition, the optionality for investment means that we could be looking at more than €5.9 trillion of spend. If we deliver that total construction spend in real terms would run at 3% annually. That's a big increase from the less than 1% average growth over the last 10 years. Now, Sebastian, we've obviously spoken about the potential for fantastic investment, but there's obviously some big barriers around actually driving this uplift. How is the region trying to tackle these types of hurdles? 


Sebastian Isola: I think the biggest barriers are funding and skills and there's a 'carrot and stick' approach to funding. Government subsidies are coming through, although maybe slightly slower than we'd like. The good news is that private investment really is ramping up, and that's partly driven by better economics, but also new penalties which make letting inefficient buildings less profitable. In the UK, if we use that as an example, you need to achieve an EPC rating of B or higher by 2030 to be able to let your building. To put that in context, 75% of commercial properties in the UK currently don't meet that EPC standard. So there's going to be a huge scale of renovation required for commercial property in the UK to be brought up to that standard by 2030. And that really is going to drive investment in commercial property and in energy renovation. The second challenge is skills. It's not an easy problem to fix, especially when the construction industry is already challenged by a lack of skilled labor. The EU is taking an important step to address these hurdles by introducing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. This sets a region wide energy efficiency standard and harmonizes how buildings are ranked. It was passed into law in February of this year and we think it sets the framework for a multi-decade investment runway. 


Cedar Ekblom: Sebastian, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Sebastian Isola: Great speaking to you Cedar. 


Cedar Ekblom: 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.

Mar 17, 2023
Michael Zezas: A New Dynamic for U.S. Banking
00:02:08

Investors’ renewed concerns around the banking system should have a variety of impacts on fixed-income investment.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income 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, March 16th at 11 a.m. in New York. 


It's a volatile moment in markets, with investors grappling with complicated questions around the failure of Silicon Valley Bank. That event has naturally led to concerns about broader challenges to the banking system and potential impacts to the path for monetary policy. Here's what we think fixed income investors need to know in the near-term. 


Our banking analysts and economists have concluded that the U.S. banking system is more constrained. The causes of the Silicon Valley Bank situation will likely cause banks and their regulators to think differently about capital, causing lending growth to decline more than expected this year. That, in turn, should put pressure on the labor market and therefore the general U.S. economic outlook. 


We expect this dynamic will influence the U.S. bond market in the following ways in the near-term. For treasuries, we believe yields will be biased lower, because while the data still shows inflation pressures have persisted, that may take a backseat to financial stability concerns in the minds of investors. For corporate credit, there may be some near-term underperformance, given the market features a heavy weighting towards bonds issued by U.S. banks. In MUNI's, our team doesn't expect them to outperform in the near-term as the kind of interest rate volatility caused by recent events historically has been a headwind to the asset class. But a bright spot might be agency mortgage bonds, where our colleagues see room for compression in yields relative to treasuries. Those levels, which are near COVID crisis levels, perhaps overcompensate for fears that banks may have to sell their portfolios of similar bonds. 


So that's what's going on in the near-term, but my colleagues and I will be back here frequently to give you some longer term perspective. 


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.

Mar 16, 2023
Cryptocurrency: The Issue of Regulation
00:08:49

As cryptocurrency has seen some of its major players topple, policy makers have set their sights on regulation. So what are some of the possible scenarios for crypto policy? U.S. Public Policy Researcher Ariana Salvatore and Head of Cryptocurrency Research Sheena Shah discuss.


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 -----


Ariana Salvatore: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ariana Salvatore from Morgan Stanley's U.S. Public Policy Research Team. 


Sheena Shah: And I'm Sheena Shah, Head of the Cryptocurrency Research Team. 


Ariana Salvatore: And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll focus on the issue of cryptocurrency regulation. It's Wednesday, March 15 at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Sheena Shah: And 2 p.m. in London. 


Ariana Salvatore: The recent news about the U.S. banking system has brought even more focus on the cryptocurrency markets. Our listeners may have heard about a series of insolvencies and collapses of major crypto players last year, with the most notable being the FTX exchange. These events have raised concerns among policymakers and are signaling a need to regulate cryptocurrencies as a means of protecting investors. Sheena, before we dig into any potential regulatory path for crypto from here, I think it's important to try to get a grip on a question that might seem basic, but in fact is one that policymakers have actually been grappling with for quite some time. And that is, what is a cryptocurrency from a regulatory perspective. Is it a security or is it a commodity? How should it be classified from a regulatory perspective? 


Sheena Shah: So cryptos could be classified as many things: securities, commodities, currencies, or even something else. But the U.S. regulators are making their view very clear. The SEC is saying every crypto apart from Bitcoin is a security. The definition will determine what products can be offered, which companies can offer them, which regulator will be in charge and maybe even how transactions are taxed. There is agreement that Bitcoin should be classified as a commodity, partly due to its decentralized nature, and no regulator is classifying Bitcoin as a currency as this would admit that it's a direct competitor with the U.S. dollar. 


Ariana Salvatore: Got it. So taking a step back for a second, cryptocurrencies up until this point have been largely unregulated and volatility is obviously nothing new in the space. What has been happening in crypto markets lately that's just now suggesting a need for regulation? 


Sheena Shah: Well, last year crypto prices were in a bear market and the collapse of the FTX exchange just increased the politician interest in this area. Trading data tell us that the average U.S. retail investor purchased crypto when Bitcoin was trading above $40,000, around double the current price. So regulators want to make sure that retail investors understand the risks and to limit the volatility spillover from crypto to the traditional financial system. Now that we know why there's a need for regulation, what do you think the core principles would be behind a potential regulatory framework? 


Ariana Salvatore: So when we think about the way that Congress approaches the crypto space, there are really two key principles. The first is restrictiveness, or how much lawmakers want to rein in the space. And this we kind of see as a spectrum, so ranging from status quo or continuation of regulation by enforcement, to a scenario that we're calling comprehensive crypto crackdown. And that would be probably the most severe outcome from our perspective. The second principle is pretty binary. So whether or not Congress is able to delegate authority or control over the crypto space to one agency or another. One thing I'll just mention back on that Restrictiveness idea, it's not necessarily a question of just how much Congress wants to reign in the space, it's arguably even more so a function of what's possible in the legislative sense. Remember, the Republican Party controls the House of Representatives, so there are some structural constraints here that might make any regulatory efforts a little bit lighter touch than what you could expect in a unified government scenario or single party control. 


Sheena Shah: So there are lots of opinions on crypto regulation. What do you think is a viable eventual scenario for some regulatory framework? 


Ariana Salvatore: When we think about what's possible, like you said, there's a range of outcomes, but our base case is what we're calling scoping in Stablecoins. So in this scenario, Congress does in fact deliver a clear delegation of authority to either the FDIC or the CFTC, effectively answering that question of mapping out control. And it also puts into place some baseline consumer focused protections. So, for example, requiring Stablecoin issuers to be FDIC insured and imposing federal risk management standards, primarily things like reserve requirements. Now, why do we think they're going to target Stablecoins first? Besides the fact that that's pretty much all lawmakers can agree on for right now, we think there are two pressing reasons. First, most stablecoins are U.S. dollar based, and the services that some crypto companies have been offering are quite similar to what banks offer, which provides pretty direct competition with the U.S. banking system. And secondly, a large portion of crypto trading is also done via stablecoins, which means that regulating this area first could have a significant impact on the broader market without having to necessarily stretch those regulations further. So Sheena, turning it back to you, how do we think other governments around the world are looking at crypto regulation? Are they focused as the U.S. is, or are we kind of leading the way in this area? 


Sheena Shah: Most countries are looking at crypto regulation right now, and many are applying the similar rules, such as requiring exchanges to register with the regulators. I would say that the European Union is further ahead than the U.S. in terms of a crypto specific framework, with their MiCA regulation due to be put into law soon. In the U.S., they've gone down a route of enforcing current financial rules on crypto products. At first glance, the actions are thought to be pushing crypto innovations to other parts of the world. We think it's a bit too early to tell whether that will occur in the long run. 


Ariana Salvatore: Now, one specific area I'd like to touch on also, because it's become a global debate, is Central Banks Digital Currencies or CBDCs. Given the role of the U.S. dollar in the global economy, do you think the U.S. needs a CBDC? And if it does, what form do you think it could take? 


Sheena Shah: The U.S. only started investigating a CBDC because everyone else was doing it too. Most notably China and the Eurozone. The U.S. doesn't actually necessarily need a CBDC for domestic payments as instantaneous bank settlements are going to be possible through FedNow being introduced later this year. We don't know what form a CBDC could take as that's still being researched, but some forms could have dramatic implications for the banking sector should banks not be required to create the currency. This year we're paying more attention to the developments of the digital euro as that may be available within 2 to 3 years. Now, Ariana, if we bear in mind everything we've discussed so far, realistically how much do you expect to be accomplished in terms of crypto regulation by the next election? 


Ariana Salvatore: So in the note, we rank our scenarios in terms of likelihood. And as I mentioned before, scoping and stablecoins is our base case. So we do think that something gets done in this area ahead of the 2024 election, although obviously it's a very complex space and there's quite a ramp time associated with lawmakers learning about crypto and all the different nuances and working out those details. I think this question also brings up a really interesting point, though, in particular on timing and how that could relate to potential market impact. So back to your Civics 101 class, when Congress passes a law it technically goes into effect immediately, but the rules themselves can take some time to come to fruition. If the legislation directs federal agencies to come up with regulatory parameters within a certain time frame, that time frame can vary. It can be years, but sometimes it can be months following the legislation. So that is to say that although right now we're seeing significant legislative discussion underway, it's possible that markets have some time to digest the impact as these rules are introduced and developed and fine tuned to then eventually come into effect. We think that delay could create a ramp period for companies to make adjustments to become compliant with some of the new rules which we think could, overall in the longer term, soften the blow of regulation and mitigate the shock to markets. So, Sheena, last question for you. Given all of this, what key events or catalysts should investors be paying particular attention to in the coming months? 


Sheena Shah: Broad investor focus is clearly on the traditional banking sector. For crypto, we watch to see if there are any further announcements related to these recent coordinated actions from regulators aiming to define crypto products and any that could reduce the on-ramps between the fiat world and the crypto world. 


Ariana Salvatore: Got it, that makes sense. So this is a continuously evolving space with a lot of potential new developments along the way, and we'll be sure to keep an eye on it as it evolves. Sheena, thanks so much for taking the time to talk. 


Sheena Shah: Great speaking with you, Ariana. 


Ariana Salvatore: 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. 

Mar 15, 2023
Martijn Rats: Differing Prospects for Oil & Gas
00:04:24

While oil and gas prices generally move in similar directions, their current situation has deviated from market norms.


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Martijn Rats, Morgan Stanley's Global Commodities Strategist. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll give you an update on the global oil and gas markets. It's Tuesday, March 14th at 2 p.m. in London. 


Energy markets are currently confronted with an unusual situation: usually oil and gas prices move in similar directions, but at the moment they have quite different prospects. 


Let's start with the global gas market, that is the gas market outside the United States, which has its own dynamic. Over the last 12 months, the center of activity in global gas has been Europe. This time last year, Europe still received close to 400 million cubic meters a day of natural gas from Russia. Over last summer, this fell by around 90% to just a trickle, causing a severe spike in European gas prices. At the time, we argued that gas prices needed to rise to drive demand destruction and attract LNG, that is liquefied natural gas that can be transported on tankers, to Europe. Prices indeed rose. By August, European gas prices reached over €300 per megawatt hour, that is more than 20x their normal level. 


Since then, the European gas market has seen the most dramatic turn around. For starters, demand destruction has been far greater than expected. Warm weather has helped, but that has certainly not been the main driver. At the same time, LNG imports into Europe have risen to levels that seemed unlikely this time last year. Remarkably, European gas prices have been declining for some time already, but energy imports just keep coming. The European gas market now faces the surprising situation that if demand stays as weak as it currently is, and LNG imports continue at the level of the last few months, inventories could fill over the summer to such an extent that Europe could run out of physical storage capacity sometime around August. In the space of a few months, the European gas market has gone from worrying about what commodity analysts call 'tank bottoms', to now concern over 'tank tops'. 


To prevent overstocking this summer, European gas prices probably need to fall further to send a signal to LNG suppliers that they need to send at least some of their energy cargoes elsewhere. However, that then creates a better supply situation elsewhere in the LNG market, putting downward pressure on prices there too. 


In contrast, the oil market presents a very different picture. Oil prices also gave up a large part of their gains late last year as the market worried about recession. However, even at the point when 70% of bank economists consensually forecast a recession, Brent crude oil did not fall much below $80 a barrel. At the moment, the oil market is modestly oversupplied, which is not uncommon for this time of the year. However, from here, the oil market has several tailwinds. First is another year of recovery in aviation, which is likely to drive growth and jet fuel consumption. Second is China's reopening. While there may be some concern in other markets over the impact of China's reopening, in the oil market the indications so far have simply been positive. And finally, there is supply risk for Russia. Although oil exports from Russia have continued, a lot of this oil is piling up at sea. That cannot continue at the current pace for very long and we would still estimate that Russian oil exports will eventually come under some pressure as the year progresses. 


Put these factors together and the oil market will likely come into balance in 2Q and reenter a deficit once again in the third and fourth quarter. Inventories are already low and likely to decline further in the second half. Spare capacity in OPEC is still very limited and investment levels have been modest in recent years. As the oil market tightens, prices are likely to find their way higher again. In inflation adjusted terms the average oil price over the last 15 years is $93 a barrel. This is not a market where oil prices should be below the historic average. In fact, we'd argue the opposite. 


