Bonds Doubt Their God. ‘Stocks Are Next,’ Wilson Warns

It's no secret that Morgan Stanley's Mike Wilson suspects consensus is too optimistic on the outlook for corporate profits in America. And it's no secret that consensus takes its cues from company guidance. At this point, though, the disconnect between forward estimates and one of Wilson's leading indicators is so glaring that it calls for an explanation. It's not just that someone is wrong, it's that someone is very, very wrong, and if it's consensus, there's a long way down. Spoiler alert: W

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5 thoughts on “Bonds Doubt Their God. ‘Stocks Are Next,’ Wilson Warns

  1. Yikes! And thank you! These comments are timely and especially valuable.

    Your reports often serve to check the sense I have about the state of the market and the impulses that drive it. Lately, the questions on the table included, Is the Fed able to wrangle the US economy in today’s context? And, has the economy become too global and too rich to wrangle?

    I trust Mike Wilson’s assessment. He is confirming my concerns that what we are seeing is more akin to recessionary pressures that will play out more like a prolonged and traditional downturn.

    The jury is still out. I don’t know what we will be seeing in September. But the need for caution is abundantly clear.

  2. I continue to agree completely w MS. But this trade has been like swimming up a waterfall for months. Any reason why it should be satisfying between now and month end eludes me….

  3. Operating leverage, especially when it’s negative (when sales begin to fall, and/or fixed costs rise) is generally overlooked by most observers. Numerous segments of our economy are comprised of firms with OL>5x, negative when sales fall. At five times, OL will cause a 5% decline in profits for every 1% decline in sales. Firms in health care, hospitality, high tech, transportation, utilities, most of the financial sector and others with high fixed cost structures like them, boast OL of 5-10 times. At OL = 10x, a five percent decline in sales will cut profits in half, even for blue chip companies. It’s just math. I try to avoid stocks in these areas as things slow down. Techs are trying to reduce this impact, especially after the CFO has done an illustrative Power Point for the C-Suite crew. But even cutting 10k out of a workforce of 100k won’t have much impact. Operating leverage is the main driver, by far, of strategic change. It’s great when sales are rising but you can’t slow don’t. OL has driven every firm in the airline and railroad industries into bankruptcy at least once, caused huge consolidation in hotels, department stores, and numerous other maturing industries where 70-90% of total costs are fixed.

    1. Mr. Lucky – It sounds like OL is much less than okay for most companies, especially those in which we invest. I’ve invested in banks (BAC & JPM), and large tech companies (like VZ & GLW). But my focus is now on younger companies with good game. I don’t perceive that smaller companies can afford to exercise such leverage because they just want to “make it” and survive from year to year, month to month. Stupid question: Am I mistaken?

  4. If someone (me) had taken Mike Wilson’s warning in August 2022 and gotten out of the S&P they’d still be ahead 6 months later
    (not sure if I’d have gotten into Treasuries but everyone was talking TIPS then and that probably would have been fine)…

    Basically I agree that markets are gambling the Fed will rescue them from their own folly of ignoring a new/old world of high interest rates and conservative bank lending.

NEWSROOM crewneck & prints