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Thoughts on the Market

Author: 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.

1105 Episodes
New data on both immigration and inflation defied predictions and may have shifted the Fed’s perspective. Our Chief U.S. Economist and Head of U.S. Rates Strategy share their updated outlooks.  ----- Transcript -----Ellen Zentner: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ellen Zentner, Morgan Stanley's Chief US Economist.Guneet Dhingra: And I'm Guneet Dhingra, Head of US Rates Strategy.Ellen Zentner: And today on the podcast, we'll be discussing some significant changes to our US economic outlook and US rates outlook for the rest of this year.It's Tuesday, April 23rd at 10am in New York.Guneet Dhingra: So, Ellen, last week you put out an updated view on your outlook -- with some substantial forecast changes. Can you give us the headlines on GDP, inflation and the Fed forecast path? And what has really changed versus your last update?Ellen Zentner: Sure Guneet. So, our last economic outlook update was in November last year. And since that time, really, the impetus for all of these changes came from immigration. So, we got new immigration data from the CBO, and just to give you a sense of the magnitude of upward revision, we thought we had an increase of 800,000 in 2023. It turns out it was 3.3 million. And so far, the flows of immigrants suggest that we're going to get about as many as last year, if not a little bit more. And so, what does that mean? Faster population growth, those are more mouths to feed. You've got a faster labor force growth. They can work. They are working. And data historically shows that their labor force participation rates are higher than native born Americans.So, you've got to take all this into account. And it means that you've got this big positive supply side shock. And so, when the labor market has been about balance now between demand and supply, as Chair Powell's been noting, you're now going to have supply outrun demand this year.And so, you basically got much more labor market slack. You've got -- and I'm going to steal Chair Powell's words here -- you've got a bigger economy, but not a tighter economy. So, it's faster GDP growth. We have taken out one Fed cut, and I know we're going to talk about that because inflation has surprised the upside recently. But you've got slower wage growth. More labor market slack. And so, we did not change our overall inflation numbers on the back of this better growth and better labor force growth.Guneet Dhingra: That's very helpful. That's a very interesting read in the economy, Ellen. Do you think the Fed is reading the supply side story the same way as you are? And said differently, is the Fed on the same page as you? And if not, when do you think they could be?Ellen Zentner: Yeah. So, you know, Chair Powell, if you go back to his speeches and the minutes from the Fed. They've been talking about immigration. I think we've known for a while that the numbers were bigger than previously thought. But how you interpret that into an outlook can be different. And it takes some time. It even took us some time -- about a month -- to finally digest all the numbers and figure out exactly what it meant for our outlook. So, here's the biggest, I think, change for them in terms of what it means. The break-even level for payrolls is just that much higher.Now what does break even mean? It means it's the pace of job gains you need to generate each month in order to just keep the unemployment rate steady. And six months ago, we all thought it was 100, 000, including the Chair. And now we think it's 265,000. That is eye popping. And it means that when you see these big labor market numbers -- 250, 000; 300,000. That's normal. And that's not a labor market that's too tight.And so, I think the easiest thing the Fed, has realized is that they don't need to worry about the labor market. There's a lot more slack there. There's going to be a lot more slack there this year. Wage growth has come down because of it. ECI, or Employment Cost Index, is going to come down for this year. The unemployment rate is going to be higher. They do still need to reflect that in their forecast. And that means that we could show, sort of, this flavor of bigger but not tighter economy when we get their forecast updates in June.Guneet Dhingra: I think the medium-term thesis is very compelling, Ellen, but how do you fit the three back-to-back upside surprises in CPI here? How does that fit with the labor supply story?Ellen Zentner: So, that is sort of disconnected from the bigger but not tighter economy, because we did have to take into account that inflation has surprised to the upside. I mean, these have been some real volatile prints in the last three months, and we're now tracking March core PCE at 0.25 per cent and we're going to get that number later this week. And so that's above the threshold that we think the Fed needs in order to gain confidence that that pace of deceleration we saw late last year, is not in danger of slowing down for them to gain further confidence.Ellen Zentner: And so, the way I would characterizes this is that it's a bigger but not tighter economy. But we also had to take into account these inflation upside surprises, which is really what led us to push the June cut off to July.So, after we get that March, core PCE print, let's see what that data holds, but we think a few prints around 0.2 per cent are needed to satisfy Chair Powell, and gain that consensus to cut. So, I want to stress to the listeners that, you know, our conviction that inflation will head toward target remains high.And it was also helped last week by fresh data on new tenant rents. So that is a leading indicator for rental inflation in our models. And it's slowed again. And suggests an even faster pace of deceleration ahead.But here's where I think it matters for the Fed. Whereas before, they were very convicted that this rental inflation story was going to play out, that rent inflation was going to come down. They used similar models to us. But because of the inflation data being so volatile over the past three months, rather than providing forward guidance on what you're going to do around rental inflation coming down, you want to see it. You want to see it in the data. And so that's why they've been so willing to say, you know what, we're just going to, we're going to hold longer here.Guneet Dhingra: Perfect. So just to get the Fed call on the record, what exactly are you calling for the Fed? And I know investors love the hypothetical question. What is the probability in your mind that the Fed doesn't cut at all in 2024?Ellen Zentner: Yeah, they do love scenario analysis. So here we go. So, our baseline is they cut in July. They skip September. By November, the inflation data is coming down to monthly prints that tell them they're on track for their 2 per cent goal and at risk of falling below it. So, from November to June next year, they're cutting every meeting to roughly around three and a half percent.Now, as you asked, what if inflation doesn't go down? So, inflation doesn't go down, you know, then the Fed's forecast and our forecast are going to be wrong and the three rate cuts they envision is predicated on that inflation forecast coming true. So, you know, the most important takeaway from that scenario is that the result would be a Fed on holder for longer. But as opposed to a hike being the next move -- and I think that's really important here. The Fed is still very strongly convicted on they will cut this year. This is about the timing. Now, the hold period could last into 2025, I mean, we don't know, but what happens if inflation accelerates from here?So, I'm going to provide another scenario here. So, there is a scenario where inflation accelerates on a backdrop of strong growth, which would suggest it might be sustained, and perhaps begins to lift inflation expectations. Now, you know, that's a recipe for a hold that then turns into additional hikes as the Fed realizes neutral is just higher than where rates currently sit. But at this point, I would put quite a low probability on that scenario. But from a risk weighted perspective, I suppose it should be taken into account.So, given all this and the changes that we've made, what is your expectation for rates for the rest of the year?Guneet Dhingra: Yeah, I think we also, based on the forecast revision you guys have, we also revised up our treasury yield forecast. We earlier had 10 year yields ending slightly below 4 per cent by the end of 2024. Now we have them at about 4.15 percent which again is a 20-basis point uplift from our forecast before this. But still, I think it's not the higher for longer number that people are expecting because when I look at the forecast you have on the Fed, I think Fed path you have is well below what the markets expect.I think the forecast you have has about seven cuts from July this year to the middle of next year. The market for contrast is only four. There's a pretty massive gap that opens up, I think, between the way we see it -- and ultimately that does come down to the interpretation of the data that we're seeing so far.So, for us, the forecast numbers are slightly higher than before, but the message still is: we are not in the hire for longer camp, and we do expect rates to end up below the market applied forwards.Ellen Zentner: All right. So, you know, I've talked a lot about immigration. One could say I've been pretty obsessed with it over the last couple of months. But from a rates perspective, you know, what are the broader implications of the immigration story for that? You know, this, this bigger but not tighter economy. How do you translate that into rates?Guneet Dhingra: Yeah, let me say your obsession has been contagious. You know, I've caught on to that bug, the immigration bug. And, you know, I've been I've been discussing this thesis with investors, quite a lot. And I think it seems to me as you framed it pretty nicely. It's a bigger but not a tighter economy. I don't thin
Recent data indicates the economy may avoid either a soft or hard landing for now. Our Chief U.S. Equity Strategist explains why investors should seek out quality as the economy stays aloft.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Morgan Stanley’s CIO and Chief US Equity Strategist. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about the impact of better economic growth and stickier inflation on stocks.It's Monday, April 22nd at 11:30am in New York. So let’s get after it.In our first note of the year, I cited three potential macro-outcomes for 2024 with similar probability of occurring.First, a soft landing with slowing, below potential GDP growth and falling inflation toward the Fed's target of 2 per cent. Second, a no landing scenario under which GDP growth re-accelerated with stickier inflation. And third, a hard landing, or recession. Of course, each scenario has very different implications for asset prices generally and equity leadership, specifically. Just a few months ago, the consensus view skewed heavily toward a soft landing. However, the macro data have started to support the no landing outcome with recent growth and inflation data exceeding most forecasters' expectations – including the Fed’s. Over the past year, consensus views have gone from hard landing in the first quarter of 2023 to soft landing in the second quarter, back to hard landing in the third quarter to soft landing in the fourth quarter, and now to no landing currently. This shift has not been lost on markets with assets that benefit from higher inflation doing well over the past few months. However, while cyclically sensitive stocks and sectors have started to outperform, quality remains a key attribute for the leaders. We think this combination of quality and cyclical factors makes sense in the context of what is still a later, rather than early cycle re acceleration in growth. If it was more the latter, we would not be observing such persistent under performance of low-quality cyclicals and small caps. Furthermore, we continue to believe much of the upside in economic growth over the past year has been the result of government spending, funded by growing budget deficits. This has led to a crowding out of many smaller and lower quality businesses – and the lowest small business sentiment since 2012. As with most fiscal stimulus packages, the plan is for the bridge of support to buy time until a more durable growth outcome arrives – driven by organic private income, and consumption and spending. Until this potential outcome is more solidified, the equity market should continue to trade with a quality bias. The largest risk for stocks more broadly is higher 10-year Treasury yields as investors begin to demand a larger term premium due to higher inflation and the growing supply of bonds to pay for the endless deficits. While leadership within the equity market continues to broaden toward cyclicals it still makes sense to stay up the quality curve. Our recent upgrade of large cap Energy fits the shifting narrative to the no landing outcome, and it remains one of the cheapest ways to get exposure to the reflation theme. Other reflation trades are more extended in our view. Our primary concern for equities at this point is that aggressive fiscal spending has led to better economic growth. But it keeps upward pressure on inflation and prevents the Fed from cutting interest rates that many economic participants desperately need at this point. In short, a no landing outcome may make the crowding out problem even worse for smaller businesses, many consumers and even regional banks. This is all in-line with our 2024 outlook that suggests the major equity indices are overvalued while the best opportunities are likely beneath the surface in underappreciated sectors like energy that are positively levered to stickier inflation and higher interest rates. Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.