As mentioned, oil and gas prices usually move in similar directions, but so far this year they have already diverged quite substantially. Given the current outlook, we think these trends have further to run- global gas faces headwinds, but oil is likely to find its way higher again 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.

Mar 14, 2023
Mike Wilson: What Bank Wind-Downs Mean for Equities
00:03:52

Banking news and other market pressures are leading some depositors to move funds from traditional banks to higher-yielding securities. How will this affect economic growth and equity prices?


----- 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, March 13th at 11 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


The speed and size of the Silicon Valley bank wind down over the last week was startling to many investors, even those who have been negative on the stock for months on the basis of exactly what transpired- a classic mismatch between assets and liabilities and risk taking beyond what a typical depositor does. To be clear about our view, we do not think there's a systemic issue plaguing the entire banking system, like in 2007 to 2009, particularly with the FDIC decision to backstop uninsured deposits. However, last week's events are likely to have a negative impact on economic growth at a time when growth is already waning in many parts of the economy. 


Rather than do a forensic autopsy of what happened at Silicon Valley and other banks, I will instead focus my comments and what it may mean for equity prices more broadly. First, I would remind listeners that Fed policy works with long and variable lags. Second, the pace of Fed tightening over the past year is unprecedented when one considers the Fed has also been engaged in aggressive quantitative tightening. Third, the focus on market based measures of financial conditions, like stock and bond prices, may have lulled both investors and the Fed itself into thinking policy tightening had not yet gone far enough. Meanwhile, more traditional measures like the yield curve have been flashing warnings for the past 6 months, closing last week near its lowest point of the cycle. 


From a bank's perspective, such an inversion usually means it's more difficult to make new profitable loans, and new credit is how money supply expands. However, over the past year, bank funding costs have not kept pace with the higher Fed funds rate, allowing banks to create credit at profitable net interest margins. In short, most banks have been paying well below market rates, like T-bills, because depositors have been slow to realize they can get much better rates elsewhere. But that's changed recently, with depositors deciding to pull their money from traditional banks and placing it in higher yielding securities like money markets, T-bills and the like. Ultimately, banks will likely decide to raise the interest rate they pay depositors, but that means lower profits and lower loan supply. Even before this recent exodus of deposits, loan officers have been tightening their lending standards. In our view, such tightening is likely to become even more prevalent, and that poses another headwind for money supply and consequently economic and earnings growth. In other words, it's now harder to hold the view that growth will continue to hold up in the face of the fastest Fed tightening cycle in modern times. Secondarily, the margin deterioration across most industries we've been discussing for months was already getting worse. Any top line shortfall relative to expectations from tighter money supply will only exacerbate this negative operating leverage dynamic. 


The bottom line is that Fed policy works with long and variable lags. Many of the key variables used by the Fed and investors to judge whether Fed policy changes are having their desired effect are backward looking- things like employment and inflation metrics. Forward looking survey data, like consumer and corporate confidence, are often better at telling us what to expect rather than what's currently happening. On that score the picture is pessimistic about where growth is likely headed, especially for earnings. Rather than a random or idiosyncratic shock, we view last week's events as just one more supporting factor for our negative earnings growth outlook. In short, Fed policy is starting to bite and it's unlikely to reverse, even if the Fed were to pause its rate hikes or quantitative tightening. Instead, we think the die is likely cast for further earnings disappointments relative to consensus and company expectations, which means lower equity prices before this bear market is over. 


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.

Mar 13, 2023
U.S. Tech: The Future of Artificial Intelligence
00:11:35

As the advancement of generative AI takes off, how might this inflection point in technology impact markets, companies, and investors alike? Equity Analyst and Head of U.S. Internet Research Brian Nowak and Head of the U.S. Software Research Team Keith Weiss discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Brian Nowak: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Brian Nowak, Equity Analyst and Head of U.S. Internet Research for Morgan Stanley. 


Keith Weiss: And I'm Keith Weiss, Head of the U.S. Software Research Team. 


Brian Nowak: Today, we're at Morgan Stanley's annual Tech, Media, and Telecom conference in downtown San Francisco. We've been here most of the week talking with industry leaders and emerging companies across the spectrum, and the topic on everyone's mind is clearly A.I. So today, we're going to share some of what we're hearing and our views on the rise of artificial intelligence tools. It's Thursday, March 9th at 2 p.m. here on the West Coast. 


Brian Nowak: All week, Keith and I have been meeting with companies and speaking with new companies that are developing technologies in artificial intelligence. We've written research about how we think that artificial intelligence is reaching somewhat of an iPhone inflection moment with new people using new tools, and businesses starting to realize artificial intelligence is here to stay and can drive real change. Keith, talk to us about how we reached this moment of inflection and how do you think about some of the big picture changes across technology? 


Keith Weiss: Well, thank you for having me, Brian. So we've been talking about artificial intelligence for some time now. Software companies have been infusing their solutions with machine learning driven type algorithms that optimize outcomes for quite some time. But I do think the iPhone analogy is apt, for two reasons. One, what we're talking about today with generative AI is more foundational technologies. You can almost think about that as the operating system on the mobile phone like the iOS operating system. And what we've heard all week long is companies are really seeing opportunity to create new apps on top of that operating system, new use cases for this generative AI. The other reason why this is such an apt analogy is, like the iPhone, this is really capturing the imagination of not just technology executives, not just investors like you and I, but everyday people. This is something that our kids are coming home from high school and saying, "Hey, dad, look at what I'm able to do or with chatGPT, isn't this incredible?" So you have that marketing moment of everybody realizes that this new capability, this new powerful technology is really available to everybody. 


Keith Weiss: So, Brian, what do you think are going to be the impacts of this technology on the consumer internet companies that you cover? 


Brian Nowak: We expect significant change. There is approximately $6 trillion of U.S. consumer expenditure that we think is going to be addressed by change. We see changes across search. We see more personalized search, more complete search. We see increasing uses of chatbots that can drive more accurate, personalized and complete answers in a faster manner across all types of categories. Think about improved e-commerce search helping you find products you would like to buy faster. Think about travel itinerary AI chatbots that create entire travel itineraries for your family. We see the capability for social media to change, better rank ordering and algorithms that determine what paid and organic content to show people at each moment. We see new creator tools, generative AI is going to enable people to make not only static images but more video based images across the entire economy. So people will be able to express themselves in more ways across social media, which will drive more engagement and ultimately more monetization for those social media platforms. We see e-commerce companies being able to better match inventory to people. Long tail inventory that previously perhaps could not find the right person or the right potential buyer will now better be able to be matched to buyers and to wallets. We see the shared economy across rideshare and food delivery also benefiting from this. Again, you're going to have more information to better match drivers to potential riders, restaurants to potential eaters. And down the line we go where we ultimately see artificial intelligence leading to an acceleration in digitization of consumers time, digitization of consumers wallets and all of that was going to bring more dollars online to the consumer internet companies. 


Brian Nowak: Now that's the consumer side, how do you think about artificial intelligence impacting enterprise in the B2B side? 


Keith Weiss: Yeah, I think there's a lot of commonalities into what you went through. On one level you talked about search, and what these generative AI technologies are able to do is put the questions that we're asking in context, and that enables a much better search functionality. And it's not just searching the Internet. Think about the searches that you do of your email inbox, and they're not very effective today and it's going to become a lot more effective. But that search can now extend across all the information within your organization that can be pretty powerful. When you talk about the generative capabilities in terms of writing content, we write content all day long, whether it's in emails, whether it's in text messages, and that can be automated and made more efficient and more effective. But also, the Excel formulas that we write in our Excel sheets, the reports that you and I write every day could be really augmented by this generative AI capability. And then there's a whole nother kind of class of capabilities that come in doing jobs better. So if we think about how this changes the landscape for software developers, one of the initial use cases we've seen of generative AI is making software developers much more productive by the models handling a lot of the rote software development, doing the easy stuff. So that software developer could focus his time on the hard problems to be solved in overall software development. So if you think about it holistically, what we've seen in technology trends really over the last two decades, we've seen the cost of computing coming way down, stuff like Public Cloud and the Hyperscalers have taken that compute cost down and that curve continues to come down. The cost of data is coming down, it's more accessible, there's more out of it because we've digitized so much of the economy. And then thirdly, now you're going to see the cost of software development come down as the software developers become more productive and the AI is doing more of that development. So those are all of your input cost in terms of what you do to automate business processes. And at the same time, the capabilities of the software is expanding. Fundamentally, that's what this AI is doing, is expanding the classes and types of work that can be automated with software. So if your input costs are coming way down and your capabilities are coming up, I think the amount of software that's being developed and where it's applied is really going to inflate a lot. It's going to accelerate and you're going to see an explosion of software development. I'm as bullish about the software industry right now as I've been over the past 20 years. 


Keith Weiss: So one of the things that investors ask me a lot about is the cost side of the equation. These new capabilities are a lot more compute intensive, and is this going to impact the gross margins and the operating margins of the companies that need to deploy this. So, how do you think about that part of the equation, Brian? 


Brian Nowak: There's likely to be some near-term impact, but we think the impacts are near-term in nature. It is true that the compute intensity and the capital intensity of a lot of these new models is higher than some of the current models that we're using across tech. The compute intensity of the large language models is higher than it is for search, it is higher than it is for a lot of the existing e-commerce or social media platforms that are used. So as we do think that the companies are going to need to invest more in capital expenditure, more in GPUs, which are some of the chips that enable a lot of these new large language models and capabilities to come. But these are more near-term cost headwinds because over the long term, as the companies work with the models, tune the models and train the models, we would expect these leading tech companies to put their efficiency teams in place and actually find ways to optimize the models to get the costs down over time. And when you layer that in with the new revenue opportunities, whether we're talking about incremental search revenue dollars, incremental e-commerce transactions, incremental B2B, SAS like revenue streams from some companies that will be paying more for these services that you spoke about, we think the ROI is going to be positive. So while there is going to likely be some near-term cost pressure across the space, we think it's near-term and to your point, this is a very exciting time within tech because these new capabilities are going to just expand the runway for top line growth for a lot of the companies across the space. 


Brian Nowak: And this is all very exciting on the consumer side and the business side, but Keith talk to us about sort of some of the uncertainties and sort of some of the factors that need to be ironed out as we continue to push more AI tools across the economy. 


Keith Weiss: Yeah, there's definitely uncertainties and definitely a risk out there when it comes to these technologies. So if we think about some of the broader risks that we see, these models are trained on the internet. So you have to think about all the data that's out there. Some of that data is good, some of that data is bad, some of that data could introduce biases into the search engines. And then the people using these search engines that are imbued with the AI, depending on how hard they're pushing on the search engines on the prompts, and that's the questions that they're asking the search engines, you could elicit some really strange behavior. And some of that behavior has elicited fears and scared some people, frankly, by what these search engines are bringing back to them. But there's also business model risk. From a software perspective, this is going to be the new user interface of how individual users access software functionality. If you're a software company that's not integrating this soon enough, you're going to be at a real disadvantage. So there's business has to be taken into account. And then there's broader economic risk. We're talking about all the capabilities that this generative AI can now do that these models can now take over. So for the software developer, does this mean there's job risk for software developers? For creative professionals who used to come up with the content on their own, does this mean less jobs for creative professionals? Or you and I? Are these models going to start writing our research reports on a go forward basis? So those are all kind of potential risks that we're thinking about on a go forward basis. 


Keith Weiss: So, Brian, maybe to wrap up, how do you think about the milestones and sort of the key indicators that you're keeping an eye on for who are going to be the winners and losers as this AI technology pervades everything more fully? 


Brian Nowak: It's a great question. I would break it into a couple different answers. First, because of the high compute intensity and costs of a lot of these models, we only see a handful of large tech companies likely being able to build these large language models and train them and fully deploy them. So the first thing I would say is look for new large language model applications from big tech being integrated into search, being integrated into e-commerce platforms, being integrated into social media platforms, being integrated into online video platforms. Watch for new large language tools to roll across all of big tech. Secondly, pay attention to your app stores because we expect developers to build a lot of new applications for both businesses and consumers using these large language models. And that is what we think is ultimately going to lead to a lot of these consumer behavior changes and spur a lot of the productivity that you talked about on the business side. 


Keith Weiss: Outstanding. 


Brian Nowak: Keith, thanks for taking the time. 


Keith Weiss: Great speaking with you, Brian. 


Brian Nowak: 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. 

Mar 10, 2023
Andrew Sheets: A Test for U.S. Growth
00:03:01

While the U.S. has surprised investors with its economic resilience, new labor market and retail sales data could challenge this continued strength.


----- 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, March 9th at 2 p.m. in London. 


One of the biggest surprises this year has been the resilience of the U.S. economy. This story faces a key test over the next week, with a large bearing on how investors may think about where we are in the cycle. 


Investors entered this year downbeat on U.S. growth, with widespread expectations of a recession. A payback in high levels of consumption over the pandemic, and the lagged impact of higher interest rates, were both big drivers of this view. And indeed many traditionally leading indicators of economic activity did, and still do, point to elevated economic risk. 


Yet the story so far has been different. The U.S. economy is still seeing robust consumption and jobs growth and more economically sensitive stocks have been major outperformers. Last month the U.S. economy added half a million jobs and saw very robust retail sales, data points that were taken by the market as a sign that the economy may not be slowing at all. 


That might be the case, but what's interesting is that this story is about to get a key update. Over the next week, we'll get the next release of data on the U.S. labor market and retail sales. And that data comes with a big uncertainty. 


