Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Mike Wilson, Chief Investment Officer and Chief U.S. Equity Strategist for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues, bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about the latest trends in the financial marketplace. It's Monday, May 23rd at 9 a.m. in New York. So let's get after it.
As we’ve discussed our mid-year outlook the past few weeks, I'd like to share some key takeaways on today's podcast. First, the de-rating of equities is no longer up for debate. However, there is disagreement on how low price earnings multiple should fall. We believe the S&P 500 price earnings multiple will fall towards 14x, ahead of the oncoming downward earnings revisions, which is how we arrive at our near-term overshoot of fair value of 3400 for the S&P 500.
Second, the consumer is still a significant battleground. While COVID has been a terrible period in history, many U.S. consumers, like companies, benefited financially from the pandemic. Our view coming into 2022 was that this tailwind would end for most households, as we anniversaried the stimulus, asset prices de-rated and inflation in non discretionary items like shelter, food and energy ate into savings. Consumer confidence readings for the past six months support our view. Yet many investors have continued to argue the consumer is likely to surprise on the upside with spending, as they use excess savings to maintain a permanently higher plateau of consumption.
Third, technology bulls are getting more concerned on growth. This is new and in stark contrast to the first quarter when tech bulls argued work from home benefited only a few select companies, while most would continue to see very strong growth from positive secular trends for technology spend. Some bulls have even argued technology spending is no longer cyclical but structural and non-discretionary, especially in a world where costs are rising so much. We disagree with that view and argue technology spending would follow corporate cash flow growth and sentiment.
We have found many technology investors are now on our page and more worried about companies missing forecasts. While some may view this as bullish from a sentiment standpoint, we think it's a bearish sign as formerly dedicated tech investors will be more hesitant to buy the dip. In short, we believe technology spending is likely to go through a cyclical downturn this year, and it could extend to even the more durable areas like software.
Finally, energy is the one sector where a majority of investors are consistently bullish now. This is not necessarily a contrarian signal in our view, but we are a bit more concerned about the recent crowding as energy remains the only sector other than utilities that is up on the year. With oil and gasoline prices so high, there is a growing risk we have reached a level of demand destruction. We remain neutral on energy with a positive bias for the more defensive names that pay a solid dividend.
Bottom line, equity clients are bearish overall and not that optimistic about a quick rebound. While this is a necessary condition for a sustainable low in equity prices, we don't think it's a sufficient one. While our 12 month target for the S&P 500 is 3900, we expect an overshoot to the downside this summer that could come sooner rather than later. We think 3400 is a level that more accurately reflects the earnings risk in front of us, and expect that level to be achieved by the end of the second quarter earnings season, if not sooner. Vicious bear market rallies will continue to appear until then, and we would use them to lighten up on stocks most vulnerable to the oncoming earnings reset.
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