Japan and India are currently set to lead growth in these markets, but a higher-for-longer rate environment in the U.S. could favor China, Hong Kong and others, according to our analyst.----- Transcript -----Daniel Blake: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Daniel Blake from Morgan Stanley's Asia & Emerging Market Equity Strategy Team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll discuss whether U.S. macro resilience is too much of a good thing when it comes to its impact on Asia's equity markets.It's Friday 19th of April at 10am in Singapore.Our U.S. economics team has substantially lifted its forecast for 2024 and 2025 GDP growth following strong migration boosted activity and employment trends. Recent inflation readings have been bumpy, but our team still sees it moderating over the summer as core services and housing prices cool off. While the market has been focused on this silver lining of stronger global growth, the clouds are rolling in from expectations of a shallower and later easing of global monetary policy.Our team now believes that the first Fed rate cut won't come until July but does see two additional cuts coming in November and December. We've made similar adjustments in our outlook for Asia-ex-China's monetary policy easing cycle, seeing it coming later and shallower. Meanwhile, in Japan, our economists now expect two further hikes from the Bank of Japan -- in July this year, and again in January next year -- taking policy rates up to 0.5 per cent.But how does all this leave the Asia and EM equity outlook? In a word, mixed.We see this driving more divergence within Asia and EM, depending on how exposed each market is to stronger global growth, a stronger U.S. dollar or impacted by higher interest rates. On the positive side, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea have the most direct North American revenue exposure. And for Japan, the strong US dollar is also positive through the translation of foreign revenues back at this historically weak yen. However, in the short run, we do need to be mindful of any price momentum reversal as April is normally seasonally weak, and we do see dollar-yen approaching 155. So, any FX (foreign exchange) intervention could sharpen a price momentum reversal.Next up, we're paying close attention to India's equity market, where we have a secularly bullish view. India has remained resilient to date, consistent with our thesis that macro stability has become a key driver of the bull market. And this is in sharp contrast to prior cycles. For example, during the Taper tantrum of 2013, where India saw a sudden and sharp bear market as Fed expectations shifted.On the negative side then, we are seeing a breakdown in correlations of some markets with these higher Fed funds expectations, including in Indonesia and Brazil where policy space is being constrained, and in Australia where valuations were pushed up on hopes of an RBA easing cycle that won't come until next year in our view.So, this is indeed a mixed picture for Asia and EM, but we retain our core views that market leadership will continue coming from Japan and India through 2024. And so, what's the risk from here? The larger risk to Asia and EM markets, we think, comes from an even more inflationary and hawkish scenario where the Fed is forced to recommence rate hikes, ultimately bearing the risk of driving a hard landing to bring inflation back to target.In this scenario, we could see a pivot in leadership away from markets with high US revenue exposure, such as Taiwan and Japan, towards more domestically oriented and resilient late cycle markets, such as an emerging ASEAN partner, and potentially China and Hong Kong -- if additional stimulus is forthcoming there.Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.
GenAI will likely drive the exponential growth of data centers. Listen as our Capital Goods Analyst shares key takeaways on the electrical equipment central to the data center market.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Max Yates from the European Capital Goods team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll focus on the critical element of the AI revolution. It's Thursday, April 18, at 2pm in London. Over the last few weeks, several of my colleagues have come on to the show to talk about the exponential growth of data centers and just what it will take to power the GenAI revolution. Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Sustainability, forecasts that in 2027 data center power consumption just from GenAI will equal 80 percent of the consumption from all data centers in 2022.This shows the sheer scale of necessary additions and upgrades. And it also makes clear that the AI push provides very significant opportunities for Electrical Equipment companies. It’s these businesses that are the picks and shovels of the AI revolution. These companies provide key solutions such as Data Center Infrastructure Management software, connected equipment, racks, switchgears, and last but not least, cooling. Keep in mind that in this breakneck AI race, ever-increasing efficiency is essential. So, imagine we’re inside an actual data center. What you’d see is a huge number of racks, the steel frameworks that house the servers, cables, and other equipment. The power needed to run GenAI then creates a lot of heat.Our recent work on the data center market suggests two key takeaways when it comes to the electrical equipment.First, there’s a significant imbalance in supply-demand. Data center vacancy rates and rental prices all point to an intensifying capacity shortage. This explains why the top 10 cloud providers have increased their capital expenditures this year by 26 per cent. Equipment shortages and lead times are still an issue in the industry and large electrical equipment suppliers have a clear competitive advantage at the moment, with their stronger supply chains and ability to actually deliver this equipment. The second thing we found from our work, there are well-known and less well-known ways to deal with increasing power density. Now why is power density rising? Because what we’re trying to do is cram more high-power chips into the same amount of space. There’s more power per rack, higher computing workload that all has to be accommodated into less floor space. This higher power density, however, requires more powerful cooling solutions. But there’s also smaller changes that can support airflow management that are less talked about in the industry. This is things like busways, to reduce cable density and promote airflow. Smart equipment provides information on power consumption. And another key element is rear-door cooling, which pushes airflow through the servers.The other theme that’s gaining traction in the industry to facilitate a faster ramp up is the idea of modular data centers. This helps equipment suppliers plan supply chains but also customers to quickly ramp up and meet the new data center demand with more standardized data center offerings. However, there’s not yet an industry standard to manage higher data center power and rack density for AI. There will be new builds. There will also be data center upgrades. However, there’s no consensus yet on exactly how the power equipment will be configured, and when the data centers will be upgraded. And in what style and what way.      This is clearly a dynamic space to watch, and we’ll be keeping you updated.Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us wherever you listen to your podcasts. It helps more people to find the show.
As global conflicts escalate, our Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research unpacks the possible market outcomes as companies and governments seek to bolster security. ----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about current geopolitical tensions and their impact on markets.It's Wednesday, April 17th at 10:30 am in New York.Continued tensions in Middle East kept geopolitics in focus with clients this week. But markets seem to be shrugging off the recent escalation in the conflict, with relative stability in oil prices and equities. This implies some faith in the idea that the involved parties benefit from no further escalation – and will design responses to one another that won’t lead to a broader conflict with bigger consequences. But obviously, this tricky dynamic bears watching, which we’ll be doing. In the meantime, there’s a key market theme that’s underscored by these tensions. And that’s the idea of Security as a secular market theme.This is a topic we’ve been collaborating with many research teams on, including Ed Stanley, our thematics analyst in Europe, and defense sector research teams globally. The idea here boils down to this. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US’ increased rivalry with China, questions about the future of NATO, and of course the Middle East conflict, all reminds us that we’re in a transition phase to a multipolar world where security is more tenuous. That requires a lot of spending by companies and governments to cope with this reality. In fact, we estimate that supply chains, food and health systems, IT, and more will require about $1.5 trillion of investment across the US and EU to protect against rising geopolitical risks. This means a lot more demand for global tech and industrials.And of course it means more demand for the defense sector. Regardless of whether US military aid plans continue to stall, there’s news of increased spending in China, Canada, and Europe. Our head defense analyst in Europe, Ross Law, and our head European Economist Jens Eisenschmidt have looked at this in recent weeks. They argue there’s scope for tens of billions of euros in extra spend annually in Europe, with a greater geopolitical shock putting that number into the hundreds of billions. It’s a key reason our equity research colleagues favor the US and EU defense sectors.Bottom line, geopolitical events continue to reflect the transition to a multipolar world. And as companies and governments seek security in this world, there will be market impacts. We’ll be tracking them here.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.