The uncertainty is how much of the strength in January's data was flattered by so-called seasonal adjustments. For obvious reasons, a lot of things are sold in December and a lot of people are hired to sell them. In January, activity and jobs usually drop off, and so seasonal adjustments are important to help look through all this noise. 


To be more specific, retail sales usually drop 20% between December and January. This time around, they only dropped 16%, and since they dropped less than normal this was reported as a healthy gain. The U.S. usually loses 3 million jobs in January as seasonal workers are let go. This time the U.S. lost two and a half million jobs. 


December holidays are real and we should adjust for them. But if consumption patterns have changed since 2020, historical seasonal adjustments could be misleading. This month's data may give us a much cleaner picture of where that activity really is. 


If activity is once again strong, it could help further fuel the idea that U.S. growth this year will be better than feared. But if it's weak, investors may start to think that January's strength was something of a statistical quirk, especially in the face of other forward indicators that look much softer. Because of this, we think weak data over the next couple of days could be especially good for bonds. But either way, this data has a major bearing on the market narrative. 


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.

Mar 09, 2023
Chetan Ahya: Is Asia’s Growth Bouncing Back?
00:03:29

While there is some skepticism that Asia’s growth will outperform this year, there are a few promising indicators that investors may want to keep in mind.


----- 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 discussing how Asia's growth is bouncing back. It's Wednesday, March 8th at 9 a.m. in Hong Kong. 


The last time I came on this podcast, I spoke about why we expect Asia's growth to outperform in 2023. To briefly recap, we expect Asia's growth to be five percentage points higher than the developed markets by the end of the year. One of the key debates we have with investors is precisely about how the growth outlook is tracking relative to our bullish forecasts. 


Investors are generally skeptical on two counts. First, for China, investors believe that consumption growth will not be sustained after the initial reopening boost. Second, for region excluding China, investors saw that there was a soft patch in the consumption data for some of the economies, and so they are questioning if this will persist over time and across geographies. 


For China, we have already seen a sharp rebound in services spending in areas like dining out, domestic travel and hotels. We expect consumption growth to continue to recover towards the pre-COVID strength in a broad-based manner. Crucially, this consumption growth is being supported by the sustainable drivers of job growth and income growth rather than a drawdown in excess savings. Private sector confidence is being revived by the alignment of policies towards a pro-growth stance. This shift in stance also means that policymakers will likely be taking quick and concerted policy action to address any remaining or fresh impediments to growth. In other words, this policy stance is likely to persist at least until we get clear signs of a sustainable recovery. Moreover, the property sector, which some investors fear might be a drag on household sentiment, appears to be recovering faster than our expectations. 


For region excluding China, we focus on the next largest economies in purchasing power parity terms, which is India and Japan. 


For India, growth indicators did slow post the festive season in October, but have reaccelerated in early 2023. Cyclically strong trailing demand has only lifted capacity utilization, and structurally government policies are still very much geared towards reviving private investment. We see private CapEx cycle unfolding, which will sustain gains in employment and allow consumption growth to stay strong in the coming quarters. 


For Japan, we see three reasons why growth should improve in 2023. Monetary policy will remain accommodative, private CapEx is now on the mend and Japan will benefit from the full reopening of China this spring, in form of increased tourism and goods exports. 


Overall, we think we are still on track for our base case narrative of growth acceleration and outperformance. In fact, we see marginal upside risk to our above consensus growth forecasts, which will be driven predominantly by China and its spillover impact to the rest of the region. For China, the upside to growth forecasts stems from the possibility that pro-growth pragmatism may set in motion a much stronger recovery than currently expected. 


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.

Mar 08, 2023
Special Encore: Andrew Sheets - The Impact of High Short-Term Yields
00:03:10

Original Release on February 24th, 2023: As short-term bond yields continue to rise, what impact does this comparatively high yield have on the broader market?


----- 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 24th at 2 p.m. in London. 


One of the biggest stories brewing in the background of markets is the sharp rise in yields on safe, short-term bonds. A 6 month Treasury bill is a great example. In November of 2021, it yielded just 0.06%. Today, just 14 months later, it yields 5.1%, its highest yield since July of 2007. 


The rise in safe short-term yields is notable for its speed and severity, as the last 12 months have seen the fastest rise of these yields in over 40 years. But it also has broader investment implications. Higher yields on cash like instruments impact markets in three distinct ways, all of which reduce the incentive for investors to take market exposure. 


First and most simply, higher short term rates raise the bar for what a traditional investor needs to earn. If one can now get 5% yields holding short term government bonds over the next 12 months, how much more does the stock market, which is significantly more volatile, need to deliver in order to be relatively more appealing? 


Second, higher yields impact the carry for so-called leveraged investors. There is a significant amount of market activity that's done by investors who buy securities with borrowed money, the rate of which is often driven by short term yields. When short term yields are low, as they've been for much of the last 12 years, this borrowing to buy strategy is attractive. But with U.S. yields now elevated, this type of buyer is less incentivized to hold either U.S. stocks or bonds. 


Third, higher short term yields drive up the cost of buying assets in another market and hedging them back to your home currency. If you're an investor in, say, Japan, who wants to buy an asset in the U.S. but also wants to remove the risk of a large change in the exchange rate over the next year, the costs of removing that risk will be roughly the difference between 1 year yields in the US and 1 year yields in Japan. As 1 year yields in the U.S. have soared, the cost of this hedging has become a lot more expensive for these global investors, potentially reducing overseas demand for U.S. assets and driving this demand somewhere else. We think a market like Europe may be a relative beneficiary as hedging costs for U.S. assets rise. 


The fact that U.S. investors are being paid so well to hold cash-like exposure reduces the attractiveness of U.S. stocks and bonds. But this challenge isn't equal globally. Both inflation and the yield on short-term cash are much lower in Asia, which is one of several reasons why we think equities in Asia will outperform other global markets going forward. 


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. 

Mar 07, 2023
Mike Wilson: A Strong Rebound for Markets
00:03:46

While equity markets continue to rally, the key to the end of the bear market may be in the fundamentals.


----- 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, March 6th at 2 p.m. in New York. So let's get after it. 


Given our focus on the technicals in the short term, I'm going to provide an update on that view today, which contrasts with our intermediate term view that the bear market is not over. In short, equity markets traded right to technical support levels on Thursday last week and held. More importantly, they reacted strongly from those levels, which suggests this will not be a one day wonder, meaning the bear market rally may not be over yet. 


While my comments will focus on the S&P 500, these observations apply to most of the other major indices as well: the Nasdaq, Russell 2000 and the Dow Industrials, which remains the weakest of the bunch. First, as already mentioned, the key support levels were tested twice over the past few weeks, but on Thursday equity prices reacted strongly around the second test. As a strategist, I respect the price action and need to incorporate it into our fundamental view, which remains bearish. 


In addition to the strong rebound, the S&P 500 was able to recapture its uptrend from the rally that began in October. However, we did not observe any positive divergence on the second retest, and that leaves the door open that this rally may still be on borrowed time. We would point out that one of the reasons we called the rally in October had to do with the fact that we did get a very strong positive divergence on that secondary low in mid-October. For listeners who don't use technical analysis, a positive divergence is when markets make new price lows on less momentum. We measure momentum through price oscillators like relative strength or moving average convergence divergence. 


The other thing we're watching closely from a tactical standpoint is the longer term uptrend that began after the financial crisis in 2009. We continue to think it is critical that the S&P 500 get back above it to confirm the cyclical bear market is over. This trend line has provided critical resistance and support over the past 14 years during the secular bull market. More recently, it has been more of a resistance line and that level comes in today at around 4150 on the S&P 500. While we think the S&P 500 could make another attempt at this key resistance, it will require two things to surmount it- lower 10 year U.S. Treasury yields and a weaker dollar. In fact, we think Friday's sharp fall in 10 year yields was an important driver of the bounce in stocks. The dollar, too, showed some signs of exhaustion and it would be helpful if it can decline more meaningfully. As we suggested last week, in the absence of a weaker dollar and lower yields, this bear market rally will likely fail once again. The bottom line, there is plenty of bullish and bearish fodder in the technicals in our view, and one will need to take a view on the fundamentals to decide this bear market for stocks is over. Our view remains the same, the bear market is not over, but we acknowledge that Friday's price action may push out the next leg lower for a few more weeks. 


As we've been discussing on prior podcasts, the main reason we believe the bear market is not over is because the earnings recession has much further to go. Rather than repeating our case once again, we would like to highlight an important note published last week by Todd Castagno, our Global Valuation, Accounting and Tax team, appropriately entitled Exhausted Earnings. In this note, the team discusses their analysis of accruals and to what extent net income is diverging from cash flows. In short, the gap between reported earnings and cash flow is the widest in 25 years. This analysis supports our negative operating leverage thesis and means earnings estimates have a long way to fall over the next several quarters. Unfortunately, most stock valuations do not reflect this risk and why we think the risk reward for U.S. equities remains poor despite the positive price action last week. 


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.

Mar 06, 2023
U.S. Economy: The Next American Productivity Renaissance, Pt. 2
00:08:11

The way companies and individuals spend their money has changed in the wake of the COVID pandemic. How might market leadership shift as a result and will new market winners come into focus? 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 "Next American Productivity Renaissance". It's Friday, March 3rd at 2 p.m. in London. 


Lisa Shalett: And it's 9 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So Lisa, let's take this to markets, how do you think this impacts equity market leadership, given that we've been in a market that's really been defined by the age of secular stagnation. What do you think happens now and who will be those new leaders? 


Lisa Shalett: This is one of the most important, I think, outcomes of our thesis. And that is that pendulums swing and market leadership shifts all the time, but when it's at that moment of inflection there's huge amounts of pushback, typically. Our sense is that the wealth creation ahead of us may not be in the current leadership in consumer tech, but rather in enterprise tech and the technology providers who are the leaders in new automation technologies that are going to allow us potentially to automate parts of our economy that have heretofore resisted. So it's a lot of the services side of the economy. Think of financial services, consumer services, government services, education services, how manual some of those industries are. And yet when we think about these triads or four or five level combinations of things like artificial intelligence, and machine learning, and optical scanning, and natural language processing and voice recognition. These are things that could really transform service-oriented businesses in terms of their margins and the economics of them. And so we envision a leadership that is potentially bimodal, that includes the tech enterprise enablers. Some of the software or software-as-a-service, some of the technology consultants who will help implement these automation programs and some of the beneficiaries, the tech takers, right. Think about some of those banks, those insurance companies, those healthcare companies, educational-oriented institutions that are just so heavy in manual service support infrastructures that could be rationalized. 


Andrew Sheets: So I'd like to dive into two of those threads and in just a little bit more detail. Just in terms of, kind of, the decade we've just been in. And, you know, I think it was pretty unique that it was a decade with some of the lowest cost of capital we've ever seen in economic history, and yet, you know, it's kind of left us with an economy where it's very easy to order food and very hard to take a train to the airport. We've had a lot of investment in consumer-led technology and a lot less in infrastructure. Do you think that equation has finally changed in a bigger way? And what do you think that means for maybe winners and losers of the changes that might be happening? 


Lisa Shalett: Our perspective is that I don't know that it's a permanent change. I think pendulums swing and there are waves when technology is more consumer-oriented. The issue with consumer technology, as we know and certainly with the smartphone, has been there's 2 billion people implementing that technology in 2 billion different ways. So it's very hard to scale those productivity benefits, if there are any, across an economy. When you go through periods of enterprise or economy-wide or infrastructure deepening-based technology spends, that's when economies can transform. And so I think it's a phase in the market. But I think one that is really important, you know, when we think about the advancement of overall return on assets in the economy. 


Andrew Sheets: And so, Lisa, digging into that technology piece, is there an example that stands out to you of a type of technology consumption that you think could be more fleeting as a result of the post-COVID period? And to your point about the more tangible, long lasting shifts in technology investment, the types of things that will be a lot more permanent and could really surprise people in their permanence over the longer run? 


Lisa Shalett: I'm not a technology visionary, but I do think that so many of the consumer technologies that we see over time end up being cannibalizing and substitutive as opposed to truly revolutionary. So, think about the consumption of media. We're still consuming media, it's just on what mode. Are we consuming it through a radio broadcast, a television broadcast, now streaming services on demand and etc, but it's content nonetheless. I think that there are other technologies when we think about what's going on with things like A.I., when we think about some of the things that are going on in genomics and in health care in particular, that really are transformative and take us to places we truly have never been before. And I think that that's one of the things that's super exciting right now is that we've never seen this before in many industries, right? Whether we're talking about things like transport and things in terms of human robotics and artificial intelligence and machine learning. These are places that we really haven't been before. And so to me, this is an extraordinarily exciting time vis a vis the innovation path. 


Andrew Sheets: Lisa, you've been talking about some of these big secular drivers of this productivity shift and capital investment shifting to deglobalization, decarbonization. And so I guess the next question is there might be demand for these things, but is there the supply to address these issues? Can we actually build these plants and re-orient these supply chains? How do you think about the supply side of this? And do you think supply is going to be able to rise to the challenge of the potential demand for this capital expenditure? 


