2023 European Outlook: Recession & Beyond

7m ·

2023 European Outlook: Recession & Beyond

As we head into a new year, Europe faces multiple challenges across inflation, energy and financial conditions, meaning investors will want to keep an eye on recession risk, the ECB, and European equities. Chief European Equity Strategist Graham Secker and Chief European economist Jens Eisenschmidt discuss.

-- Transcript --

Graham Secker Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Graham Secker, Morgan Stanley's Chief European Equity Strategist.

Jens Eisenschmidt And I'm Jens Eisenschmidt, Morgan Stanley's Chief European Economist.

Graham Secker And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll discuss our 2023 outlook for Europe's economy and equity market, and what investors should pay close attention to next year. It's Monday, November the 28th, at 3 p.m. in London.

Graham Secker So Jens, Europe faces multiple challenges right now. Inflation is soaring, energy supply is uncertain, and financial conditions are tightening. This very tricky environment has already impacted the economy of the euro area, but is Europe headed into a recession? And what is your growth outlook for the year ahead?

Jens Eisenschmidt So yes, we do see a recession coming. In year-on-year terms we see negative growth of minus 0.2% next year. There's heterogeneity behind that, Germany is most affected of the large countries, Spain is least affected. In general, the drivers are that you mentioned, we have inflation that eats into real disposable income that is bad for consumption. We have the energy situation, which is highly uncertain, which is not great for investment. And we do have monetary policy that's starting to get restrictive, leading to a tightening in financial conditions which is actually already priced into markets. And, you know, that's the transmission lack of monetary policy. So that leads to lower growth predominantly in 23 and 24.

Graham Secker And maybe just to drill into the inflation side of that a little bit more. Specifically, do you expect inflation to rise further from here? And then when you look into the next 12 months, what are the key drivers of your inflation profile?

Jens Eisenschmidt So inflation will rise, according to our forecast, a little bit further, but not by an awful lot. We really see it peaking in December on headline terms. Just to remind you, we had an increase to 10.7 in October that was predominantly driven by energy and food inflation, so around 70% of that was energy and food. And of course, it's natural to look into these two components to see what's going to happen in the future. Here we think food inflation probably has still some time to go because there is some delayed response to the input prices that have peaked already at some point past this year. But energy is probably flat from here or maybe even slightly falling, which then gets you some base effects which will lead and are the main driver of our forecast for a lower headline inflation in the next year. Core inflation will be probably more sticky. We see 4% this year and 4% next. And here again, we have these processes like food inflation, services inflation that react with some lag to input prices coming down. So, it will take some time. Further out in the profile, we do see core inflation remaining above 2% simply because there will be a wage catch up process.

Graham Secker And with that core inflation profile, what does that mean for the ECB? What are your forecasts for the ECB's monetary policy path from here?

Jens Eisenschmidt We really think that the ECB needs to have seen the peak in inflation, and that's probably you're right, both core and headline. We see a peak, as I said, in December, core similarly, but at a high level and, you know, convincingly only coming down afterwards. So, the ECB will have to see it in the rear mirror and be very, very clear that inflation now is really falling before they can stop their rate hike cycle, which we think will be April. So, we see another 50 basis point increase in December 25, 25 in February, in March for the ECB then to really stop its hiking cycle in April having reached 2.5% on the deposit facility rate, which is already in restrictive territory. So, Graham, turning to you, bearing in mind all that just said about the macro backdrop, how will it impact European equities both near-term and longer term?

Graham Secker Having been bearish on European equities for much of this year, at the beginning of October we shifted to a more neutral stance on European equities specifically. But we've had pretty strong rally over the course of the last couple of months, which sets us up, we think, for some downside into the first quarter of next year. In my mind, I really have the profile that we saw in 2008, 2009 around the global financial crisis. Then equity valuations, the price to earnings ratio troughed in October a weight, the market rallies for a couple of months, but then as the earnings downgrades kicked in the start of 2009, the actual index itself went back down to the lows. So, it was driven by earnings and that's what we can see happening again now. So perhaps Europe's PE ratio troughed at the end of September. But once the earnings downgrades start in earnest, which we think probably happens early in 2023, we can see that taking European equities back down towards the lows again. On a 12-month view from here we see limited upside. We have 1-2% upside to our index target by the end of next year. But obviously, hopefully if we do get that correction in the first quarter, then there'll be more to play for. We just got a time entry point.

Jens Eisenschmidt Right. So how should I, as an investor, be positioned then in the year ahead?

Graham Secker From a sector perspective, we would be underweight cyclicals. We think European earnings next year will fall by about 10% and we think cyclicals will be the key area of earnings disappointment. So, we want to be underweight the cyclicals until we get much closer to the economic and earnings trough. Having been positive on defensives for much of this year, we've recently moved them to neutral. We've upgraded the European tech sector, the medtech sector, and also luxury goods as well.

Jens Eisenschmidt So what are the biggest risks then to your outlook for 23, both on the positive and the negative side?

Graham Secker So on the positive side, I'd highlight two. Firstly, we have the proverbial soft landing when it comes to the economic backdrop, whether that's European and or global. That would be particularly helpful for equities, if that was accompanied by a bigger downward surprise on inflation. So, if inflation falls more quickly and growth holds up, that would be pretty positive for equity markets. A second positive would be any form of geopolitical de-escalation that would be very helpful for European risk appetites. And then on the negative side, the first one would be a bigger profit recession. If earnings do fall 10% next year, which is our projection, that would be very mild in the context of previous downturns. So in our base case, we see European earnings falling 20%, not the 10% decline that we see in that base case. The other negatives that I think a little bit about is whether or not what we've seen in the UK over the last couple of months could happen elsewhere. I.e., interest rates start to put more and more pressure on government finances and budget deficits, and we start to see a shift in that environment. So that could be something that could weigh on markets next year as well.

Graham Secker But, Jens, thanks for taking the time to talk today.

Jens Eisenschmidt Great speaking with you, Graham.

Graham Secker And thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, and share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

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