Our Global Head of Sustainability Research and U.S. Utilities Analyst discuss the rapidly growing power needs of the GenAI enablers and how to meet them.----- Transcript -----Stephen Byrd: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Sustainability Research.David Arcaro: And I'm Dave Arcaro, Head of the US Power and Utilities team.Stephen Byrd: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll discuss just what it would take to power the Gen AI revolution.It's Tuesday, April 16th at 10am in New York.Last summer, scientists used GenAI to find a new antibiotic for a nasty superbug. It took the AI system all of an hour and a half to analyze about 7,000 chemical compounds; something that human scientists would have toiled over for months, if not years. It's clear that GenAI can open up breathtaking possibilities, but you have to stop and think. What kind of compute power is needed for all of this?A few weeks ago, our colleague Emmet Kelly, who covers European Telecom, discussed the exponential growth of European data centers on this podcast. And today, Dave and I want to continue the conversation about this critical moment of powering the GenAI revolution.So, Dave, what is your current assessment of the global power demand from data centers?David Arcaro: Yeah, Stephen, we're expecting rapid growth in the power demand coming from data centers across the world. We're currently estimating data centers consume about one and a half per cent of global electricity today. We're expecting that to grow to almost four percent in 2027. And in the US, data centers represent roughly three percent of total electricity consumption now, and we expect that to escalate to eight per cent of the total US by 2027.And there will be even more dramatic impacts at the local and regional level. The data center landscape tends to be highly concentrated, and the next wave of GenAI data centers is likely to be much larger than the previous generation.So, the impact on specific regions will be magnified. To give an example, in Georgia, the utility there has previously forecasted just half a percent of annual growth in electricity use but is now calling for nine per cent of annual growth in electricity consumption, and that's largely driven by data centers.It's a dynamic that we haven't seen in decades in the utility space.Stephen Byrd: You know, what I find interesting about what you just said, Dave, is -- it is impressive to see growth go from one and a half to four per cent, but it's really these local dynamics where what we're seeing is just much more concentrated, and that's where we start to see the real issues with the infrastructure growing quickly enough.So, it's becoming obvious that the existing power grid infrastructure is not meeting the growth and capacity needs of data centers. And that's something that you refer to as the tortoise and the hare. How big of a mismatch are we exactly talking about here, Dave?David Arcaro: It's definitely a big mismatch. To your point before, the US electricity growth across the country has been flattish over the last 10 years.So, this is a step change in expectations now, from the impact from Gen AI going forward. And we're looking at over 100 per cent annual growth in the power consumed by data centers now in the US over the next four years. And for comparison, the US utility industry is growing at about 8 per cent a year.These data centers that are coming are huge. They can be 10 to 50 times as big as the last generation of data centers in terms of their power consumption. And this means it takes time to connect to the electric grid and get power. 12 to 18 months in the best case, three to five years plus in other locations, often because they might need to wait for the electric utility grid to catch up, waiting for grid upgrades and assessments and new power plants to get built.Stephen Byrd: Well, I think those delays are going to be fairly problematic for the fast-moving GenAI sector. So essentially there's a lot of pressure on data center developers to secure a power source as quickly as possible. And in our note, we described the mathematics around that. The time value to get these data centers online is absolutely enormous. But you've just described the power grid infrastructure as a tortoise.So, are there any other alternatives? How about nuclear power plants in this context?David Arcaro: There's a lot of urgency, as you can tell from the data center companies, to get online as fast as possible. It's a fast-moving market, very competitive, they need the power, they need to run these GenAI models as soon as possible. And the utility industry is not used to responding to demand that's coming this quickly.It's a slower moving industry. There's policies and processes and regulation that all utilities have to get through. They're not prepared strategically to move as quickly as the data center industry is moving. So, data center developers are getting creative and they're looking at all options to get power.And one that has an appealing value proposition is nuclear plants. By placing a data center at an existing nuclear plant, this can avoid the need to go through that lengthy electric grid connection process, providing a much faster timeline to get the data center powered up.And that has big benefits for the data center companies, as you can imagine. Nuclear plants also have other advantages. They have land available on site. They have water for cooling, security. It's 24x7 clean power with no emissions, and it's already up and running, so you don't have to go and build much.Over time, we do expect renewables to play a major role as well in powering data centers along with traditional power from the electric grid and even new gas plants, but the benefits of coming online quickly in this market we think, give nuclear an edge.So, Stephen, as much as I can talk about the massive power needs of Gen AI, we can't ignore the issue of sustainability. So, what have you been thinking about when it comes to assessing the potential carbon footprint of powering data centers? What concerns are you seeing?Stephen Byrd: You know, Dave, this field is evolving so quickly that we've had to evolve our assessment of the carbon footprint of GenAI quite quickly as well. You know, traditionally what we would have seen is a data center gets connected to the grid. And then that data center developer would often sign a power contract with a renewable developer. And that results in a very low carbon footprint, if zero in many cases. But going forward, we do see the potential for increased natural gas usage in power plants, higher than we had originally forecast.And that's driven really by two dynamics. The first is the increased potential to site data centers directly at nuclear power plants, which you described, and there are a lot of benefits to doing so. In effect, what's going to happen then is, those data centers will siphon away that nuclear power, so less nuclear power goes to the grid. Something has to make up that deficit. That something is often going to be natural gas fired power plants.The second dynamic that we could see happening is an increased potential for just onsite natural gas fire power generation at the data centers that could provide shorter time to power, and also provide quite good power reliability.Now, when we sum these up and we look at the projected carbon footprint of data centers going forward, we could see an additional 70 million tons a year. We're about half a per cent of 2022 global CO2 emissions for data centers. That is quite a bit higher than we had previously forecast.Now that said, a wild card would be the hyperscalers and others who may decide to consciously offset this by signing additional power contracts with new renewables that could reduce this quite a bit. So, it's very much in flux right now. We frankly don't know what the carbon footprint is really going to look like.David Arcaro: You know, there's so much urgency to bring data centers online quickly that in the past many of these big hyperscalers especially have had quite ambitious sustainability goals and decarbonization goals. I'd say it's an open question on our end as to how flexible they might get in the near term or how strictly they do apply those decarbonization …Stephen Byrd: Exactly…David Arcaro: … targets going forward as they, y’know, also try to compete in an urgent grab for power in the near term.Stephen Byrd: That's exactly right. That's… You laid that tension out quite well.David Arcaro: And finally, from your global perspective, what regions are best positioned to keep pace with the power needs of Gen AI?Stephen Byrd: You know, Dave, I am thinking a lot about what you said a minute ago, about the size of these datacentres moving from, you know, quite small – often we would see datacentres at just 10 or 15 megawatts. Now the new designs are often above 100 megawatts.And now we're starting to hear and see some signs of truly mega data centers, essentially massive supercomputers that could be a thousand megawatts, a couple of thousand megawatts, and could cost tens of billions of dollars to build. So, when we think about that dynamic, that's a lot of power for any one location. So, to go back to your question, we think about the locations. It's very local specific.The dynamics all have to line up correctly, for this to work. So, we see pockets of opportunity around the world. Examples would be Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, Malaysia, Portugal -- these are locations for a variety of reasons where policy support is there, the infrastructure growth potential is there, and for a number of reasons, just it's the right confluence of dynamics. Most of the world doesn't have that confluence, so it's going to be very specific. And I think we're also setting up for a lot of concentration in those locations where all these dynamics line up.David Arcaro: You know, historically, the data ce
Markets are suggesting that spirits consumption will return to historical growth levels post-pandemic, but our Head of European Consumer Staples Research disagrees.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Sarah Simon, Head of the European Consumer Staples team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll talk about a surprising trend in the global spirits market.It's Monday, April 15, at 2pm in London. We all remember vividly the COVID-19 period when we spent much more on goods than services, particularly on goods that could be delivered to our homes. Not surprisingly, spirits consumption experienced a super-cycle during the pandemic. But as the world returned to normal, the demand for spirits has dropped off. The market believes that after a period of normalization, the US spirits market will return to mid-single-digit growth in line with history; but we think that’s too optimistic.Changes in demographics and consumer behavior make it much more likely that the US market will grow only modestly from here. There are several key challenges to the volume of US alcohol consumption in the coming years. Sobriety and moderation of alcohol intake are two rising trends. In addition, there’s the increased use of GLP-1 anti-obesity drugs, which appear to quell users' appetite for alcoholic beverages. And finally, there’s stiffer regulation, including the lowering of alcohol limits for driving.A slew of recent survey data points to consumer intention to reduce alcohol intake. A February 2023 IWSR survey reported that 50 per cent of US drinkers are moderating their consumption. Meanwhile, a January 2024 NCSolutions survey reported that 41 per cent of respondents are trying to drink less, an increase of 7 percentage points from the prior year. And importantly, this intention was most concentrated among younger drinkers, with 61 per cent of Gen Z planning to drink less in 2024, up from 40 per cent in the prior year's survey. Meanwhile, 49 per cent of Millennials had a similar intention, up 26 per cent year on year.Why is all this happening? And why now? Perhaps the increasingly vocal commentary by public bodies linking alcohol to cancer is really hitting home. Last November, the World Health Organization stated that "the higher the amount of alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of developing cancer" but also that "half of all alcohol-attributable cancers in the WHO European Region are caused by ‘light’ and ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption. A recent Gallup survey of Americans indicated that young adults are particularly concerned that moderate drinking is unhealthy, with 52 per cent holding this view, up from 34 per cent five years ago. Another explanation for the increased prevalence of non-drinking among the youngest group of drinkers may be demographic makeup: the proportion of non-White 18- to 34-year-olds has nearly doubled over the past two decades.And equally, the cost of alcohol, which saw steep price increases in the last couple of years, seems to be a reason for increased moderation. Spending on alcohol stepped up materially over the COVID-19 period when there were more limited opportunities for spending. With life returning to normal post pandemic, consumers have other – more attractive or more pressing – opportunities for expenditure.Thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts. It helps more people to find the show.