Lisa Shalett: So I think that that's the piece of this thesis that was most exciting to us because very often one of the things that constrains investment is that you don't have the supply side enablement. One of the things that we can't take for granted is how good, particularly in the United States, private sector balance sheets are today. And so whether we're talking about the degree to which the United States banking system has healed and recapitalized, or we're talking about corporations who are still reasonably cash-rich and have locked in almost historically low costs of capital, or we talk about the household sector, which has moved away and locked in to fixed rate mortgages. That's a huge enablement that says we have the capacity to fund new technology. Then one of the other things that we've been talking about that enable the supply side are demographics. We've gone through this period where there was a bit of an air pocket in terms of overall working age population growth because Gen X was just not all that big relative to the boom. And we're talking about a working age population that is rapidly going to be dominated by a humongous millennial and Gen Z wave. And these are digital natives, right? These are folks who were born with technology in their hands. And so having a workforce that is flexible and tech savvy, that helps implement. So I think those are some of the supply side factors that are different than perhaps what we saw 10-15 years ago, you know, in 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone. 


Andrew Sheets: Lisa, 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. 

Mar 03, 2023
U.S. Economy: The Next American Productivity Renaissance, Pt. 1
00:08:16

The COVID pandemic changed the way the U.S. engages with work, but how will these shifts impact structural changes to capital investment? 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 this special two-part episode, we'll be discussing what we see as the "Next American Productivity Renaissance". It's Thursday, March 2nd at 2 p.m. in London. 


Lisa Shalett: And it's 9 a.m. in New York. 


Andrew Sheets: So while everybody has been paying close attention, and rightly so, to 40 year highs of inflation that we've been having recently, there's another legacy from this pandemic that we want to dig into more deeply. We believe that the COVID crisis catalyzed an incredibly powerful regime shift, a once-in-a-generation shock to the labor markets which transformed the nature of work and is accelerating structural changes to capital investment. Lisa, you believe we're on the cusp of what you call the "Next American Productivity Renaissance", and this renaissance is underpinned by an upcoming capital spending supercycle. So, I guess the place to start is what does that mean and what's driving it? 


Lisa Shalett: I mean, I think that some of these trends were already beginning to take form before COVID struck, but COVID was really an accelerant. And so if we think about first the detachment from the labor force and the way COVID really transformed the way we think about work, and those jobs that maybe were not flexible to convert to a remote setting, or a work from home setting, and carried with them in-person high risk attributes. I think that was really one of the first dimensions of it, but then it was really about companies having to fundamentally rethink and re-engineer business models towards digitization, right? The removal of human contact. And then you overlay those two major pillars with things like decarbonization and the issues that emerged around how we make this transition to a cleaner energy mix around the world. Obviously COVID accelerated some of the issues around supply chain and deglobalization and how do we secure supply chains. And last but not least, I think it has really become clear we're talking about a world where incentives to invest either to substitute for labor, to strengthen our infrastructure, to commit to some of these climate change initiatives, to re-engineer supply chains or to deal with this new multipolar world. The incentives and the argument for capital spending has really changed. 


Andrew Sheets: So Lisa actually it's that last point on labor market tightness that I'd like to dive into a little bit more. Because I mean, it's fair to say that this would actually be a pretty normal cyclical phenomenon that as labor markets get tighter, as workers are harder to find, that companies decide that now it's worth investing more to make their existing workers more productive. Do you think that's a fair characterization of some past capital spending cycles that we've seen? And how do you think this one could fit into that pattern? 


Lisa Shalett [00:04:19] Yes, I think very often, you know, we've gone through these periods where the capital for labor substitution has been at the forefront. Now, one of the things that very often we have to wait for are what I call the supply side enablers of that. There have been eras where there's more automation-oriented technology that is available, and then there's eras where perhaps there's been less. And I think that one of the things that we're positing is that after the golden age of private equity that we're entering one of those periods of technology J-curve explosion, right, where the availability of automation-orienting technologies is there. So it enables part of the dialog around capital for labor arithmetic. 


Andrew Sheets: I also want to ask you about decarbonization as a theme, which you cited as one of these drivers of the productivity renaissance and capital deepening because I think you do encounter a view out there in the world that decarbonization and environmental regulation is negative for productivity. What do you think the market might be missing about decarbonization as a theme? And how does it drive higher productivity in the future rather than lower productivity? 


Lisa Shalett: I think fundamentally that there is no doubt that as we make this transition, there are going to be bumps and bruises along the road. And part of the issue is that as we move away from what is perhaps the lowest cost, but most dirty technologies that there may be pressures on inflation. But the flip side of that is that it creates huge incentives to drive productivity improvement in some of those cleaner technologies so that we can accelerate adoption through more compelling economics. So our sense is hydro and wind and some of these technologies are going to see material productivity improvements. 


Andrew Sheets: Well, Lisa, I think that's a great point, because also what we've certainly seen in Europe is a dramatic fall of consumption of natural gas and a dramatic increase in efficiency. As energy prices spiked in Europe in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, you did see an increased focus on energy-efficient investment, on the cost of energy. And I think it surprised a lot of people about how much more production they were able to squeeze out of the same kilowatt hour of electricity. So it's, I think, a really interesting and important point that might go against some of the conventional wisdom around decarbonization. But I think we have some real hard evidence in the last couple of quarters of how that could play out. And Lisa, the final piece that I think your thesis probably gets a little bit of debate on is deglobalization. Because, again this has been a macro and micro topic, you know, macro in the sense that you're seeing companies look to shorten supply chains after some of the major supply chain issues around COVID. They're looking to shorten supply chains, given heightened geopolitical risk. And, you know, this has often been cited as something that's going to reduce profitability of companies, is they're going to have to double up on inventory and make their supply chain somewhat less efficient. So again, how does that fit into a productivity story or how do you see the winners and losers of that potentially playing out? 


Lisa Shalett: I don't know that the deglobalization itself drives productivity per se, but what it does do is it creates a lot of incentives for us to rethink the infrastructure that underlies supply chains. So, for example, as companies maybe think about shortening supply chains, maybe it's that American companies don't want to simply be motivated by the lowest net cost of production. But perhaps to your point, the proximity and security of production. So suddenly, does that mean we will be investing in infrastructure across the NAFTA region, for example, as opposed to over oceans and through air freight? And as those infrastructures are strengthened, be those through highway infrastructure, rail infrastructure or new port infrastructure, there's productivity benefits to the aggregate economy as companies rethink those linkages and flows. 


Andrew Sheets: That's interesting. So when we're talking about deglobalization, maybe you run the risk of focusing very narrowly on some higher near-term costs, but thinking bigger picture, thinking out over the next decade, maybe you are ending up with a more robust, more resilient economy and supply chain that over the long run over cycles does deliver better, more productive output. 


Lisa Shalett: Absolutely. 


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


Lisa Shalett: It's my pleasure, Andrew. 


Andrew Sheets: Thanks for listening, and be sure to tune in for part two of this special episode. 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.

Mar 02, 2023
Michael Zezas: The Global Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act
00:02:13

After the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., other countries may be looking to invest more in their own energy transitions.


----- 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, March 1st at 10 a.m. in New York. 


When Congress passed and the president signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act last year, they may have started a race among global governments to spend new money in an attempt to cut carbon output dramatically. Consider the European Union, where our economists and strategists are flagging that they expect, later this month, there will be an announcement of a major allocation of government funds to mirror the nearly $370 billion allocated by the U.S. toward its own energy transition. 


In the U.S., we've already flagged that much of the investment opportunity lies in the domestic clean tech space. As Stephen Byrd, our Global Head of Sustainability Research, has flagged the IRA's monetary allocation and rules creating preferences for materials sourced domestically or in friendly national confines, means that the U.S. clean tech space is seeing a substantial growth in demand for its products and services. 


In the EU, the story is more nuanced as we await details on what a final version of the European Commission's Green Deal Industrial Plan is, a process that could take us into the summer or beyond. Streamlining regulations to encourage private funding and expand the network for trade partners on green tech equipment is expected to be in focus. So the near term macro impacts are murky, but at a sector level, such a policy should present opportunities in utilities, capital goods, materials and construction. In short, this policy would mean the EU is finding ways to accelerate demand for these green enabler companies. 


So, in line with the transition to decarbonization as one of our big three investment themes for 2023, investors would do well to follow the money and see where there may be opportunities. 


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.

Mar 01, 2023
Sarah Wolfe: The Fed Versus Economic Resilience
00:03:22

As the U.S. economy remains resilient in the face of continued rate hikes, investors may wonder if the Fed will re-accelerate their policy tightening or if cuts are on their way.


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Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Sarah Wolfe from the U.S. Economics Team. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about the economic response to the Fed's monetary tightening. It's Tuesday, February 28th, at 1 p.m. in New York. 


The Fed has been tightening monetary policy at the fastest rate in recent history. And yet the U.S. economy has been so remarkably resilient thus far that investors have begun to interpret this resilience as a sign that the economy has been less affected by monetary policy than initially expected. And so recession fears seem to have turned into fears of re acceleration. 


Of course, interest sensitive parts of the economy have largely reacted as expected to the Fed hiking interest rates. Housing activity responded immediately to higher interest rates, declining significantly more than in prior cycles and what our models would imply. Consumer spending on durable goods has dampened as well, which is also expected. 


And yet other factors have bolstered the economy, even in the face of higher rates. The labor market has shown more resilience since the start of the hiking cycle as companies caught up on significant staffing shortfalls. Households have spent out excess savings supporting spending, and consumers saw their spending power boosted by declining energy prices just as monetary tightening began. 


As these pillars of resilience fade over the coming months, an economic slowdown should become more apparent. Staffing levels are closing in on levels more consistent with the level of economic output, pointing to a weaker backdrop for job growth for the remainder of 2023 and 2024. Excess savings now look roughly normal for large parts of the population, and energy prices are unlikely to be a major boost for household spending in coming months. Residential investment and consumption growth should bottom in mid 2023, while business investment deteriorates throughout our forecast horizon. We expect growth will remain below potential until the end of 2024 as rates move back towards neutral. 


But even with more deceleration ahead, greater resilience so far is shifting out the policy path. We continue to expect the Fed to deliver a 25 basis point hike about its March and May meetings, bringing peak policy rates to 5 to 5.25%. However, with a less significant and delayed slowdown in the labor market, with a more moderate increase in the unemployment rate, the Fed's pace of monetary easing is likely to be slower, and the first rate cut is likely to occur later. We think the Fed will hold rates at these levels for a longer period rather than hike to a higher peak, as this carries less of a risk of over tightening. 


We now see the Fed delivering the first rate cut in March 2024 versus our previous estimate of December 2023, and cutting rates at a slower pace of 25 basis points each quarter next year. This brings the federal funds rate to 4.25% by the end of 2024. With rates well above neutral throughout the forecast horizon, growth remains below potential as well. As for the U.S. consumer, while excess savings boosted spending in 2022 despite rising interest rates, we expect consumers to return to saving more this year, which means a step down in spending. 


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.

Feb 28, 2023
Mike Wilson: Is the Worst of this Earnings Cycle Still Ahead?
00:03:08

As we enter the final month of the first quarter, recalling the history of bear market trends could help predict whether earnings will fall again.


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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, February 27th at 11am in New York. So let's get after it. 


Our equity strategy framework incorporates several key components. Overall earnings tend to determine price action the most. For example, if a company beats the current forecast on earnings and shows accelerating growth, the stock tends to go up, assuming it isn't egregiously priced. This dynamic is what drives most bull markets, earnings estimates are steadily rising with no end in sight to that trend. During bear markets, however, that is not the case. Instead, earnings forecasts are typically falling. Needless to say, falling earnings forecasts are a rarity for such a high quality diversified index like the S&P 500, and that's why bear markets are much more infrequent than bull markets. However, once they start, it's very hard to argue the bear markets over until those earnings forecasts stop falling. 


Stocks have bottomed both before, after and coincidentally with those troughs in earnings estimates. If this bear market turns out to have ended in October of last year, it will be the farthest in advance that stocks have discounted the trough in forward 12 month earnings. More importantly, this assumes earnings estimates have indeed troughed, which is unlikely in our view. In fact, our top down earnings models suggest that estimates aren't likely to trough until September, which would put the trough in stocks still in front of us. Finally, we would note that the Fed's reaction function is very different today given the inflationary backdrop. In fact, during every material earnings recession over the past 30 years, the Fed was already easing policy before we reached the trough in EPS forecasts. They are still tightening today. 


During such periods, there is usually a vigorous debate as to when the earnings estimates will trough. This uncertainty creates the very choppy price action we witness during bear markets, which can include very sharp rallies like the one we've experienced over the past year. Furthermore, earnings forecasts have started to flatten out, but we would caution that this is what typically happens during bear markets. The stock's fall in the last month of the calendar quarter as they discount upcoming results and then rally when the forward estimates actually come down. Over the past year, this pattern has been observed with stocks selling off the month leading up to the earnings season and then rallying on the relief that the worst may be behind us. We think that dynamic is at work again this quarter, with the stocks selling off in December in anticipation of bad news and then rallying on the relief it's the last cut. Given that we are about to enter the last calendar month of the first quarter later this week, we think the risk of stocks falling further is high. 


Bottom line, we don't believe the earnings forecasts are done and we think they're going to fall again in the next few months. This is a key debate in the market, and our take is that while the economic data appears to have stabilized and even turned up again in certain areas, our negative operating leverage cycle is alive and well and could overwhelm any economic scenario over the next six months. We remain defensive going into March with the worst of this earnings cycle still ahead of us. 


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.

Feb 27, 2023
Andrew Sheets: The Impact of High Short-Term Yields
00:03:03

As short-term bond yields continue to rise, what impact does this comparatively high yield have on the broader market?


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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, February 24th at 2 p.m. in London. 


One of the biggest stories brewing in the background of markets is the sharp rise in yields on safe, short-term bonds. A 6 month Treasury bill is a great example. In November of 2021, it yielded just 0.06%. Today, just 14 months later, it yields 5.1%, its highest yield since July of 2007. 


