Morgan Stanley Warns of Potential Setback in US Equity Rally as Earnings Projection Drops 16%

Morgan Stanley predicts a 16% drop in US profits, posing a threat to the equity rally. Caution urged for investors seeking alternative opportunities.

Jun 5, 2023 - 09:51
Jun 5, 2023 - 09:52
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Morgan Stanley Warns of Potential Setback in US Equity Rally as Earnings Projection Drops 16%
Morgan Stanley Warns of Potential Setback in US Equity Rally as Earnings Projection Drops 16%

Morgan Stanley, a prominent global financial services firm, has raised concerns about a possible disruption to the ongoing US equity rally. In contrast to more optimistic forecasts on Wall Street, the company's strategists anticipate a significant decline in corporate earnings, projecting a 16% decrease. This cautious outlook challenges prevailing market sentiment and raises questions about the sustainability of the rally. Amid these warnings, Morgan Stanley advises investors to consider alternative investment opportunities in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea while recommending an overweight position in developed-market government bonds, long-dated Treasuries, and the US dollar.

A Bearish Stance on US Earnings:

Led by Andrew Sheets, Morgan Stanley's strategists predict a decline of 16% in earnings per share for the S&P 500 this year. This forecast stands out as one of the most pessimistic among those monitored by Bloomberg, which lean towards more modest growth projections, such as those put forward by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

In a recent note published on Sunday, Morgan Stanley analysts emphasized their concerns: "We think that the downside risk to US earnings is now. While a deteriorating liquidity backdrop is likely to put downward pressure on equity valuations over the next three months, we also see EPS disappointment ahead as revenue growth slows and margins contract further."

Lower Expectations:

Morgan Stanley's earnings per share projection for the S&P 500, at $185, diverges significantly from the median forecast of $206 provided by other strategists. Additionally, the bank anticipates the index to reach 3,900 by year-end, compared to its closing value of 4,282.37 on Friday. Despite fears of a potential recession and the Federal Reserve's tightening monetary policy, the S&P 500 remains on the verge of a bull market, having rallied nearly 20% since its low point in October. The rally has been largely fueled by investor enthusiasm for artificial intelligence stocks.

Morgan Stanley's Recommendations:

Considering the potential headwinds in the US equity market, Morgan Stanley strategists propose several alternative investment strategies. They suggest allocating funds to equities in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, citing favorable conditions in these markets. Additionally, the firm recommends an overweight position in developed-market government bonds, including long-dated Treasuries, as well as maintaining exposure to the US dollar.

Dissenting Views and Counterarguments:

While Morgan Stanley takes a cautious stance, it's important to note that not all strategists share the same outlook. A team led by Julian Emanuel from Evercore ISI recently revised their year-end target for the S&P 500 upward by 7.2% to 4,450. They argue that easing inflation signals a potential pause in Federal Reserve actions and highlight the supportive impact of fiscal stimulus measures on the stock market.

Morgan Stanley's Broader Perspectives:

In addition to their assessment of the US equity market, Morgan Stanley's strategists offer insights into other regions. They suggest a potential 10% drop in European stocks over the next few months, although they acknowledge the limited downside risk due to attractive valuations. Furthermore, they anticipate a future rotation towards international value stocks in Europe and away from US growth shares. In Asia, the bank's strategists have revised down their target for key Chinese stock indexes due to concerns over delayed earnings recovery, a weaker currency outlook, and geopolitical uncertainties.

Conclusion:

Morgan Stanley's warning of a potential setback in the US equity rally, with a projected 16% drop in earnings, adds a note of caution to the prevailing market sentiment. As investors weigh the risks and opportunities, Morgan Stanley advises considering alternative markets and asset classes, such as equities in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, as well as developed-market government bonds and the US dollar. While dissenting views exist, the broader perspectives shared by Morgan Stanley's strategists shed light on potential challenges and opportunities in global markets.

Also Read: Billionaire Investors Show Interest in Warren Buffett's Portfolio: Here are the Top Stocks

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