Unpacking Correlation

Unpacking Correlation


The math of ‘bond-equity correlation' is complicated. Our head of Corporate Credit Research breaks it down, along with the impact of bond rates on other asset classes.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Head of Corporate Credit Research at Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about why the same factors can have different outcomes for interest rates and credit spreads.It's Friday, April 12th at 2pm in London.  Most of 2024 remains to be written. But so far, the financial story has been a tale of two surprises. First, the US Economy continues to be much stronger and hotter than expected, with growth and job creation exceeding initial estimates. Then second, due in part to that strong economy, interest rates have risen materially, with the yield on the US 10-year government bond about half-a-percent higher since early January. More specifically, market attention over the last week has refocused on whether these higher interest rates are a problem for other markets. In math terms, this is the great debate around bond-equity or bond-spread correlation, the extent to which assets move with bond yields, and a really important variable when it comes to thinking about overall portfolio diversification. But this somewhat abstract mathematical idea of correlation can also be simplified. The factors that are driving yields higher might look very different for other asset classes, such as credit. That could argue for a different correlation. Let’s think about how.Consider first why yields have been rising. Economic data has been good, with strong job growth and rising Purchasing Manager Indices or PMIs, conditions that are usually tough for government bonds. Supply has been heavy, with the issuance of Treasuries up substantially relative to last year. The so-called carry on government bonds is bad as the yield on government bond yields is generally lower, much lower, than the yield on cash. And the time-of-year is unhelpful: since 1990, April has been the worst month of the year for government bonds.But take all those same things thought the eyes of a different asset class, such as credit, and they look – well – different. Good economic data should be good for credit; historically, low-but-rising PMIs, as we’ve been seeing recently, is the most credit-friendly regime. Corporate bond supply hasn’t risen nearly as much as the supply for government bonds. The carry for credit is positive, thanks to still-steep credit curves. And the time of year looks very different: over that same period since 1990, April has been the best month of the year for corporate credit – as well as broader stock markets.Government bonds are currently being buffeted by multiple headwinds. Hot economic data, heavy supply, poor yields relative to cash, and unhelpful seasonality. The good news? Well, Morgan Stanley’s interest rate strategists expect these headwinds to be temporary, and still forecast lower yields by year-end. But for other asset classes, including credit, it’s also important to note that that same data, supply, carry and seasonality debate – fundamentally look very different in other asset classes.We think that means that Credit spreads can stay at historically tight levels in April and beyond, even as government bond yields have risen.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.
With global temperatures rising and an increasing urgency to speed progress on the energy transition, our Head of Sustainability Equity Research examines the key materials needed—and the risks of disruption from US-China trade tensions.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Laura Sanchez, Head of Sustainability Equity Research in the Americas. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I’ll discuss a highly topical issue: the impact of US-China trade tensions on the energy transition. It is Thursday, April 11, at 12 pm in New York.Last week, you may have heard my colleagues discuss the geopolitics at play around US-China trade tensions and the energy transition. Today I’m going to elaborate on that discussion, spearheaded by my team, with a deeper dive into the materials and minerals at risk and exactly what is at stake for several industries in the US.When we talk about clean technologies such as electric vehicles, energy storage and solar, it is important to note that minerals such as rare earths, graphite, and lithium — just to name a few — are crucial to their performance. At present, China is a dominant producer of many of those key minerals, whether at the mining level – which is the case with gallium, rare earths and natural graphite; at the refining level – the case for cobalt and lithium; or at the downstream level – that is, the final product, such as batteries and EVs.If trade tensions between the US and China rise, we believe China could implement new or incremental export bans on some of these minerals that are key for western nations’ energy transition as well as for their broad economic and national security.So, we have analyzed over 10 materials and found that the highest risks of disruption exist for rare earths and related equipment, as well as for graphite, gallium, and cobalt. Some minerals have already seen certain export bans but given the lack of diversification across the value chain, we actually see the potential for incremental restrictions.So, this led us to ask our research analysts: how should investors view rising trade tensions in the context of clean technologies’ penetration, specifically?While electric vehicles appear most at risk, we see the largest negative impacts for the clean technology sector as well as for large-scale renewable energy developers. This has to do with China dominating around 70 per cent of the battery supply chain and still having strong indirect ties in the solar supply chain. But there are important nuances to consider for renewable energy developers, such as their ability to pass the higher costs to customers, whether this higher cost could hurt the economics of projects and therefore demand, and the unequal impacts between large and small players – where large, tier 1 developers could actually gain share in the market as they have proven to navigate better through supply chain bottlenecks in the past.On the Autos side, slower EV adoption would naturally impact sentiment on EV-tilted stocks; but as our sector analyst highlights, this could also mean lighter losses near term, as well as market share preservation for the largest EV players in the market. US Metals & Mining stocks would likely see positive moves as further trade tensions incentivize onshoring of mining and increase demand for US-made equipment.Given strong bipartisan support in the US for a more hawkish approach to China, our policy experts believe that the US presidential election is unlikely to lead to easing trade restrictions. Nonetheless, in terms of the energy transition theme, a Republican win could create volatility for trade and corporate confidence, while a Democrat administration would be more sensitive to the balance between protectionism and achieving global climate goals.Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.
Our Global Chief Economist joins our Head of Fixed Income Research to review the most recent Consumer Price Index data, and they lay out potential outcomes in the upcoming U.S. elections that could impact the course of inflation’s trajectory.  ----- Transcript -----Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Morgan Stanley's Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research.Seth Carpenter: And I'm Seth Carpenter, Global Chief Economist.Michael Zezas: And on this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll be taking a look at how the 2024 elections could impact the outlook for inflation.It's Wednesday, April 10th at 4pm in New York.Seth, earlier this morning, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for March, and it's probably an understatement to say it's been a much-anticipated report -- because it gives us some signal into both the pace of inflation and any potential fed rate cut path for 2024. I want to get into the longer-term picture around what the upcoming US election could mean for inflation. But first, I'd love your immediate take on this morning's data.Seth Carpenter: Absolutely, Mike. This morning's CPI data were absolutely critical. You are right. Much anticipated by markets. Everyone looking for a read through from those data to what it means for the Fed. I think there's no two ways about it. The market saw the stronger than expected inflation data as reducing the likelihood that the Fed would start cutting rates in June.June was our baseline for when the Fed would start cutting rates. And I think we are going to have to sharpen our pencils and ask just how much is this going to make the Fed want to wait? I think over time, however, we still see inflation drifting down over the course of this year and into next year, and so we still think the Fed will get a few rate hikes in.But you wanted to talk longer term, you wanted to talk about elections. And when I think about how elections could affect inflation, it's usually through fiscal policy. Through choices by the President and the Congress to raise taxes or lower taxes, and by choices by the Congress and the President to increase or decrease spending.So, when you think about this upcoming election, what are the main scenarios that you see for fiscal policy and an expansion, perhaps, of the deficit?Michael Zezas: Yeah, I think it's important to understand first that the type of election outcome that historically has catalyzed a deficit expansion is one where one party gets complete control of both the White House and both chambers of Congress.In 2025, what we think this would manifest in if the Democrats had won, is kind of a mix of tax extensions, as well as some spending items that they weren't able to complete during Biden's first term -- probably somewhat offset by some tax increases. On net, we think that would be incremental about $500 billion over 10 years, or maybe $40 [billion] to $50 billion in the first year.If Republicans are in a position of control, then we think you're looking at an extension of most of the expiring corporate tax cuts -- expire at the end of 2025 -- that is up to somewhere around a trillion dollars spread over 10 years, or maybe a hundred to $150 billion in the first year.Seth Carpenter: So, what I'm hearing you say is a wide range of possible outcomes, because you didn't even touch on what might happen if you've got a split government, so even smaller fiscal expansion.So, when I take that range from a truly modest expansion, if at all, with a split government, to a slight expansion from the Democrats, a slightly bigger one from a Republican sweep, I'm hearing numbers that clearly directionally should lead to some inflationary pressures -- but I'm not really sure they're big enough to really start to move the needle in terms of inflationary outcomes.And I guess the other part that we have to keep in mind is the election’s happening in November of this year. The new president, if there's a new president, the new Congress would take seats in the beginning of the year next year. And so, there's always a bit of a lag between when a new government takes control and when legislation gets passed; and then there's another lag between the legislation and the outcome on the economy.And by the time we get to call it the end of 2025 or the beginning of 2026, I think we really will have seen a lot of dissipation of the inflation that we have now. So, it doesn't really sound like, at least from those baseline scenarios that we're talking about a huge impetus for inflation. Would you think that's fair?Michael Zezas: I think that's fair. And then it sort of begs the question of, if not from fiscal policy, is there something we need to consider around monetary policy? And so around the Fed, Chair Powell's term ends in January of 2026 -- meaning potential for a new Fed chair, depending on the next US president.So, Seth, what do you think the election could mean for monetary policy then?Seth Carpenter: Yeah, that's a great question, Mike. And it's one that, as you know well, we tend to get from clients, which is why you and I jointly put out some research with other colleagues on just what scope is there for there to be a -- call it particularly accommodative Fed chair under that Republican sweep scenario.I would say my take is -- not the biggest risk to worry about right now. There are two seats on the Federal Reserve Board that are going to come open for whoever wins the election as president to appoint. That's the chair, clearly very important. And then one of the members of the Board of Governors.But it's critical to remember there's a whole committee. So, there are seven members of the Board of Governors plus five voting members, across the Federal Reserve Bank presidents. And to get a change in policy that is so big, that would have massive inflationary impacts, I really think you'd have to have the whole committee on board. And I just don't see that happening.The Fed is set up institutionally to try to insulate from exactly that sort of, political influence. So, I don't think we would ever get a