The rise in safe short-term yields is notable for its speed and severity, as the last 12 months have seen the fastest rise of these yields in over 40 years. But it also has broader investment implications. Higher yields on cash like instruments impact markets in three distinct ways, all of which reduce the incentive for investors to take market exposure. 


First and most simply, higher short term rates raise the bar for what a traditional investor needs to earn. If one can now get 5% yields holding short term government bonds over the next 12 months, how much more does the stock market, which is significantly more volatile, need to deliver in order to be relatively more appealing? 


Second, higher yields impact the carry for so-called leveraged investors. There is a significant amount of market activity that's done by investors who buy securities with borrowed money, the rate of which is often driven by short term yields. When short term yields are low, as they've been for much of the last 12 years, this borrowing to buy strategy is attractive. But with U.S. yields now elevated, this type of buyer is less incentivized to hold either U.S. stocks or bonds. 


Third, higher short term yields drive up the cost of buying assets in another market and hedging them back to your home currency. If you're an investor in, say, Japan, who wants to buy an asset in the U.S. but also wants to remove the risk of a large change in the exchange rate over the next year, the costs of removing that risk will be roughly the difference between 1 year yields in the US and 1 year yields in Japan. As 1 year yields in the U.S. have soared, the cost of this hedging has become a lot more expensive for these global investors, potentially reducing overseas demand for U.S. assets and driving this demand somewhere else. We think a market like Europe may be a relative beneficiary as hedging costs for U.S. assets rise. 


The fact that U.S. investors are being paid so well to hold cash-like exposure reduces the attractiveness of U.S. stocks and bonds. But this challenge isn't equal globally. Both inflation and the yield on short-term cash are much lower in Asia, which is one of several reasons why we think equities in Asia will outperform other global markets going forward. 


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 24, 2023
Sustainability: Carbon Offsets and the Issue of Greenwashing
00:08:08

Companies continue their attempts to mitigate their environmental impact. But are some merely buying their way out of the problem using carbon offsets? Global Head of Sustainability Research Stephen Byrd and Head of ESG Fixed-Income Research Carolyn Campbell discuss. 


----- Transcript -----


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


Carolyn Campbell: And I'm Carolyn Campbell, Head of Morgan Stanley's ESG Fixed-Income Research. 


Stephen Byrd: On this special episode of the podcast, we'll discuss the voluntary carbon offset market and the role carbon offsets play in achieving companies' decarbonization goals. It's Thursday, February 23rd at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Stephen Byrd: As extreme weather becomes the new normal, and sustainability rises in importance on investors' agendas, many companies are working towards mitigating their environmental impact. But even so, there's persistent public concern that some companies claiming to be carbon neutral may in fact be "greenwashing" by purchasing so-called carbon offsets. So, Carolyn, let's start with the basics. What exactly are carbon offsets and why should investors care? 


Carolyn Campbell: So a carbon offset represents one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent removed, reduced or avoided in the atmosphere. Companies are buying offsets to neutralize their own emissions. They essentially subtract the amount of carbon offsets purchased from their total emissions, from their operations and supply chain. These offsets are useful because it allows a company to take action against their emissions now, while implementing longer term decarbonization strategies. However, there's concern that these companies are just buying their way out of the problem and are using these offsets that do not actually do anything with respect to actually limiting global warming. So, Stephen, some of these offsets focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, while others aim to directly remove these emissions from the atmosphere. Between these so-called avoidance and removal offsets, how do you see the market evolving for each over the next 5 to 10 years, let's say? 


Stephen Byrd: Yeah, Carolyn, I think the balance is set to shift in favor of removal over the coming decade. So we developed an assessment of the potential mix shift from carbon avoidance to carbon removal projects, which shows the long term importance of removal projects as well as the near-term to medium term need for avoidance projects. We're bullish that over the long term removal projects, and think of these projects as projects that demonstrably and permanently take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, as generating enough carbon offset credits to reach company's net zero targets, again in the long term. However, over the near to medium term, call it the next 5 to 10 years, we expect the volume of removal projects to fall short. As a result, we think carbon avoidance projects, and these would be projects that avoid new atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide. These will play an important role as offset purchasers shift their mix of carbon offsets towards removal over the course of this decade. Carolyn, one of the big debates in the market around voluntary carbon offsets involves nature based projects versus technology based projects. Could you give us some examples of each and just talk through, is one type significantly better than the other? And which one do you think will likely gain the most traction? 


Carolyn Campbell: Sure. So on the one side, we've got these nature based projects which include things like reforestation, afforestation and avoided deforestation projects. In essence planting trees and protecting forests that are already there. There's also other projects related to grasslands and coastal conservation. On the other side, we've got these tech based projects which are actually quite wide ranging. This includes things like deploying new renewable technology or capping oil wells to prevent methane leakage, substituting wood burning stove for clean cookstoves, everything up to direct air capture and carbon capture, so on and so forth. So in our view, these tech based offsets will eventually dominate the market, but they face some scaling and cost hurdles over in the near term. Tech based offsets have some key advantages. They're highly measurable and they have a high probability of permanence, both disadvantages on the nature based side. Nature based sides, like I said, have measurement hurdles, but we think they represent an important interim solution until either geographic limits are reached because there's no more area left to reforest, or legislative conservation takes over. Removal technologies, like direct air capture and carbon capture, yield highly quantifiable results. And that drives a value in a market where the lack of confidence is a major obstacle to growth. So we think that's where the market's heading, but we're not really there yet. Now, one thing we haven't discussed is why even buy carbon offsets at all? Should companies be spending their limited sustainability budgets on carbon offsets, or is that money better served on research and development that might get us closer to absolute zero in the long term? 


Stephen Byrd: Yeah, we are seeing signs that companies are increasingly looking to spend more of their sustainability budgets on research and development of long term decarbonization solutions, in lieu of buying carbon offsets. Now we support that trend, given the need for new technologies to really bend the curve on carbon emissions. And we do believe that offsets should not substitute for viable permanent decarbonization projects. Now, that said, offsets are a complimentary approach that enables action to be taken today against emissions that corporates currently cannot eliminate. We also believe the magnitude of consumer interest in carbon neutral products is underappreciated. Survey work from our alpha wise colleagues, really focused on consumer preferences and carbon neutral goods and services, shows that consumers are willing to pay about a 2% premium for carbon neutrality. Now, that may not sound like much, but it's actually a very significant number when you translate that into a price on carbon. Let's take sneakers as an example. Our math would indicate that consumers would be willing to price carbon offsets at a value above $150 a ton of carbon dioxide. That prices about 15 times the weighted average price of offsets in 2022. So consumer preferences may well play an important role in the evolution of the carbon offset market throughout the course of this decade and beyond. And we do think that this dynamic could provide the support needed to move the market towards higher quality offsets, and also drive companies to develop their own innovative decarbonization solutions. Carolyn, how big do you think the carbon offsets market could get over the next 5 to 10 years and even longer term? 


Carolyn Campbell: Okay, so right now the market's around 1 to 2 billion in size, but we think there is a sizable growth opportunity between now and 2030, which is when many of the interim targets are set. And also longer term out to 2050, by which point we're trying to be net zero. So we estimate that the market could grow to around 100 billion by the end of this decade, and that will swell to around 250 billion by mid-century. And we've done this analysis based on our median expectation for progress on a few different decarbonization technologies like decarbonizing cement, decarbonizing manufacturing, and increasing the zero carbon energy penetration in the grid. When we look at that technological progress versus where we need to be in terms of our ambition to keep warming to one and a half or two degrees Celsius, that's how we arrive at the shortfall to make up that size of the market. 


Stephen Byrd: Finally, Carolyn, one of the criticisms of carbon offsets is that they aren't regulated. So could you give us a quick glimpse into the policies and regulations around carbon offsets that potentially lie ahead? 


Carolyn Campbell: Yeah, so you're right. Right now the market is largely unregulated and that creates the risk of fraud and manipulation. However, we don't expect imminent action, and it's just not a priority in the U.S. for Congress. That being said, if regulation does occur, we have an idea of what it could look like. We would expect to be led by the CFTC, which regulates the commodities markets. And we think that it would be focused on ensuring integrity in the market, creating a registration framework for the offsets and pursuing individual cases of fraud. Now, without formal regulation, there are few voluntary initiatives that have continued to set the standards in the industry. These organizations focus on the integrity of the market, they set principles to ensure that offsets are high quality, and they're even looking at labeling to mark credits as high integrity. So there's a lot of guidance out there, and it's constantly adapting to this evolving landscape. 


Stephen Byrd: Carolyn, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Carolyn Campbell: Great speaking with you today, 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.

Feb 24, 2023
U.S. Housing: Is Activity About to Pick Up?
00:06:31

With housing affordability plateauing and inventory picking up, sales could be poised to rise again in the near future.


----- 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 the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. It's Wednesday, February 22nd, at 11 a.m. in New York. 


Jay Bacow: All right. So, Jim, when we're looking at data on the housing market, it seems like it's all over the place. We've got home sale activity pointing one direction. We've got home prices doing other things. What's going on? You've had this bifurcation narrative. Is the bifurcation narrative still bifurcating? 


Jim Egan: So to remind our listeners, the bifurcation narrative for our housing forecasts is between home prices, which we thought were a lot more protected, and housing activity, so sales and housing starts where we thought you were going to see a lot more weakness. And I would say that bifurcation narrative still exists. But, as you're saying, the different data have been pointing to different things. For instance, purchase applications, they picked up sequentially in January from December. And after declining in every single month of 2022, the homebuilder confidence has increased in both January and February. 


Jay Bacow: All right. But when I think about what happened over that time period, mortgage rates fell almost 100 basis points from their highs in November, as you measure that purchase application pick up from December to January. Is that playing a role? Do you think that there are signs that maybe housing activity is going to pick back up? 


Jim Egan: So from a mortgage rate perspective, it'd be difficult for us to say it isn't. So we do think that that's playing a role, but we also think it's a little too early to say that housing activity is going to pick back up from here. For one thing, mortgage rates might have come down 100 basis points from mid-November into January, but they've also begun to move higher over the past few weeks. For another, the variables that we've been paying close attention to haven't really shown much improvement. 


Jay Bacow: Those variables, you mean affordability and supply. How are those looking now? 


Jim Egan: Exactly. Now let's think about what drove our bifurcation hypothesis in the first place. Because of the record growth in home prices that we saw in 2021 and 2022, combined with the sharp increase in mortgage rates in 2022. They were up almost 400 basis points before that 100 basis point decline that we talked about. Affordability deteriorated more than at any point in over three decades. In fact, the year over year deterioration was roughly three times what we experienced in the years leading up to the GFC. 


Jay Bacow: Now we want to remind our listeners that this affordability deterioration is really for first time homebuyers. Given the vast predominance of the fixed rate mortgage in the United States most homeowners have a low 30 year fixed rate mortgage with an average rate of about 3.5%. Obviously, their affordability didn't change. What did change was prospective homeowners that are looking to buy a house and now would have to take a mortgage at a higher rate. That does mean that those people with a low fixed rate mortgage, they've got low rates. 


Jim Egan: And that means that they simply have not been incentivized to list their homes for sale. The inventory of existing homes available for sale plummeted to over 40 year lows. And we only really have 40 years of data. More importantly for the drop in sales volumes that we've seen, if an existing homeowner is not selling their home, they're also not buying a home on the follow that further exaggerates the drop. But thinking about where we are today, affordability is no longer rapidly deteriorating. In fact, it's basically been unchanged over the past three months. And inventories, they remain near 40 year lows, but they're also no longer falling rapidly. If anything, they're actually kind of increasing on the margins. It is only on the margins because of that lock in effect that you mentioned Jay. 


Jay Bacow: Okay. But it is increasing slightly. So if you have a little bit of a pickup in inventory in basically unchanged affordability, what does that mean for home sales? 


Jim Egan: Affordability is challenged and supply is very tight, but both are no longer getting even more stretched. In other words, we don't see a catalyst for sales volumes to inflect higher from here, but we also don't think the ingredients are in place for large month over month declines to continue either. I wouldn't say that sales have bottomed, but I would lean more towards they are in the process of bottoming right now. We expect volumes to be weak in the first half of 2023, but perhaps not substantially weaker than they were in the fourth quarter of 2022, where volumes retraced all the way back to 2010 levels. We also want to emphasize that this will still result in significant year over year declines, given how strong the first half of 2022 was. The January purchase applications that I earlier stated were moving higher, they were down 40% year over year from January of 2022. And they also have started to come down a little bit in February. The existing home sales print that happened earlier this week for January, that was down 37% year over year. 


Jay Bacow: All right, so, home sale activity is in the process of bottoming, but it's down 37% to 40%, depending on what number that we're talking about. In order for things to bifurcate, we need another side. So what's happening with prices? 


Jim Egan: I would say that prices are still more protected. That doesn't mean the prices are going to continue to grow. When we think about year over year growth in prices, it continues to slow. We were down to 7.7% in the most recent print, which represents November home prices. We'll get the December print next week. We think it'll slow to roughly 6% when we get that. And month over month, home prices have been coming down. They're down about 3.5% from peak, which was June of 2022. We do think that year over year will still turn negative in 2023, the first time that's happened since 2012. But even if we get the 4% decline in home prices in 2023 that we're calling for, that would still only really bring us back to the end of 2021, which is up 30% from the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020. And as I mentioned earlier, sales volumes hit levels we hadn't seen since 2010. So, that bifurcation still exists. 


