Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Jonathan Garner, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Asia and Emerging Markets Equity Strategist. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I’ll be talking about our mid-year outlook for Asia and Emerging Markets. It’s Tuesday, May the 31st at 8 p.m. in Hong Kong.
In our mid-year outlook, our advice was to stick with the markets and sectors which have performed well already this year. These are in the main plays on high energy, materials and food prices. In our coverage, this means commodity exporters including Australia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, which we have been overweight for some time. We also added another commodity exporter, Brazil, to this overweight group and reiterated our overweight on energy and materials.
Despite outperformance, we continue to encounter skepticism that these markets and sectors can continue to perform. And this is mainly due to concerns over global growth, and in particular growth in China. Certainly, it’s true that energy and materials tend to perform well late on in the cycle, whereas I.T hardware, semiconductors and consumer discretionary tend to do well coming out of recession. And it’s also true that the Chinese economy is weak right now, with data showing a considerable slowdown in April and May. And that is a key reason why we remain cautious on China equities themselves. But we think the combination of underinvestment in the prior cycle in supply and the Russia-Ukraine conflict keep the commodity markets tight for the foreseeable future.
The pattern of earnings revisions confirms our thesis. Analysts are upgrading numbers for stocks in Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, in some cases at an accelerating pace. Whilst they’re downgrading for China, Korea and Taiwan, which are manufacturing exporting and commodity importing markets, Japan is slightly different, with balanced earnings revisions as corporate margins are helped by the recent trend to a weaker yen, amongst other factors.
Hence, thus far, for some key emerging markets, notably Brazil and Indonesia, their commodity producing and exporting characteristics are offsetting, both from a currency and equity market perspective, the traditionally negative impact on growth from a stronger U.S. dollar and monetary policy tightening by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
In time, this pronounced pattern of earnings dispersion may reverse and we are on the lookout for a trend reversal. This could be driven by factors like a change in COVID management approach in China or cessation of the conflict in Ukraine. For the time being though, we recommend keeping things simple in turbulent times.
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