Fed that would simply rubber stamp any president's desire for monetary policy.Michael Zezas: I think that makes a lot of sense. And then clients tend to ask about two other concerns; with particularly concerns with the Republican sweep scenario, which would be the impact of potentially higher trade tariffs and restrictions on immigration. What's your read here in terms of whether or not either of these are reliable in terms of their impact on inflation?Seth Carpenter: Yeah, super topical. And I would say at the very least, we have some experience now with tariff policy. And what did we see during the last episode where there was the trade war with China? I think it's very natural to assume that higher tariffs mean that the cost of imported goods are going to be higher, which would lead to higher inflation; and to some extent that was true, but it was a much smaller, much more muted effect than I think you might otherwise assume given numbers like 25 per cent tariffs or has been kicked around a few times, maybe 60 per cent tariffs. And the reason for that change is a few things.One, not all of the goods being brought in under tariffs are final consumer goods where the price would just go straight through to something like the CPI. A lot of them were intermediate goods. And so, what we saw in the last round of tariffs was some disruption to US manufacturing, disruption to production in the United States because the cost of production went up.And so, it was as much a supply shock as it was anything else. For those final consumer goods, you could see some pass through; but remember, there's also the offset through the exchange rate, that matters a lot. And, consumers, they have a willingness to pay, or maybe a willingness not to pay, and so, sellers aren't always able to pass through the full cost of the tariffs. And so, as a result, I think the net effect there is some modestly higher inflation, but really, it's important to keep in mind that hit to economic activity that, over time, could actually go in the opposite direction and be disinflationary.Immigration, very different story, and it has been very much in the news recently. And we have seen a huge surge in immigration last year. We expect it to continue this year. And we think it's contributing to the faster run rate that we've seen in the economy without continued inflationary pressure. So, I think it's a natural question to ask -- if immigration was restricted, would we see labor shortages? Would that drive up inflation? And the answer is maybe.However, a few things are really critical. One, the Fed is still in restrictive territory now, and they're only going to start to lower rates if and when we see inflation come down. So the starting point will matter a lot. And second, when we did our projections, we took a lot of input from where the CBO's estimates are, and they've already been assuming that immigration flows really start to normalize a bit in 2025 and a lot more in 2026. Back to run rates that are more like pre-COVID rates. And so, against that backdrop, I think a change in immigration policy might be less inflationary because we'd already be in a situation where those flows were coming down.But that's a good time for me to turn things around, Mike, and throw it right back to you. So, you've been thinking about the elections. You run thematic research here. I've heard you say to clients more than once that there is some scope, but limited scope for macro markets to think about the outcome from the election, but lots of scope from a micro perspective. So, if we were thinking about the effect of the election on equity markets, on individual sectors, what would be your early read on where we should be focusing most?Michael Zezas: So we've long been saying that the reliable market impacts from this election,
Our Chief Fixed Income Strategist surveys the latest big swings in the oil market, which could lead to opportunities in equities and credit around the energy sector.----- 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 implications of recent strong moves in oil markets.It's Tuesday, April 9th at 3pm in New York.A lot is going on in the commodity markets, particularly in the oil market. Oil prices have made a powerful move. What is driving these moves? And how should investors think about this in the context of adjacent markets in equities and credit?Morgan Stanley's Global Commodity Strategist and Head of European Energy Research, Martijn Rats, raised crude oil price forecast for the third quarter to $94 per barrel. The rally in recent weeks is a result of positive fundamental news and rising geopolitical tensions.On the fundamental side, we've had better than expected demand from China and steeper than forecast fall in US production. Further, oil prices have also found support from growing potential for supply uncertainty in the Middle East. Martijn thinks that the last few dollars of rally in oil prices should be interpreted as a premium for rising geopolitical risks. The revision to the third quarter forecast should therefore be seen to reflect these growing geopolitical risks.Our US equity strategists, led by Mike Wilson, have recently upgraded the energy sector. The underlying rationale behind the upgrade is that the energy sector relative performance has really lagged crude oil prices; and unlike many other sectors within the US stock world, valuation in energy stocks is very compelling.Furthermore, the relative earnings revisions in energy stocks are beginning to inflect higher and the sector is actually exhibiting best breadth of any sector across the US equity spectrum. Higher oil prices are also important for credit markets. To quote Brian Gibbons, Morgan Stanley's Head of Energy Credit Research, for credit bonds of oil focused players, flat production levels and strong commodity prices should support free cash flow generation, which in turn should go to both shareholder returns and debt reduction.In summary, there is a lot going on in the energy markets. Oil prices have still some room to move higher in the short term. We find opportunities both in equity and credit markets to express our constructive view on oil prices.Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to this podcast. And share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.
Our Global Chief Economist explains why the rapid hikes, pause and pivot of the current interest rate cycle are reminiscent of the 1990s.----- Transcript -----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 current interest rate cycle and the parallels we can draw from the 1990s.It's Monday, April 8th, at 10am in New York.Last year, we reiterated the view that the 1990s remain a useful cycle to consider for understanding the current cycle. Our European equity strategy colleagues shared our view, and they've used that episode to inform their ‘out of consensus, bullish initiation on European equities’ in January. No two cycles are identical, but as we move closer to a Fed cut, we reassess the key aspects of that comparison.We had previously argued that the current interest rate cycle and the mid 90s cycle differ from the intervening cycles because the goal now is to bring inflation down, rather than preventing it from rising. Of course, inflation was already falling when the 1994 cycle started, in part, because of the recession in 1991.This cycle -- because much of the inflation was driven by COVID-related shocks, like supply chains for consumer goods and shifts in housing for shelter inflation -- inflation started falling rapidly from its peak before the first hike could have possibly had any effect. In recent months, our economic growth forecasts have been regularly revised upward, even as we have largely hit our expected path for inflation.A labor supply shock appears to be a contributing factor that accounts for some of that forecast deviation, although fiscal policy likely contributed to the real side's strength as well. Supply shocks to the labor market are an interesting point of comparison for the two cycles. In the 1990s, labor force growth was still benefiting from this multi-decade rise in labor force participation among females. The aggregate labor force participation rate did not reach its peak until 2000.Now, as we've noted in several publications, the surge in immigration is providing a similar supply side boost, at least for a couple of years. But the key lesson for me for the policy cycle is that monetary policy is not on a pre-set, predetermined course merely rising, peaking and then falling. Cycles can be nuanced. In 1994, the Fed hiked the funds rate to 6 per cent, paused at that peak and then cut 75 basis points over 1995 and 1996. After that, the next policy move was actually a hike, not a cut.Currently, we think the Fed starts cutting rates in June; and for now, we expect that cutting to continue into next year. But as our US team has noted, the supply side revisions mean that the path for policy next year is just highly uncertain and subject to review. From 1994 to 1996, job gains trended down, much like they have over the past two years.That slowing was reflective of a broader slowing in the economy that prompted the Fed to stop hiking and partially reverse course. So, should we expect the same now, only a very partial reversal? Well, it's too soon to tell, and as we've argued, the faster labor supply growth expands both aggregate demand and aggregate supply -- so a somewhat tighter policy stance could be appropriate.In 1996, inflation stopped falling, and subsequently rose into 1997, and it was that development that supported the Fed's decision to maintain their somewhat restrictive policy. But we can't forget, afterward, inflation resumed its downward trajectory, with core PCE inflation eventually falling below 1.5 per cent, suggesting that that need to stop cutting and resume hiking, well, probably needs to be re-examined.So, no two cycles match, and the comparison may break down. To date, the rapid hikes, pause and pivot, along with a seeming soft landing, keeps that comparison alive. The labor supply shock parallel is notable, but it also points to what might be, just might be, another possible parallel.In the late 1990s, there was a rise in labor productivity, and we've written here many times about the potential contributions that AI might bring to labor productivity in coming years.Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.
Oil demand has been higher than expected so far in 2024. Our Global Commodities Strategist explains what could drive oil to $95 per barrel by summer.----- 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 discuss recent developments in the oil market. It is Friday, April the 5th at 4 PM in London. At the start of the year, the outlook for the oil market looked somewhat unexciting. With the recovery from COVID largely behind us, growth in oil demand was slowing down. At the same time, supply from countries outside of OPEC (Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries) had been growing strongly and we expected that this would continue in 2024. In fact, at the start of the year it looked likely that growth in non-OPEC supply would meet, or even exceed, all growth in global demand. When that occurs, room in the oil market for OPEC oil is static at best, which in turn means OPEC needs to keep restraining production to keep the balance in the market. Even if it does that, it results in a decline in market share and a build-up of spare capacity. History has often warned against such periods.Still, by early February, the oil market started to look tighter than initially expected. Demand started to surprise positively – partly in jet fuel, as aviation was stronger than expected; partly in bunker fuel as the Suez Canal issues meant that ships needed to take longer routes; and partly in oil as petrochemical feedstock, as the global expansion of steam cracker capacity continues. At the same time, production in several non-OPEC countries had a weak start of the year, particularly in the United States where exceptionally cold weather in the middle of January caused widespread freeze offs at oil wells, putting stronger demand and weaker supply together, and the inventory builds that we expected in the early part of the year did not materialise. By mid-February, we could argue that the oil market looked balanced this year, rather than modestly oversupplied; and by early March, we were able to forecast that oil market fundamentals were strong enough to drive Brent crude oil to $90 a barrel over the summer.Since then, Brent has honed in on that $90 mark quicker than expected. Over the last week or so, the oil market has shown a powerful rally that has the hallmarks of simply tightening fundamentals but also with some geopolitical risk premium creeping back into the price. For now, our base-case forecast for the summer is still for Brent to trade around $90 per barrel as that is where we currently see fundamental support. However, the oil market typically enjoys a powerful seasonal demand tailwind over the summer. And that still lies ahead. And, geopolitical risk is still elevated, for which oil can be a useful diversifier. With those factors, our $95 bull case can also come into play.Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.