Jay Bacow: All right. So that bifurcation between home sales and home prices is still going to exist. Jim, 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 Podcasts app, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Feb 22, 2023
Graham Secker: Are European Equities Still Providing Safety?
00:03:14

While the causes of the European equity rally have become more clear over time, so have the caveats that warrant caution over optimism for cyclical stocks.


----- 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 deflating safety cushion for European equities. It's Tuesday, February the 21st at 3 p.m. in London. 


With the benefit of hindsight, it's relatively easy to justify the European equity rally since the start of October, given that we've seen an improvement in the macro news flow against a backdrop of low valuation and depressed investor sentiment and positioning. While the macro outlook could continue to improve from here, we think the safety cushion that low valuation and depressed sentiment had previously provided has deflated considerably as investors have been drawn back into the market by rising price momentum. On valuation, the MSCI Europe Index still looks quite inexpensive on a next 12 month forward PE of 13, however the same ratio for Europe's median stock has risen to 16, which is at the upper end of its historic range. Admittedly, a less padded safety cushion is not necessarily a problem if the fundamental economic and earnings trends continue to improve. However, there is now considerably less margin for any disappointment going forward. 


This rebound in European equities has been led primarily by cyclical sectors who have outperformed their defensive peers by nearly 20% over the last six months. Historically, this pace of outperformance has tended to be a good sign, suggesting that we had started a new economic cycle with further upside for cyclical stocks ahead. However, while this sounds encouraging, we see three caveats that warrant caution rather than optimism at this point. 


First, we have seen no deterioration in cyclicals’ profitability yet, and the lack of any downturn now makes it harder to envisage an EPS upturn required to drive share prices higher going forward. 


Second, we get a very different message from the yield curve, which has consistently proved to be one of the best economic leading indicators over many cycles. Today's inverted yield curve is usually followed by a period of cyclical underperformance and not outperformance. 


And thirdly, cyclicals. Valuations look elevated, with the group trading in a similar price to book value as defensives. When this has happened previously, it usually signals cyclicals’ underperformance ahead. 


Given our cautious view on cyclicals, we prefer small and mid-cap stocks as a way to gain exposure to a European recovery. Having underperformed both large caps and cyclicals significantly over the last year, relative valuations for smaller stocks looks much more appealing, and relative performance looks like it is breaking out of its prior downtrend. In addition, we see two specific macro catalysts that should help smaller stocks in 2023, namely falling inflation and a rising euro. Historically, both these trends have tended to favor smaller companies over larger companies, and we expect the same to happen this year. 


At the country level we think the case for small and mid-cap stocks looks most compelling in Germany, where the relative index, the MDAX, has significantly lagged its larger equivalent, the DAX, such that relative valuations are close to a record low. 


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.

Feb 21, 2023
Andrew Sheets: Falling Expectations for Global Equities
00:03:11

As our outlook for global equities becomes more cautious, what is influencing the move and what should investors watch as the story develops?


----- 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 17th at 2 p.m. in London. 


We recently moved to an underweight stance in global equities as part of our cross-asset allocations. I want to talk a bit about why we did this, why we did it recently and what we're watching. 


The 'why' behind this move is straightforward, global equities now have low risk-adjusted returns in our framework. Our expected return for global stocks is now below what we see for bonds in the U.S., Europe or emerging markets, and it's also lower than what we expect for U.S. dollar cash. With lower expected returns and higher expected volatility, we think it makes sense to hold a lower than normal amount of global equities, hence our underweight stance. 


In terms of why we've made this change recently, a few things have shifted. Per Morgan Stanley's forecast, we entered the year expecting low returns for U.S. equities, but higher returns for non-U.S. stocks. But as prices have gone up in 2023, our expected returns outside the U.S. have also fallen, while in the U.S. they're now negative. 


We also think about expected returns based on longer-run valuations, and then adjusting these for economic conditions. We frame those economic expectations through something we call our cycle indicator, which is trying to look at economic data through the lens of being either stronger or weaker than average, and improving or softening. That indicator recently flipped, indicating a regime where the data is still strong but it's no longer improving, and historically that's often meant lower than average equity returns. 


And all of this has happened at a time when yields have risen, which is improving expected returns for a lot of other assets. The U.S. aggregate bond index now yields about 4.7%, while 12 month U.S. Treasury bills yield about the same amount. That is raising the bar for what global equities need to return to be relatively more attractive within one's portfolio. 


For a change like this, what are the risks? Well, one would be a stronger economy, which tends to be better for stocks relative to other assets. And some recent data has been strong, especially related to the U.S. labor market and retail sales. 


Our economists, however, think the growth story is still murky. Recent economic data is being impacted by large seasonal adjustments, which may be accurate, but which could also be flattering January data if economic patterns have changed versus their pre-COVID trends. Meanwhile, other economic indicators from PMIs to the yield curve to commodity prices suggest a softer growth backdrop ahead. 


Falling expected returns for stocks relative to other assets have led us to downgrade global equities to underweight. A surprising rebound in global growth is a risk to this change, but for now, we see better risk adjusted reward elsewhere in one's portfolio. 


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 17, 2023
Daniel Blake: The End of an Era for Japan
00:03:36

Next month the leadership of the Bank of Japan will change hands, so what policy shifts might be in store and what does this imply for 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 Japanese equity markets and the changing of the guard at the Bank of Japan. It's Thursday, February 16th at 8 a.m. in Singapore. 


March the 10th will mark the end of an era for Japan, with Haruhiko Kuroda completing his final meeting at the helm of the Bank of Japan. Alongside the late Shinzo Abe, Kuroda-san has been instrumental in creating and implementing the famous Abenomics program over the last decade, and we think he's been successful in bringing Japan out of its long running deflationary stance. And just this week we've had the nomination of his replacement, Kazuo Ueda, a well-respected University of Tokyo professor and former Bank of Japan board member. He may not be a household name outside of the economics community, but his central bank and policy bloodlines run deep, having studied a Ph.D. at MIT alongside former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and under the tutelage of Stanley Fischer, former Bank of Israel governor and vice Fed chair. 


So as we see a generational handover at the BoJ, what do we expect next and what does it imply for equity markets? 


Firstly, Japan has made a lot of progress, but we don't think the mission has been fully accomplished on the Bank of Japan's 2% inflation target. Current inflation is being driven by cost pressures and while wage growth is picking up, we don't think wages will move up to the levels needed to see inflation at 2% being sustained. So we don't expect the BoJ under Ueda-san to embark on a tightening cycle the way we have seen for the Fed and the ECB. However, we can look for some change and in particular we think Ueda-san will look to resolve some of the market dysfunction associated with the policy of yield curve control. This is where the BoJ looks to cap bond yields at the ten year maturity, around a target of 0%. We expect he'll exit this policy of yield curve control by summer 2023, allowing the curve to steepen. And thirdly, we'll be watching closely his perspective on negative interest rate policy as we weigh up the costs and benefits and the transmission of negative rates into the real economy, albeit at the cost of profitability impacts for the banking sector. His testimony before the DIT on February 24th and his approach to negative interest rates under his governorship will be important to watch. We expect negative interest rate policy to be dropped, but not until 2024 in our base case, but this remains a key debate. 


So in terms of implications, this is more evolution than revolution for macro policy in Japan. And importantly, we see fiscal policy remaining supportive as the program of new capitalism and Ueda-san looks to strengthen social safety nets and double defense spending from 1% of GDP. Secondly, for equity markets, we see a resilient but still range bound outlook for the benchmark TOPIX Index. Our base case target of 2020 for December 2023 implies it doesn't quite break the top of its three year trading range, but remains well supported. Finally, at a sector level, banks and insurers may benefit from a tilting policy away from yield curve control. Again, especially if followed by a move back to zero rates from negative rate policy. 


In summary, we'll be watching for any shifts in the BoJ reaction function under the new leadership of Kazuo Ueda, but we do not expect a macro shock to asset markets. Instead, some micro adjustment in the yield curve control policy, and potentially negative interest rates, could help the sustainability of very low interest rates in Japan. 


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

Feb 16, 2023
Michael Zezas: Understanding the Impact of Elections
00:02:33

As potential candidates begin to announce their presidential campaigns, is it time to start considering how the 2024 race will drive markets?


----- 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, February 15th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


With the news that Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations, is now running for the Republican nomination for president, investors are starting to ask questions about how the 2024 race for the White House will drive markets. Well, in our view, it's not worth spending too much time on, at least not yet through the lens of an investor, particularly when compared to the very relevant debate about the path of monetary policy and inflation. Let me explain. 


When it comes to understanding the impact of elections on markets, it's all about the policy paths opened up by different outcomes. Markets would care deeply, for example, if information we had today, say about who's running for president, could reliably tell us something about whether there will be in 2025 changes in tax policy, existing and emerging trade barriers with China or policy toward Ukraine. But at this point, projecting such changes is nearly pure speculation. 


Consider that, this far ahead of the election, knowing who the declared candidates are doesn't give us a lot of new information about who will become president. Polls, while never a perfect predictor, have little predictive value this far ahead of an election. Look at Barack Obama and Donald Trump who, when they declared their candidacies, didn't have strong poll numbers but obviously found political success. 


Also, remember that knowing who will become president is only one piece of the puzzle in forecasting policy outcomes. We also need to assess whether the president's party will control Congress or not. If they do, the markets reasonably might want to present higher probabilities of more dramatic policy changes. But again, this far out, there are far too many variables to make this assessment. Consider we know little about potential congressional candidates, their policy positions, and even which policy issues will motivate the election, which is still over a year and a half away. 


So bottom line, while it's certainly not too early to think about the 2024 election as a voter, as an investor you're better served focusing elsewhere for the time being. We'll clue you in when there's more for investors to work with. 


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 15, 2023
U.S. Consumer: What’s Coming for Spending in 2023?
00:07:43

Though U.S. consumer spending was surprisingly robust in 2022, this poses both new and continuing challenges as households draw down their excess savings.


----- Transcript -----


Michelle Weaver: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michelle Weaver from the Morgan Stanley U.S. Equity Strategy Team. 


Sarah Wolfe: And I'm Sarah Wolfe from the U.S. Economics Team. 


Michelle Weaver: On this special episode of the podcast, we'll discuss how the U.S. consumer is faring. It's Tuesday, February 14th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Michelle Weaver: The health of the consumer is critical for the equity market, and consumer spending last year helped companies continue to grow their earnings. Sarah, can you give us a snapshot of the overall health of the U.S. consumer right now? Do people still have plenty of savings, and what are you expecting around consumer savings for the rest of the year? 


Sarah Wolfe: The U.S. consumer was extraordinarily strong in 2022, despite negative real disposable income growth. For perspective, spending was about 3% growth year over year in 2022, and real disposable income was negative 6.5%. Part of that was inflation eroding all income gains, but it was also a tough year as we lapped fiscal stimulus from 2021. So what got consumers through negative 6.5% real income growth? It was this excess savings story. Consumers tapped their excess savings pretty significantly, and we estimate that the drawdown was roughly 30% from its peak. However, when we look into 2023, we don't think consumers are going to be tapping into their savings reserves quite as much. 


Michelle Weaver: It sounds like households draw down quite a bit of their excess saving. Is there any danger that they're going to run out? And if that's the case, when do you think that will play out? 


Sarah Wolfe: So we don't think 100% of excess savings are going to get spent ever. Remember, savings is not cash in your wallet, it's just anything that hasn't been spent. So some of these savings have moved into longer term investment vehicles as well. We think that an additional 15% will get spent in 2023, and 10% in 2024, after 30% drawdown last year. This slower drawdown in the excess savings will allow the savings rate to recover after sitting at a two decade low in 2022 at roughly 3%. But there are important divergences when you look at the distributional holding of excess savings. For example, the bottom 25% has drawn down over 50% of their excess savings, compared to 30% overall. And we believe they're on track to run their savings dry by 2Q 2023. 


Michelle Weaver: Great. And then income, of course, is another really important source of spending for consumers. And the January jobs report we got was a big surprise. And the labor market continues to be pretty resilient without any clear signs of stopping. I run a proprietary survey in conjunction with our Alphawise team, and in our most recent wave we found that despite the tech layoffs that have been all over the news, 31% of people are actually less worried about losing their job now versus a year ago. Can you tell me a little bit about what your team expects for the labor market in 2023? 


Sarah Wolfe: Well, the February jobs report was a whopper by any standard, 517,000 jobs and the unemployment rate hitting all time lows at 3.4%. However, I think it's important to put these numbers into a bit of context. We identified three temporary factors that boosted nonfarm payrolls in January and that we think are unlikely to persist in February. The first is weather. A warmer than usual January added about 130,000 jobs last month. The return of strike workers added 36,000 jobs and seasonal factors added 3 million jobs. Typically, we see the shedding of a lot of workers in January after the holidays, so leisure and hospitality, retail workers, transportation. But because we're dealing with significant labor shortages, and as a result companies are hoarding workers, we're seeing a lot fewer layoffs than we typically would given this time of the year and as a result, the seasonal factors are adding too many jobs right now. We expect the February print to be about 200,000, which is more in line with the trend that we had seen from July until December of 2022. We continue to expect job growth to slow this year, hitting a low of 50,000 jobs a month in mid 2023, pushing the unemployment rate up to about 3.9% by the end of this year. Michelle, you mentioned that you have an alphawise survey. Could you tell us a little bit more about what the survey’s telling you about consumer spending plans? 


