One of Wall Street’s top executives is worried about a repeat of 2008. At least, partially.
Mike Wilson, Morgan’s Stanley’s chief US equity strategist, says he isn’t concerned about a “systemic” financial crisis like the one that brought the economy to its knees 14 years ago. But Wilson is warning clients about a looming plunge in corporate profits next year as the economy stumbles.
“The earnings recession by itself could be similar to what transpired in 2008/2009,” the Morgan Stanley exec wrote in a report on Monday. “Our advice – don’t assume the market is pricing this kind of outcome until it actually happens.”
Corporate earnings help drive stock prices and a sharp drop could spell trouble for markets.
Wilson, a well-known market bear who has been credited with correctly calling this year’s dreadful market performance, worries an earnings plunge would blindside investors – even though many investors are already concerned that expectations for corporate profits are too rosy.
“We often hear from clients that everyone knows earnings are too high next year, and therefore, the market has priced it,” he wrote. “However, we recall hearing similar things in August 2008 when the spread between our earnings model and the Street consensus was just as wide.”
That’s why Morgan Stanley is forecasting more market trouble ahead after what is shaping up to be the worst year for US stocks since 2008. The bank is projecting the S&P 500 will make new lows next year and trade in a range of 3,000 to 3,300, with a bias toward the low end. The low end of that range implies an additional drop of roughly 21% from current levels.
“If our [earnings] forecasts prove to be correct,” Wilson wrote, “the price declines for equities will be much worse than what most investors are expecting.”
Others argue the pessimism in markets is overdone and investors are failing to appreciate the resilience of the US economy.
Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth Management, told CNN late last week that investors may be overreacting to signs of more interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.
“It’s too soon to be sounding those recession alarm bells,” Hogan said.