Experts from our research team discuss how tensions with China could limit US access to essential technologies and minerals.----- Transcript -----Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research.Ariana Salvatore: And I'm Ariana Salvatore from the US Public Policy Research Team.Michael Zezas: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll discuss how tensions in the US-China economic relationship could impact US attempts to transition to clean energy.It's Thursday, April 4th at 10am in New York.Ariana, in past episodes, I've talked about governments around the world really pushing for a transition to clean energy, putting resources into moving away from fossil fuels and moving towards more environmentally friendly alternatives. But this transition won't be easy. And I wanted to discuss with you one challenge in the US that perhaps isn't fully appreciated. This is the tension between US climate goals and the goal of reducing economic links with China. So, let's start there.What's our outlook for tensions in the near term?Ariana Salvatore: So, first off, to your point, the world needs over two times the current annual supply of several key minerals to meet global climate pledges by 2030. However, China is a dominant player in upstream, midstream, and downstream activities related to many of the required minerals.So, obviously, as you mentioned, trade tensions play a major role in the US ability to acquire those materials. We think friction between the US and China has been relatively controlled in recent years; but we also think there are a couple factors that could possibly change that on the horizon.First, China's over-invested in excess manufacturing capacity at a time when domestic demand is weak, driving the release of extra supply to the rest of the world at very low prices. That, of course, impacts the ability of non-Chinese players to compete. And second, obviously a large focus of ours is the US election cycle, which in general tends to bring out the hawk in both Democrats and Republicans alike when it comes to China policy.Michael Zezas: Right. So, all of that is to say there's a real possibility that these tensions could escalate again. What might that look like from a policy perspective?Ariana Salvatore: Well, as we established before, both parties are clearly interested in policies that would build barriers protecting technologies critical to US economic and national security. These could manifest through things like additional tariffs, as well as incremental non-tariff barriers, or restrictions on Chinese goods via export controls.Now, importantly, this could in turn cause China to act, as it has done in the recent past, by implementing export bans on minerals or related technology -- key to advancing President Biden's climate agenda, and over which China has a global dominant position.Specifically on the mineral front. China dominates 98 per cent of global production of gallium, more than 90 per cent of the global refined natural graphite market, and more than 80 per cent of the global refined markets of both rare earths and lithium. So, we've noted that those minerals are at the highest risk of disruption from potential escalation intentions.But Michael, from a market's perspective, are there any sectors that stand out as potential beneficiaries from this dynamic?Michael Zezas: So, our research colleagues have flagged that traditional US autos would see mostly positive implications from this outcome as EV penetration would likely stagnate further in the event of higher trade tensions. Similarly, US metals and mining stocks would likely benefit on the back of increased support from the government for US production, as well as increased demand for locally sourced materials.On the flip side, Ariana, any clear risks that our analysts are watching for?Ariana Salvatore: Yeah, so a clear impact here would be in the clean tech sector, which faces the greatest risk of supply chain disruption in an environment with increasing trade barriers in the alternative energy space. And that's mainly a function of the severe dependencies that exist on China for battery hardware. Our analysts also flagged US large scale renewable energy developers for potential downside impacts in this scenario -- again, specifically due to their exposure to battery and solar panel supply chains, most of which stems from China domiciled industries.Michael Zezas: Makes sense and clearly another reason we’ll have to keep tracking the US-China dynamic for investors. Ariana, thanks for taking the time to talk.Ariana Salvatore: Great speaking with you Mike.Michael Zezas: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review wherever you listen to the show and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.
Consumers are increasingly sensitive about where their personal data is being processed and stored. The head of our European Telecom team explains the complexity around data sovereignty and why investors should care about the issue.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Emmet Kelly, Head of Morgan Stanley’s European Telecom team. Today I’ll be talking about data sovereignty. It’s Wednesday, April 3rd, at 5pm in London.It’s never been easier to manage your life with just a click of a button or tap on the screen. You can take a photo, upload it to social media, and share it with friends and family. You can pay your bills online – from utilities and groceries to that personal splurge. You can even renew your library card or driver’s license or access your emails from years and years ago.But where is all this data stored? Our recent work shows that consumers are increasingly sensitive about this issue. Among European consumers, for example, more than 80 percent think it’s either very or somewhat important to know where their data is stored. And two-thirds of European consumers would like their data to be stored in their country of residence. A further 20 percent would be willing to pay more to store data locally, especially consumers in Spain and Germany. These results suggest that in the future, processing and storage of European data is more likely to be near shored rather than be based abroad.A few weeks ago, I came on this podcast to talk about our expectation that European data centers will grow five-fold over the next decade. Our research showed that key drivers would include increased cloudification, artificial intelligence and data sovereignty. We believe the most under-appreciated driver of this exponential growth is the question of where data is stored and processed. This is data sovereignty; and it’s a concern for European consumers.Data sovereignty means having legal control and jurisdiction over the storage and processing of data. It also means that data is subject to the laws of the country where that data was gathered and processed. More than 100 countries have data sovereignty laws in place, and laws governing the transfer of data between countries will only proliferate from here. In Europe, for example, we estimate that less than 50 per cent of cloud data is stored locally, within the European continent. The remainder is stored either in the US – notably in Virginia, which is the key data center hub in the United States; or, to a lesser extent, in lower-cost locations within Emerging Markets or in Asia.Complicating the issue of data sovereignty further are the so-called “extraterritorial laws” or "extra-territorial jurisdiction." These dictate the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal geographic boundaries. From a data perspective, even if data is stored and/or processed in Europe, it may also be subject to extraterritorial laws. Essentially, foreign, non-European governments could still gain access to European data.This is something to keep in mind as we put data sovereignty in the context of the transition to a multipolar world – a major theme which Morgan Stanley Research has been mapping out since 2019. The rewiring of the global economy is well under way and data security is a key imperative for policy makers against the backdrop of accelerating tech diffusion and also geopolitical tensions. Our baseline de-risking scenario for the rewiring of global trade extends to data security and implies a robust case for the near shoring of European data and data center growth.With so little of the European data pie stored or processed in Europe, the potential upside from near-shoring is considerable. Bottom line, we think investors should pay close attention to the issue of data sovereignty, especially as it plays out in Europe over the coming decade.  Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today.