Michelle Weaver: Sure. So on this wave of the survey, we asked people to think about major purchases that they're planning on making over the next three months. And we defined a major purchase like a vehicle, large appliance or vacation. And we found that about a quarter of people are considering shifting to a cheaper alternative, while a third are expecting to delay the purchase altogether. We also asked several questions on everyday purchases, and our survey indicates that consumers are planning to spend less on more discretionary categories. So that would include tech products, electronics, clothing, alcohol and home improvement. 


Sarah Wolfe: Michelle, that makes a lot of sense, and it's great to see when the hard data matches the soft data. We've done a lot of modeling work on how higher interest rates impact consumer spending, and we see a similar response in those categories. In particular, consumers tend to pull back on durable goods consumption, including home furnishing, electronics and appliances and motor vehicles. We haven't really talked about the services side yet. There was a big travel boom, post-COVID, do we expect this to continue this year? 


Michelle Weaver: Stocks exposed to travel did really well post-COVID as people were excited to get out there and travel again. Last year, we saw international travel restrictions lifted, making it a big year for vacations. And so there is some reversion likely here. And our survey showed that consumers are less positive on travel spending this year versus last year, with 34% of people expecting to spend less on travel and only 23% expecting to spend more. 


Sarah Wolfe: That's a pretty big step down in spending intentions on travel that your survey work shows. It also looks like in the economic data that the strongest part of the services recovery is behind us. We saw 10% nominal spending growth on services in 2021 and 2022. So, it's no wonder that this should decelerate in 2023 as the labor market cools and we return back to normal spending behavior. 


Michelle Weaver: Finally, Sarah, let's talk about inflation. Inflation is something I've definitely felt a lot as a consumer. For example, when I go to the grocery store, egg prices seem to be out of control, but when I look at my energy bill, things seem to be getting a little bit better. Can you tell us what's going on here and what you expect on inflation for the rest of the year? 


Sarah Wolfe: Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of transparency on the future of food prices right now, but we have seen pretty remarkable progress in other components of inflation that were weighing on household wallets in 2022. The first and foremost being energy inflation, which has returned back to its pre-COVID levels. We've also seen nice progress on goods inflation, where price levels have been coming off, in particular on new and used motor vehicles. And then we are seeing a slowing among services prices as well. In fact, headline PCE inflation has moderated from 7% this past summer to 5% today. And while this is great progress, the job is not done yet. We think inflation does reach 2.5% by the end of 2023, but this is going to require more aggressive action by the Fed. We now have two more 25 basis point hikes from the Fed in March and in May, reaching a peak rate of 5.25%. And we think they're going to have to keep rates on hold at their peak through the end of the year in order to make sure that inflation is getting where it needs to be. 


Michelle Weaver: Sarah, thanks for taking the time to talk. 


Sarah Wolfe: It was great speaking with you, Michelle. 


Michelle Weaver: 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. 


Feb 14, 2023
Seth Carpenter: Can Inflation Continue To Come Down?
00:04:35

Inflation was a key topic in a recent meeting at the Brookings Institution. While it has trended downward recently, the details are critical to tracking the path 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 inflation and the U.S. economy. It's Monday, February 13th at 10 a.m. in New York.


This past week, I was fortunate to be part of a panel discussion at the Brookings Institution, a research think tank in Washington, D.C. I was one of three economists in discussion with one of the White House's main economic advisers. Unsurprisingly, the topic of inflation came up.


One key chart from the White House economist juxtaposed services wage inflation with core services inflation, excluding housing. The key point of the chart was that falling wage inflation in the services sector may put some downward pressure on inflation in core services, excluding housing. This topic is timely because Chair Powell has repeatedly referenced services inflation, excluding housing, as a key risk to their goal for achieving price stability.


A couple of weeks ago I'd written on the same topic, and there we tried to show that even the link itself between wage inflation and services inflation is a bit tenuous. But just looking at the raw data, it is clear that the monthly run rate on other services remains elevated. But a question we have to ask ourselves is, 'is it elevated a lot or a little?'


Since June of last year, core services inflation, excluding housing, has trended down, and for December, it was at about 32 basis points on a month-over-month basis. That December pace is 3.9% in annual terms and would contribute about 2.1 percentage points to core PCE inflation. To put those numbers into context, recall that from 2013 to 2019, before COVID, core services inflation, excluding housing, averaged about 18 basis points a month or 2.2% at an annual rate. So yes, services inflation is higher than it has been historically, but it is nowhere near as high, relative to history, as housing inflation has been or core goods inflation has been, until recently. Indeed, from 2013 to 2019, core PCE inflation ran below the Fed's 2% inflation target. If goods inflation and housing inflation just went back to their averages from that period and services inflation, excluding housing, was at the rate that we saw in December, core PCE inflation would have overshot target, but by less than a half a percentage point. And we can't forget, for the past year, month-over-month services inflation, excluding housing, has been trending down.


So are we out of the woods? No. Clearly, services inflation, excluding housing, is still high and needs to come down over time for the Fed to hit its target. But goods inflation and housing inflation were much bigger drivers of the surge in inflation. So, we really need to consider what's the path from here.


Goods Inflation has been negative for the past few months, but used car prices look to have edged up a bit. Our US economics team expects the monthly change in core goods prices to be positive five basis points in January, interrupting that losing streak. We do not expect this reversion to last long, but the next couple of months could have some bumps in the path.


Similarly, for housing inflation, the data on current new leases clearly points to a sharp deceleration in housing inflation over the rest of this year. Although overall housing inflation should come down, the closely watched component of owners' equivalent rent will likely stay elevated a bit longer and possibly give markets a bit of a head fake. The details matter, as always.


The bottom line for us is twofold. First, inflation is coming down, but it will not be a smooth decline. A return to target for inflation was never very likely this year, so patience is required no matter what. Second, the recent high wage inflation does not spell failure for the Fed. Services inflation is not too far off target and the link between wages and inflation is there but it's small and both wage inflation and price inflation has been trending down despite the strong labor market.


I conclude with what might be the most underappreciated moment from Chair Powell's public comments last week. He said he sees inflation getting close to 2% in 2024. When the FOMC did their projections in December, the median forecast was for 3.5% inflation at the end of this year. So, it seems like, based on the incoming data, Chair Powell might be pointing to a meaningful downward revision to the March forecast for inflation.


Thanks for listening and 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.

Feb 13, 2023
Andrew Sheets: The Complexities of Market Risk
00:02:38

While the risk of economic contraction has lessened in a few regions, is the story of recession and market risk being oversimplified?


----- 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 10th at 2 p.m. in London. 


Markets have been fixated on the question of whether the U.S. and Europe will enter recession this year. With Europe benefiting from a fall in energy prices and the U.S. adding half a million jobs in January, it's tempting to think that recession risk is now lower and by extension, the risk to markets has passed. But the story may be more complicated. 


Near term, the risk of an economic contraction or recession has fallen. Europe has seen the largest swings here, where much lower energy prices, a result of a mild winter and plentiful supply from the United States, is leading to both less inflation and better growth, the proverbial 2-for-1 deal. 


Recession risk has also fallen a bit in the U.S., where our economists tracking estimate for U.S. GDP has been moving modestly higher. 


For markets, however, we fear that this story is getting oversimplified, to a recession is bad and no recession is good. At one level yes, avoiding a recession is definitely preferable. But markets often care most about the rate of change. It remains likely that U.S. growth will decelerate meaningfully this year, even in a scenario where a recession is avoided. 


For one, the idea that the U.S. avoids recession but still sees a meaningful slowdown in growth is the current forecast from Morgan Stanley's economists. And that's also the signal that we're getting from our market indicators. We classify an environment where leading economic data is strong but starting to soften as 'downturn'. That phase tends to see below average returns for stocks relative to bonds over the ensuing 6 to 12 months. We entered that phase recently. 


Of course, the U.S. economy has been defying predictions of a slowdown for many months now, and it could still have a few surprises up its sleeve. For now, however, we think favoring bonds over stocks is still consistent with our forecast for slowing growth, even if a recession is avoided. 


In Europe, we think the biggest beneficiary of lower energy prices and better growth prospects is the euro. What we think the euro performs well broadly, we think it does especially well versus the British pound, where economic challenges remain greater and our economists do forecast a recession this year. 


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

Feb 10, 2023
Vishy Tirupattur: A Change in Fed Policy Expectations
00:03:39

With the latest U.S. employment report showing unexpected resilience in the labor market, what happens now for the Fed and the policy tightening cycle?


----- Transcript -----


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Vishy Tirupattur, Morgan Stanley's Head of Fixed Income Research and Director of Quantitative Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I will discuss the market implications from the latest U.S. employment report. It's Thursday, February 9th at noon in New York. 


When it comes to economic data releases, there are surprises and there are shockers. Last Friday's U.S. employment report was clearly in the latter category. Ahead of the release, the market consensus estimate was for 185,000 new jobs based on Bloomberg's survey of 77 economists. And yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 517,000 new jobs added during the month, which is about eight and half standard deviations from the average expectation of the Bloomberg survey participants. By any measure, that's huge. 


The report showed strength across the board. Of course, there were some temporary drivers, like technical adjustments to seasonality factors, mild weather in January, and a resolution of certain strikes that contributed to this large scale boost to the January employment data. These things are unlikely to persist. Still, the U.S. labor market remains far more resilient than previously expected, with really no clear signs of stopping on the Monday following the January data release, Fed Chair Powell struck a more hawkish tone as he emphasized there is a significant road ahead before policymakers would be assured that inflation is returning to the 2% target. 


So what happens now? Even if the January employment report is not indicative of a change of trajectory in the U.S. labor market, it will likely take a few more months for the true underlying trends to emerge. Respecting the strength of the current labor market conditions, our U.S. economists believe that more evidence of labor market slowing is needed for the Fed to consider an end of the tightening cycle. Therefore, they now expect the Fed to deliver a 25 basis point hike, both in March and in May, that brings the peak policy rate to range of 5% to 5.25%, which would be in line with the FOMCs December projections. 


Given the change in the expectation for the Fed policy path, our strategists across multiple markets have revised many of our market goals. I would like to flag three key tactical changes. 


First, we turn neutral on U.S. Treasuries versus our previous overweight recommendation. Considering how big of an outlier the job number was, we think hard data is too strong for the Fed to look past it. With this realization, we think investors no longer assume that the interest rates have peaked. The market debate will likely turn into the interest rate sensitivity of the economy, and if the neutral rate should be higher than previously thought. Until we have greater clarity on these issues, we think being neutral is a better call on treasuries. 


Second, in the foreign exchange market, we turn neutral on the U.S. dollar, versus our previous call for a weakening dollar. The strong U.S. labor market data will likely cause investors to question whether the U.S. economy is slowing relative to the rest of the world. As a result, investors are likely to be a little more bullish in their U.S. dollar positioning. 


Third, in the agency mortgage market, we turned to underweight from neutral. The January employment report increases the uncertainty of the rate paths, which means higher interest rate volatility going forward, that's not great for agency MBS. Relative to other fixed income securities, we don't think investors are being compensated sufficiently for this higher interest rate uncertainty. 


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 colleague today.

Feb 09, 2023
Michael Zezas: The State of U.S. Policy
00:02:47

Following last night’s State of the Union Address by President Biden, what are some signals from the speech that investors should consider?


----- 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, February 8th at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Last night, President Biden delivered the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Traditionally, this speech lays out the policy proposals of the administration. In the past, this hasn't signaled much, with only about 24% of proposals historically ending up enacted that year. As a recent 538.com study highlighted. But amidst the noise, there's some potential signal for investors to consider. Here's what we're watching. 


First, it's clear that U.S. policy will still drive the key investment themes of slowing globalization and the shift to a multipolar world. Biden's speech had much to say about the impact of recently enacted legislation like CHIPS+ and the Inflation Reduction Act, both of which included incentives to shift supply chains on key technologies back to the U.S. or friendly countries. One area this supports is the clean tech industry, which should see substantial demand for its U.S. produced products. 


Second, it's clear that investors need to keep paying attention to the debate on tech regulation. Biden referenced bipartisan antitrust legislation aimed at tech companies. While, as we previously discussed, there's a lot of details to be worked out before this type of legislation has a fighting chance of being enacted, the momentum behind it seems to be building. So it will be important to assess the impact of different types of regulation to large cap tech companies. 


Finally, and perhaps most important in the near term, the speech underscores something we've been flagging: the negotiation on how to raise the debt ceiling will be tricky and not solved in a timely manner. While calling for the debt ceiling to be raised without condition, Biden also seemed to concede there's room for negotiation on reducing the deficit. But in our view, that didn't signal a resolution was closer because the president also heavily referenced his desire for changes to the tax code to be part of that solution, something that's historically been a nonstarter for Republicans. In short, it appears in this negotiation so far, compromise has taken a backseat to rhetorical positioning by both sides. So as we stated here in the past, investors may want to prepare for an extended negotiation with a potentially late resolution, where knock-on effects to what is likely to be an already slowing economy are a distinct possibility. This is another reason our U.S. equity strategists continue to flag caution despite some solid recent performance in stocks. 


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 08, 2023
Latin America Economy: The Possibility of Opportunity in 2023
00:08:42

As the outlook for 2023 shows emerging markets looking better positioned than developed markets, how is Latin America faring in this more optimistic story? Chief Latin American Equity Strategist Gui Paiva and Chief Latin American Economist Andre Loes discuss.


----- Transcript -----


Gui Paiva: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Gui Paiva, Morgan Stanley's Chief Latin American Equity Strategist. 

 

Andre Loes: And I'm Andre Loes, Morgan Stanley's Chief LatAm Economist. 

