Earnings Implosion Anticipated by Morgan Stanley for Wall Street’s Neglected Stock Wave

Finding optimistic investors on Monday is not an easy task, as the S&P 500 experienced a significant increase due to positive employment figures and the resolution of the debt ceiling issue, bringing the market to the edge of a bull market. Despite this, the technology sector is only slightly down, and oil prices are rising thanks to OPEC’s promise of further production reduction.

Neil Wilson, the chief market analyst at Finalto, highlights that investors are not fully embracing the current rally as the SPX has surpassed 4,200 and moved beyond its 4,000 to 4,200 range. Moreover, the VIX has dropped to its lowest levels since February 2020.

Friday’s events demonstrated that Big Tech’s strong performance can create a ripple effect throughout the market, possibly changing Wall Street skeptics’ sentiment. However, for now, those who did not sell their investments in May are being advised to do so in June. Despite this, concerns remain that investors may not be entirely out of danger. Morgan Stanley’s bearish strategist, “Worried” Mike Wilson, foresees a significant earnings decline (-16% year-over-year) that the market has yet to factor in. Although his S&P 500 prediction stays at 3,900, which is the low end of the Street’s expectations, Wilson believes investors are experiencing several “hotter but shorter” earnings cycles within a broader secular bull market, characterized by a boom, bust, boom pattern.

Wilson attributes the bank’s predictions of a significant stock price decrease to the impressive performance of artificial intelligence players and established technology companies, the Federal Reserve’s shift in approach, and optimism that the worst of the earnings slump is over. However, Wilson notes a substantial reevaluation of lower-quality, cyclical, or small-company stocks.

The strategist advises when the market will begin to consider the earnings decrease, focusing on the equity risk premium (ERP) section of the price-to-earnings (PE) ratio.

The ERP represents the difference between the expected earnings return and the return on risk-free Treasurys. A higher number indicates that investors are receiving greater compensation for investing in stocks.

Wilson states that the increase in 10-year Treasury yields accounted for over 100% of the PE reset last year. Historically, the market has experienced a “moment of recognition” when the forward NTM EPS forecast for the S&P 500 turns negative on a year-over-year basis. He believes the anticipated liquidity reduction due to the debt ceiling passage could speed up this process.

If an investor is intrigued by Wilson’s insights, they should follow his advice to concentrate on defensive attributes, operational efficiency, and consistent earnings.

Ending on a brighter note, Wilson offers a glimmer of hope. Morgan Stanley predicts a 23% increase in EPS growth in 2024 and a 10% increase in 2025, as the Fed policy becomes more accommodating in 2024 rather than in 2023. Furthermore, several factors will help drive the next recovery or bull market following the correction:

  • A more secure starting point for consumers’ overall financial situation
  • AI and its diffusion across sectors
  • Productivity pickup
  • Capex cycle, industrial automation
  • A return of positive operating leverage and margin expansion
  • Clean technology development and crucial infrastructure relocation to domestic locations
  • Housing supply shortage
  • Following Friday’s 700-point surge in the Dow industrials after the jobs report, stock futures for ES00, YM00, and NQ00 are showing a mixed trend. The 10-year Treasury note has risen by 5 basis points to 3.737%, while the dollar (DXY) has strengthened, and both gold (GC00) and silver (SI00) have decreased in value.

Oil prices, under the symbols CL and BRN00, increased by 2% on Sunday after OPEC agreed to cut oil production by 1 million barrels per day. However, the increase has now decreased to just over 1%.

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