We discuss how the upcoming U.S. elections could affect trade and tax policy, and which scenarios are most favorable to retailers and brands. ----- Transcript -----Ariana Salvatore: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Ariana Salvatore from Morgan Stanley's US Public Policy Research Team.Alex Straton: And I'm Alex Straton, head of the North America Softlines Retail and Brands team.Ariana Salvatore: On this episode of the podcast, we'll discuss some key policy issues that may play into the U.S. presidential election and their potential impact on businesses and consumers.It's Tuesday, April 2nd, at 10 am in New York.Election season is fully underway here in the U.S. and as in past election cycles, trade policy and tax reform are once again a big concern.With that in mind, I wanted to discuss the potential implications on the retail space with my colleague Alex. So, let's start there. In general, Alex, how are retail stocks impacted leading up to the U.S. presidential elections?Alex Straton: So, look, this kind of surprised us when we had looked into some of this data. But if you look at the last six elections or so, on a full year basis, trading activity can be super volatile in my coverage; and it depends on what's at stake.But what we do broadly observe is back half underperformance to a bigger magnitude than is typical in a normal year. So, there is pressure on these stocks, in a way that you don't see in non-election years. Makes sense, right? Kind of a makes sense hypothesis that we confirmed. But I think the more interesting nugget about Softlines, Retail and Brand stocks leading into elections is that the higher frequency data can actually look worse than what actually comes to fruition in the top line or the sales numbers.So, by that I mean, you'll see surveys out of our economics team or out of, you know, big economics forums that say, ‘Oh, sentiment is getting worse.’ And then we'll see things like traffic is getting worse, these higher frequency indicators; and they actually end up almost exacerbating the impact than what we actually see when we get the true revenue results later on.So, my point being -- beware, as you see this degradation in the data; that doesn't necessarily mean that these businesses fundamentals are going to deteriorate to the same degree. In fact, it shows you that -- yes, maybe they're a little bit worse, but not to that extent.Alex Straton: So, Ariana, let's look at the policy side. More specifically, let's talk about some potential changes in tax policy that's been a hot topic for companies I cover. So, what's on the horizon, top down?Ariana Salvatore: Yeah, so, lots of changes to think about the horizon here.Just for some quick context, back in 2017, Republicans under former President Trump passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and that included a whole host of corporate and individual tax cuts. The way that law was structured was set to start rolling off around 2022, and most, if not all, of the bill is set to expire by the end of 2025.So that means that regardless of the election outcome, the next Congress will have to focus on tax policy, either by extending those cuts, or allowing some or all of them to roll off. So, in general, we think a Democratic sweep scenario would make it more likely that you would see the corporate rate, perhaps tick up a few points; while in a Republican sweep, we think you probably would maintain that 21 per cent corporate rate; and perhaps extend some of the other expiring corporate provisions.So, Alex, how do you expect these potential changes in the corporate tax side to impact the retailers and the brands that you cover?Alex Straton: Yeah. So, high level, I think about it on a sub-sector basis. And so, the headline you should hear is that my brand or wholesale coverage, which has more international revenue experience exposure, is better off than my retail coverage, which has more domestic or North America exposure.And it all just comes back to having more or less foreign exposure. The more North America exposure you have, the more subject you are to a change in tax rate. The more foreign exposure you have, the less subject you are to a change in tax rate. So that's the high-level way to think about it.We did run some analyses across our coverage, and if we do see the US corporate tax rate, let's say, lowered to 15 per cent hypothetically, we'll call that the Trump outcome, if you will. We calculate about a 5 per cent average benefit to 2025 earnings across our coverage. Now on the other hand, if we see something like a corporate tax rate that goes to 25 per cent, Biden outcome -- let's just label it that. We calculate 3 per cent average downside to the 2025 EPS estimates in our coverage.So that's how we sized it. It's not a huge swing, right? And the only reason why there's what I would call more of a benefit than a downside impact of that analysis is because of where the current tax rate sits and the relative magnitudes we took around it.Alex Straton: Now back over to you. You've highlighted trade policy as another key issue for the [20]24 election. Why is it so crucial in this election cycle compared to prior ones we've seen?Ariana Salvatore: Right. So, in contrast to some of the tax changes that we were just talking about, those would require full congressional agreement, right?So, you need either sweep scenario to make changes to tax policy in a really significant way. Trade policy is completely different because it is very much at the discretion of the president alone. So, to that end, we've envisioned a few different scenarios that can range from things like targeted tariffs on particular goods or trading partners, you know, something akin to the first Trump administration; to things like a universal baseline tariff scenario, and that's more similar to some of the more recent proposals that the former president has been talking about on the campaign trail.So, there are a whole host of different circumstances that can lead to each of those outcomes, but it's critically important, that level of discretion that I mentioned before. And we think for that reason, that investors really need to contemplate each of these different scenarios and what they could mean for, you know, macro markets and their individual stocks that they cover. Because, frankly, a lot can change.So, to that point, how do you think changes in trade policy are going to affect the side of the retail sector that you cover? Obviously, you mentioned North American exposure, so I imagine that's going to be critical again.But what kind of businesses will be most affected under the different scenarios that I just mentioned?Alex Straton: Yeah, so the way we examined this on our end, so from a Softlines, Retail, and Brands perspective, was looking at what a incremental China tariff means.I do think there's important background for people to understand in my space that differs this time around versus an election cycle, you know, four or eight years ago, whatever it may have been -- in that my companies have intentionally diversified out of China.The fact I love to give people is that US apparel imports from China has fallen from nearly 40 per cent to 20 per cent in the last, you know, decade or so; with 10 points of that in the last five years alone. So, the headline you should hear is there's not as much China exposure as there used to be. So that's good if there is a tariff put on for my companies. But with that backdrop, turning to the numbers, we have about 20 per cent cost of goods sold exposure to China on average across Softlines, Retail and Brands businesses.So, if that goes up by an incremental 10 per cent what we calculate is about a 15 per cent impact to 2025 earnings across my coverage. One final thing I would say is that it's very rare for businesses to have a North America based supply chain. But there are some companies -- very few, but select ones -- that do have a majority domestic supply chain. You can think about some of the favorite jeans you might wear on an everyday basis. Maybe more often than not, you don't realize they're actually made in America. And that's a benefit in a scenario like that.Ariana Salvatore: Makes sense. Alex, thanks for taking the time to talk.Alex Straton: It was great speaking with you, Ariana. Thanks for having me.Ariana Salvatore: And thank you for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review wherever you listen to the show and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.
Our Global Chief Economist surveys recent US and Australian census data to explain immigration’s impact on labor supply and demand, as well as the implications for monetary policy. ----- Transcript -----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. And today, I'll be talking about immigration, economic growth, and the implications for monetary policy.It's Monday, April 1st, at 10am in New York.Global migration is emerging as an important macro trend. Some migration patterns change during and after COVID, and such changes can have first order effects on the population and labor force of an economy.That fact has meant that several central banks have discussed immigration in the context of their economic outlook; and we focus here on the Fed and the Reserve Bank of Australia, the RBA.In the US, recent population estimates from the CBO and the census suggests that immigration has been and is still driving faster growth in the population and labor supply, helping to explain some of last year's upside surprise in non-farm payrolls. In Australia, the issue is even longer standing, and accelerated migration in recent years has provided important support to consumption and inflation.From a macro perspective, immigration can boost both aggregate demand and aggregate supply. More specifically, more immigration can lead to stronger consumption spending, a larger labor force, and may drive investment spending.The permanence of the immigration, like some immigrants are temporary students or just visiting workers, the skill level of the migrants and the speed of labor force integration are consequential -- in determining whether supply side or demand side effects dominate. Demand side effects tend to be more inflationary and supply side effects more disinflationary.In Australia, the acceleration in immigration has played an important driver in population growth and aggregate demand. In the decade before COVID, net migration added about a percentage point to the population growth annually. In 2022 and 2023, the growth rate accelerated beyond two percent. The pace of growth and migration and the type of migration have supported consumption spending and made housing demand outpace housing supply.Our Australia economists note that net migration will likely remain a tailwind for spending in 2024 -- but with significant uncertainty about the magnitude. In stark contrast, recent evidence in the US suggests that the surge in immigration has had a relatively stronger impact on aggregate supply. Growth in 2023 surprised to the upside, even relative to our rosier than consensus outlook.Academic research on US states suggests that over the period from 1970 to 2006, immigration tended to increase capital about one for one with increases in labor -- because the capital labor ratio in states receiving more immigrants remained relatively constant. That is, the inflow of immigrants stimulated an increase in investment.Of course, the sector of the economy that attracts the immigrants matters a lot. Immigrants joining sectors with lesser capital intensiveness may show less of this capital boosting effect.So, what are the implications for monetary policy? Decidedly, mixed. In the short run, more demand from any of the above sources will tend to be inflationary, and that suggests a higher policy rate is needed. But, as any supply boosting effects manifest, easier policy is called for to allow the economy to grow into that higher potential. So, a little bit here, a little bit there. Over the long run, though, only a persistently faster growth rate in immigration, as opposed to a one-off surge, would be able to raise the equilibrium rate, the so-called R star, on a permanent basis.Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or a colleague today.
A landmark settlement with the National Association of Realtors will change the way brokers are paid commissions. How would this affect people looking to buy or sell homes? Our co-heads of Securitized Products Research discuss.----- Transcript -----James Egan: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Jim Egan, co-head of Securitized Products Research at Morgan Stanley.Jay Bacow: And I'm Jay Bacow, the other co-head of Securitized Products Research.James Egan: And on this episode of the podcast, we'll be discussing some proposed changes to the US housing market. It's Thursday, March 28th, at 1pm in New York.Jay Bacow: Jim, two weeks ago, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) settled a case that could fundamentally change how commissions are paid to brokers. Acknowledging that there's a few months until this is all going to get approved, it looks like sellers are no longer going to have to compensate buyers’ agents. Which means that the closing cost that sellers have to pay is going to come down from the current 5 to 6 per cent to brokers to something more in the context of 3.5 to 4 percent -- based on estimates from many economists. What does this mean for the housing market?James Egan: So, this is certainly a settlement worth paying attention to.There are a lot of moving pieces here, but some of our first thoughts. Look, if we're lowering the ultimate transaction costs when it comes to selling homes, we do think that -- all else equal and probably a little bit more into the future -- it's going to lead to a higher volume of transactions. Or a higher level of turnover in the housing market.Now sellers no longer having to compensate buyers’ agents. That becoming something that buyers will need to do -- that could, at least from a perception perspective, increase the cost for buyers at a place, where we're already at one of our least affordable points in several decades. So, when we think about an increased level of transaction volumes; if that means, especially in the near term, or especially where we are right now, a little bit of an increase in for-sale inventory, combined with some of the affordability issues -- maybe it weighs a little bit on home prices. But our bottom line here is we think from a home price perspective, largely unchanged here. From a transaction volume perspective, all else equal, you could see a little bit of a pickup.Jay Bacow: All right. But Jim, haven't you been calling for some of the story already with increased housing activity, causing home prices to end 2024 slightly below 2023. Does this then change the narrative at all?James Egan: No, I don't think this changes the narrative. If we go back into that call just a little bit, our call for the marginal decrease in year over year home price growth was driven by growth in for-sale inventory this year. We're seeing that steady growth in existing listings over the past couple of months.Now, the most recent housing start print was also positive from this perspective. Single unit housing starts were up for the eighth month in a row and have now increased 11 per cent from their local lows, which were in June of 2023. I think it's also worth pointing out over that same time frame, five plus unit starts, multi-unit housing, they're down in almost every single one of those months -- all but one of them. And they're down 19 per cent from that same month, June of 2023. But that's probably something for another podcast.Jay Bacow Alright. Well, I think there's two more things we should include in this podcast. First, this settlement isn't the only factor that could increase housing activity. Recently, around the State of the Union [address], President Biden announced a number of plans that could also contribute.Now, some of them require congressional approval, including a $10,000 middle-income first-time homebuyer tax credit. And then a separate $10,000 tax credit to middle class families that would sell their home below the median income in the county to help account for some of these lock-in effects that you mentioned.Jay Bacow: However, he also announced a pilot program that would eliminate total insurance fees for some low-risk refinance transactions. And that one doesn't require congressional approval; it's getting put in place as we speak, and that would save homeowners about $750 in closing costs on a refinance.James Egan: Interesting. So, if I'm hearing you correctly, the ones that would require congressional approval, they're more on the -- what we would call housing activity side: sales, purchase volumes. Whereas the one that didn't was on the refinance side. Now, presumably there's not much refinance activity going on right now.Jay Bacow: That's a correct presumption. Right now, we estimate that only about 3 per cent of homeowners have a critical incentive to refinance 25 basis points versus a prevailing mortgage rate. So, this is going to matter a lot more if we rally in rates. Realistically, we think we need a mortgage rate to get closer to 5 per cent than the current level for this to really matter.But I imagine that's probably a similar case with the NAR settlement as well.James Egan: Exactly. And that's why I made a point to say, all else equal, we think this is going to lead to a higher volume of transactions or a higher turnover rate in the housing market. It's because of that lock-in effect. Right now, so much of the homeowning distribution is well below the prevailing mortgage rate, that any real impacts of this we think are just going to be on the margins.Jay Bacow: Alright, so there's a lot of changes are coming to the housing market. They're likely to impact the market more if rates rally and are more of the back half of the year, next year event than this summer.Jim, thanks for taking the time to talk.James Egan: Great speaking with you, Jay.Jay Bacow: And thanks for listening.If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review wherever you listen, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.