 

Gui Paiva: And on this special episode of the podcast, we will discuss this year's economic and equity outlook for Latin America. It is Tuesday, February 7th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Andre Loes:] And noon in Sao Paulo. 


Gui Paiva: By all accounts, last year was a difficult one for global markets. Yet so far, 2023 is starting on a brighter note. There are reasons to be more optimistic with moderating inflation and the outlook for China and Europe solidifying the case for a weaker U.S. dollar. Overall, emerging markets look better positioned than developed markets, and within EM today we'll take a look specifically at Latin America. Andre, to set the stage can you give us a sense of how Latin America has fared post-COVID, and how it has dealt with the big global challenges of 2022? 


Andre Loes: Well Gui, the growth performance of the region was not particularly different from the other regions during the bulk of the COVID slump. But the levels of poverty in LatAm were already high at the beginning of the pandemic and the increase in unemployment in 2020 and 2021 aggravated that situation. The erosion of purchasing power stemming from accelerating inflation played an important role as well, and the result was mounting strain for political proposals backing more unorthodox ideas, especially a permanent rise in fiscal spending. So the policy reaction aiming to control inflation has been deployed amid these more challenging contexts. 


Gui Paiva: Well, you just mentioned policy reaction. Indeed, with rampant inflation in the region, Latin American central banks were probably ahead of the global curve in 2022, having started hiking interest rates in 21. Andre, how effective has their monetary policy been so far and what are your expectations for the rate cycle from here? 


Andre Loes: Well, the response of LatAm central banks came quite early and has been proving effective in most countries. One of the reasons central bankers of the region react promptly is related to the inflation prone past of the region, which is still fresh in the mind of many economic agents, which leads to de-anchoring of inflation expectations as soon as observed inflation accelerates. This means central banks need to react timely, and as a result, the central banks of Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru started to hike rates still in the first half of 2021, with Colombia following early on the second half. 


With the exception of Colombia, inflation has peaked in all countries under our coverage where the central banks pursue an inflation target. With lower inflation we see an easy cycle is starting in all countries in the region, with Chile leading in the second quarter, Peru and Mexico in the third quarter, and Brazil and Colombia cutting towards year end. 


Gui Paiva: And what are your economic growth forecasts for the rest of this year and the longer term? 


Andre Loes: Growth in 2023 will show a deceleration compared to last year with both Brazil and Mexico slowing down from 3% in 2022 to 1.4% in the current year. Deceleration will be more intense in Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, with Chile effectively go into a strong recession, a contraction of around 2%, in order to regain both price and theoretical stability. Lower growth is mostly due to the lagged effects of the material monetary policy tightening we have just discussed. But lower global growth will also play a part on that, especially for Mexico, given the strong economic integration of this country with the U.S. For South America, China's recovery may prove a boon, as the Asian country is the main export destination for Brazil, Argentina, as well as the metro exporters Chile, Peru. 


But Gui, let me turn it over to you on the equities side. What are some of the key investment themes you are following this year? 


Gui Paiva: We forecast 20% dollar upside for Latin American equities in 2023. The reasons behind our optimism are the region's leverage to the global economic cycle and the price you currently pay for regional stocks. So let me expand on these topics. 


First about the leverage to the global economic cycle. Historically, LatAm equities tend to perform well during the early and mid stages of the global economic cycle. The region produces several important soft and hard commodities like grains, copper, steel and iron ore, as well as energy products like crude oil and natural gas. Therefore, a rising commodity prices produces a positive terms of trade shock, which leads to stronger domestic economic growth and benefits, both directly and indirectly the public traded companies across the region. 


Let me pivot now to the second topic, which is the price of currently pay for regional stocks. In my 20 years as an equity strategist, I have learned that the return in an investment is highly correlated to the price you pay for the assets. Therefore, current depressed valuations of Latin equities provide an interesting entry point for investors looking to gain exposure to the EM trade at a discount. 


Moreover, historically, Latin American equities have posted strong returns during the 12 months following an EM bear market trough boosted by both global and local cyclical sectors. 

 

Andre Loes: Can you also walk us through some of the largest economies in the region and give us some color as to what's happening in the different LatAm markets? Maybe start with Mexico and in particular the nearshoring opportunities there. 


Gui Paiva: Sure Andre. In Mexico we struggle to have a positive structural view of our local equities over the past four years, because of the government's state centric approach to some of the key sectors in the economy, like energy and electricity. However, we are more optimistic now, and we believe economic growth could surprise to the upside from 2024 to 2030, and benefit the local stock market. 


First, if our U.S. house view is correct and the current bear market in U.S. equities finally ends in the first half of the year, Mexico should benefit in the second as a leveraged play on a potential 2024 U.S. economic recovery. Second, we have presidential elections in Mexico in mid 24, and we believe a newly elected government would likely take a less state centric approach to the key energy and electricity sectors, which would ultimately help boost private sector business confidence and thus investments. Last but not least, we see Mexico as potentially enjoying gains from the ongoing on and nearshoring manufacturing trends. 


If we are correct, then economic growth in Mexico shows surprise to the upside over the next six years and the current on and nearshoring investment theme in the country, which is limited to a handful of mid and small cap stocks, would broaden out, include some of the Mexican large caps.  


Andre Loes: And what about Brazil Gui? 


Gui Paiva: In Brazil, we have a neutral stance towards local equities because the current government has given signs that he intends to run a looser fiscal stance over the next few years, which should lead to a higher for longer monetary policy rate, higher real bond yields, which should undermine the apparently attractive valuation story for local equities. 


If we are correct in our assessment, the next few years should be good for Brazilian fixed income assets, but not necessarily for equities. However, we believe there are a few interesting investment themes in the local equity market and we are currently positioning some stocks which should benefit from them. For instance, we like private sector banks, insurance companies which tend to do well during periods of higher for longer interest rates. 


Andre Loes: Finally, what are some key upcoming events and catalysts our listeners should be aware of, Gui? 


Gui Paiva: Well, from a global perspective, Andre, we do expect the U.S. Fed to reach its peak rate of 4.625% in March and then stop. Therefore U.S. payrolls and inflation data are key for the outlook of U.S. monetary policy and therefore global risky assets. Meanwhile, in China, the latest batch of economic indicators has surprised to the upside, and we do expect the trend to continue in Q2. Finally, regionally, in Mexico, we expect the central bank, Banxico, to end the current monetary tightening cycle at 10.75% in February, while in Brazil, the newly elected government should try to push through Congress an important tax reform and a new long term fiscal framework during Q2. 


Gui Paiva: Andre, thanks very much for your questions and for taking the time to talk. 


Andre Loes: Great speaking with you Gui. 


Gui Paiva: 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.

Feb 07, 2023
U.S. Pharmaceuticals: The Future of Genetic Medicine
00:07:52

As new gene therapies are researched, developed and begin clinical trials, what hurdles must genetic medicine overcome before these therapies are commonly available? Head of U.S. Pharmaceuticals Terence Flynn and Head of U.S. Biotech Matthew Harrison discuss. 


----- Transcript -----


Terence Flynn: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Terence Flynn, Head of U.S. Pharma for Morgan Stanley Research. 


Matthew Harrison: And I'm Matthew Harrison, Head of U.S. Biotech. 


Terence Flynn: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll be discussing the bold promise of genetic medicine. It's Monday, February 6th, at 10 a.m. in New York. 


Terence Flynn: 2023 marks 20 years since the completion of the Human Genome Project. The unprecedented global scientific collaboration that generated the first sequence of the human genome. The pace of research in molecular biology and human genetics has not relented since 2003, and today we're at the start of a real revolution in the practice of medicine. Matthew what exactly is genetic medicine and what's the difference between gene therapy and gene editing? 


Matthew Harrison: As I think about this, I think it's important to talk about context. And so as we've thought about medical developments and drug development over the last many decades, you started with pills. And then we moved into drugs from living cells. These are more complicated drugs. And now we're moving on to editing actual pieces of our genome to deliver potentially long lasting cures. And so this opens up a huge range of new treatments and new opportunities. 


And so in general, as we think about it, they're basically two approaches to genetic medicine. The first is called gene therapy, and the second is called gene editing. The major difference here is that in gene therapy you just deliver a snippet of a gene or pre-programmed message to the body that then allows the body to make the protein that's missing, With gene editing, instead what you do is you go in and you directly edit the genes in the person's body, potentially giving a long lasting cure to that person. 


So obviously two different approaches, but both could be very effective. And so, Terence, as you think about what's happening in research and development right now, you know, how long do you think it's going to be before some of these new therapies make it to market? 


Terence Flynn: As we think about some of the other technologies you mentioned, Matthew, those took, you know, decades in some cases to really refine them and broaden their applicability to a number of diseases. So we think the same is likely to play out here with genetic medicine, where you're likely to see an iterative approach over time as companies work to optimize different features of these technologies. So as we think about where it's focused right now, it's being primarily on the rare genetic disease side. So diseases such as hemophilia, spinal muscular atrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which affect a very small percentage of the population, but the risk benefit is very favorable for these new medicines. 


Now, there are currently five gene therapies approved in the U.S. and several more on the horizon in later stage development. No gene editing therapies have been approved yet, but there is one for sickle cell disease that could actually be approved next year, which would be a pretty big milestone. And the majority of the other gene editing therapies are actually in earlier stages of development. So it's likely going to be several years before those reach the market. As, again as we've seen happen time and time again in biopharma as these new therapies and new platforms are rolled out they have very broad potential. And obviously there's a lot of excitement here around these genetic medicines and thinking about where these could be applied. 


But I think before we go there, Matthew, obviously there are still some hurdles that needs to be addressed before we see a broader rollout here. So maybe you could touch on that for us. 


Matthew Harrison: You're right, there are some issues that we're still working through as we think about applying these technologies. The first one is really delivery. You obviously can't just inject some genes into the body and they'll know what to do. So you have to package them somehow. And there are a variety of techniques that are in development, whether using particles of fat to shield them or using inert viruses to send them into the body. But right now, we can't deliver to every tissue in every organ, and so that limits where you can send these medicines and how they can be effective. So there's still a lot of work to be done on delivery. 


And the second is when you go in and you edit a gene, even if you're very precise about where you want to edit, you might cause some what we call off target effects on the edges of where you've edited. And so there's concern about could those off target effects lead to safety issues. And then the third thing which we've touched on previously is durability. There's potentially a difference between gene therapy and gene editing, where gene editing may lead to a very long lasting cure, where different kinds of gene therapies may have longer term potential, but some may need to be redosed. 


Terence, as we turn back to thinking about the progress of the pipeline here, you know, what are the key catalysts you're watching over 23 and 24? 


Terence Flynn: You know, as everyone probably knows, biopharma is a highly regulated industry. We have the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration here in the U.S., and we have the EMA in Europe. Those are the bodies that, you know, evaluate risk benefit of every therapy that's entering clinical trials and ultimately will reach the market. So this year we're expecting much of the focus for the gene editing companies to be broadly on regulatory progress. So again, this includes completion of regulatory filings here in the U.S. and Europe for the sickle cell disease drug that I mentioned before. And then something that's known as an IND filing. So essentially what companies are required to do is file that before they conduct clinical trials in humans in the U.S. There are companies that are pursuing this for hereditary angioedema and TTR amyloidosis. Those, if successful, would allow clinical trials to be conducted here in the U.S. and include U.S. patients. 


The other big thing we're watching is additional clinical data related to durability of efficacy. So, I think we've seen already with some of the gene therapies for hemophilia that we have durable efficacy out to five years, which is very exciting and promising. But the question is, will that last even longer? And how to think about gene therapy relative to gene editing on the durability side. And then lastly, I'd say safety. Obviously that's important for any therapy, but given some of the hurdles still that you mentioned, Matthew, that's obviously an important focus here as we look out over the longer term and something that the companies and the regulators are going to be following pretty closely. 


So again, as we think about the development of the field, one of the other key questions is access to patients. And so pricing reimbursement plays a key role here for any new therapy. There are some differences here, obviously, because we're talking about cures versus traditional chronic therapies. So maybe Matthew you could elaborate on that topic. 


Matthew Harrison: So as you think about these genetic medicines, the ones that we've seen approved have pretty broad price ranges, anywhere from a million to a few million dollars per patient, but you're talking about a potential cure here. And as I think about many of the chronic therapies, especially the more sophisticated ones that patients take, they can cost anywhere between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So you can see over a decade or more of use how they can actually eclipse what seems like a very high upfront price of these genetic medicines. 


Now, one of the issues obviously, is that the way the payers are set up is different in different parts of the world. So in Europe, for example, there are single payer systems for the patient never switches between health insurance carriers. And so therefore you can capture that value very easily. In the U.S., obviously it's a much more complicated system, many people move between payers as they switch jobs, as you change from, you know, commercial payers when you're younger to a government payer as you move into Medicare. And so there needs to be a mechanism worked out on how to spread that value out. And so I think that's one of the things that will need to evolve. 


But, you know, it's a very exciting time here in genetic medicine. There's significant opportunity and I think we're on the cusp of really seeing a robust expansion of this field and leading to many potential therapies in the years to come. 


Terence Flynn: That's great, Matthew. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk today. 


Matthew Harrison: Great speaking with you, Terrence. 


Terence Flynn: 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.

Feb 06, 2023
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.


----- 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 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?


----- 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 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.


----- 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 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.


----- 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 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?


----- Transcript -----


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.


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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.


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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 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?


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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?


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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 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?


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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.


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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.


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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. 


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.


----- 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, 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.


----- 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 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?


----- 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 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.


----- 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 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.


----- 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 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.


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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. 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 y