Podcast | Thought on the Market

Jonathan Garner: Economic Surprises = Earnings Surprises

Morgan Stanley
Banking, Finance, Investment Strategies

With incoming global growth data missing consensus expectations, emerging markets equity earnings revisions could fall back into negative territory for the first time since May 2020.

—– Transcript —–

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Jonathan Garner, Chief Asia and Emerging Markets Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley Research. Along with my colleagues, bringing you their perspectives, today I’ll be talking about a key recent development, which is the deterioration in the global growth outlook and what it means for Asia and EM equities. It’s the 29th of September at 7:30 a.m. in Hong Kong.

 

Incoming global growth data is starting to miss expectations by a wide margin. This appears to be mainly due to the impact of Delta-variant covid on consumer confidence, but also continued supply chain bottlenecks on the corporate sector. The Global Economic Surprise Index, i.e., the extent to which top-down global macro data beats or misses economists’ expectations, has fallen in a straight line from a level of +90 in mid-June to -24 currently. It was last this low at the end of March 2020, at the beginning of the global impact of the pandemic, and before that in the second quarter of 2018, at the start of US-China tariff hikes and the imposition of non-tariff barriers to trade.

 

So in short, there’s been a sudden downward lurch relative to expectations for global macro in relation to the narrative from consensus of a continued strong recovery, broadening out by geography, and entering a virtuous circle of rising consumption and investment. Global equity markets have wobbled recently but are still trading close to their all-time highs set in early September. We think the key to understanding what happens next is to understand the relationship between Economic Surprise data and earnings revisions. We’ve found that changes in the Global Economic Surprise index tend to have a good leading relationship for how bottom-up analyst earnings revisions evolve three months later. And that, in turn drives market performance.

 

And this matters because the covid recession and recovery have already witnessed exceptionally sharp movements, both in economic data – relative to consensus – and earnings estimate revisions. Indeed, they’ve been more extreme even than the volatility that we saw at the time of the Global Financial Crisis. So, at this level of -24 on economic surprise, our analysis suggests 12-month forward EPS expectations will likely decline by around 150bps over the next three months. That may not sound like much, but it compares with a current positive QoQ upward revision of 530bps and a peak QoQ revision of 1100bps in May of this year.

 

Within our coverage, some markets have already gone through the transition adjustment to slower expected earnings revisions – most notably China, where we remain cautious. Our analysis finds that strong performance and strong revisions are positively correlated and vice versa for weak performance and poor revisions. Japan, Russia and South Africa are the standouts recently for positive revisions, and they may show some resilience to the deteriorating global situation. China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have had the worst revisions and generally poor performance; but China has also been underperforming due to investors assigning a lower valuation to the market due to this year’s regulatory reset. Overall, we continue to prefer Japan to EM and China.

 

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