Consumer credit scores have ticked higher in the last two years – but so have the rate of delinquencies and defaults. Our Global Head of Fixed Income discusses “credit score migration” with the firm's Asset-Backed Security Strategist.----- Transcript -----Michael Zezas: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research for Morgan Stanley.Heather Berger: And I'm Heather Berger, Asset-Backed Security Strategist.Michael Zezas: And today, we'll be talking about the trend of migrating US consumer credit scores and the potential effect on equities and fixed income. It's Wednesday, March 27th at 10am in New York.Heather, I really wanted to talk to you today because we've all seen some recent news reports about delinquencies and defaults in consumer credit ticking higher over the last two years. That means more people missing payments on their car loans and credit cards, suggesting the consumer is increasingly in a stressed position. But at the same time, that seems to be at odds with what's been an upward trend in consumers’ credit scores, which on its face should suggest the consumer is in a healthier position.So, it all begs the question: what's really going on here with the consumer, and what does it mean for markets? Now, you and your colleagues have been doing some really fascinating work showing that in order to get to the truth here, we have to understand that there's a measurement problem. There’s quirks in the data that, when you understand them, mean you have a more accurate picture of the health of the consumer. And that, in turn, can clarify some opportunities in the fixed income and equity markets.So, this measurement problem seems to center around the idea of credit score migration. Can you start by explaining what exactly is credit score migration?Heather Berger: Sure. So, credit scores are used as a way to estimate expected default risk on consumer loans. And these scores are really the most standardized and widespread way of evaluating consumer credit quality. Scores are meant to be relative metrics at any point in time. So, a 700 score today is meant to indicate less default risk than a 600 score today, but a 700 score today isn't necessarily the same as a 700 score a few years ago.Credit scores have been increasing throughout the past decade; most extremely from 2020 to 2021, largely due to COVID related factors such as stimulus checks. The average credit score is up 10 points in the past four years, and this trend has broadly been referred to as credit score migration.Michael Zezas: So, just so we can have a concrete example, can you talk about how this has affected one particular consumer credit category?Heather Berger: Well, as you mentioned earlier, delinquencies and defaults have been rising across consumer loan types, whether it's autos, credit cards, or personal loans. The macro backdrop has definitely contributed to this, as inflation has weighed on consumers real disposable income, but we do think that score migration has had an impact as well, considering the large changes over the past few years.Looking at auto loans, for example, with the same credit scores from 2022 versus loans from 2018, we see that delinquency rates on the 2022 loans are up to 60 per cent higher than on the 2018 loans. We estimate that 30 to 50 per cent of this increase can be due to effects of credit score migration.Michael Zezas: And is there anything we can assume here about the actual health of the US consumer? Do we see delinquencies improving or getting worse?Heather Berger: I think one of the main takeaways here is that since score migration impacts performance metrics, we shouldn't necessarily extrapolate delinquency data to broader consumer health. Despite the high delinquency rates, our economists do expect consumers to remain afloat.They're forecasting a modest slowdown in consumer spending this year as we move off a hot labor market and continue to face elevated interest rates.Michael Zezas: So, let's shift to the market impacts here. Maybe you could tell us what your colleagues in equity research saw as the impact on the banks and consumer finance sectors. And in your area of expertise, what are the impacts for asset-backed securities?Heather Berger: We think that across both of these spaces, taking into account changes in credit scores will be important to use in models moving forward; and this can help us to more accurately assess the risks of consumer loans and to predict performance. Movements in credit scores have actually been muted in the past year, which is a big change from the large increases we saw a few years ago.So, score migration should now have a smaller impact on consumer performance and delinquency rates. This means that performance will be driven by macro factors and lending standards. As inflation comes down and with lending standards tight, we view this as a positive for asset backed securities, and our colleagues view it as a positive for their coverage of consumer finance equities.Michael Zezas: Heather, this has been really insightful. Thanks for taking the time to talk.Heather Berger: Great speaking with you, Michael.Michael Zezas: And thanks for listening. If you enjoy thoughts on the market, please be sure to rate and review us on the Apple podcast app or wherever you listen. It helps more people find the show.
As investors look for clues on market durability, our Chief U.S. Equity Strategist highlights which sectors could show more widely distributed gains in the near term.----- Transcript -----Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Morgan Stanley’s CIO and Chief US Equity Strategist. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about an opportunity for energy stocks to keep working in the near term.It's Tuesday, March 26th at 9:30 am in New York. So let’s get after it.Over the past five months, global stocks are up about 25 percent while many other asset prices were up double digits or more. What’s driving this appreciation? Many factors are at work. But for stock indices, it’s been mostly about easier financial conditions and higher valuations rather than improving fundamentals. Granted, higher asset prices often beget even higher prices – as investors feel compelled to participate. From our perspective, it’s hard to justify the higher index level valuations based on fundamentals alone, given that 2024 and 2025 earnings forecasts have barely budged over this time period.  We rolled out our “Boom-Bust” thesis in 2020 based on the shift to fiscally dominant policy in response to the pandemic. At that point, our positive view on stocks was based on the boom in earnings that we expected over the 2020-2021 period as the economy roared back from pandemic lows. Our outlook anticipated both accelerating top line growth and massive operating leverage as companies could reduce headcount and other costs while people were locked down at home. The result was the fastest earnings growth in 30 years and record high margins and profitability. In other words, the boom in stocks was justified by the earnings boom that followed. Stock valuations were also supported by arguably the most generous monetary policy in history. The Fed continued Quantitative Easing throughout 2021, a year when S&P earnings grew 48 percent to an all-time high.Today, stock valuations have reached similarly high levels achieved back in 2020 and [20]21 – in anticipation of improving growth after the earnings deterioration most companies saw last year. While the recent easing of financial conditions may foreshadow such an acceleration in earnings, bottom-up expectations for 2024 and [20]25 S&P 500 earnings remain flat post the Fed’s fourth quarter dovish shift. Meanwhile, small cap earnings estimates are down 10 percent and 7 percent for 2024 and [20]25, respectively since October. We think one reason for the muted earnings revisions since last fall, particularly in small caps, is the continued policy mix of heavy fiscal stimulus and tight front-end interest rates. We see this crowding out many companies and consumers.  The question for investors at this stage is whether the market can finally broaden out in a more sustainable fashion. As we noted last week, we are starting to see breadth improve for several sectors. Looking forward, we believe a durable broadening comes down to whether other stocks and sectors can deliver on earnings growth. One sector showing strong breadth is Industrials, a classic late-cycle winner and a beneficiary of the major fiscal outlays for things like the Inflation Reduction and CHIPS Act, as well as the AI-driven data center buildout. A new sector displaying strong breadth is Energy, the best performer month-to-date but still lagging considerably since the October rally began. Taking the Fed’s recent messaging that they are less concerned about inflation or loosening financial conditions, commodity-oriented cyclicals and Energy in particular could be due for a catch-up. The sector’s relative performance versus the S&P 500 has lagged crude oil prices, and valuation still looks compelling. Relative earnings revisions appear to be inflecting as well. Some listeners may be surprised that Energy has contributed more to the change in S&P 500 earnings since the pandemic than any other sector. Yet it remains one of the cheapest and most under-owned areas of the market.  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. 
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