1 Alphacurrents, ‘The Four Seasons of Cryptocurrency,’ Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Global Investment Office, July 20, 2023.
Virtual Currency Products (Cryptocurrencies)
Buying, selling, and transacting in Bitcoin, Ethereum or other digital assets (“Digital Assets”), and related funds and products, is highly speculative and may result in a loss of the entire investment. Risks and considerations include but are not limited to:
• Digital Assets have only been in existence for a short period of time and historical trading prices for Digital Assets have been highly volatile. The price of Digital Assets could decline rapidly, and investors could lose their entire investment.
• Certain Digital Asset funds and products, allow investors to invest on a more frequent basis than investors may withdraw from the fund or product, and interests in such funds or products are generally not freely transferrable. This means that, particularly given the volatility of Digital Assets, an investor will have to bear any losses with respect to its investment for an extended period of time and will not be able to react to changes in the price of the Digital Asset once invested (for example, by seeking to withdraw) as quickly as when making the decision to invest. Such Digital Asset funds and products, are intended only for persons who are able to bear the economic risk of investment and who do not need liquidity with respect to their investments.
• Given the volatility in the price of Digital Assets, the net asset value of a fund or product that invests in such assets at the time an investor’s subscription for interests in the fund or product is accepted may be significantly below or above the net asset value of the product or fund at the time the investor submitted subscription materials.
• Certain Digital Assets are not intended to function as currencies but are intended to have other use cases. These other Digital Assets may be subject to some or all of the risks and considerations set forth herein, as well as additional risks applicable to such Digital Assets. Buyers, sellers and users of such Digital Assets should thoroughly familiarize themselves with such risks and considerations before transacting in such Digital Assets.
• The value of Digital Assets may be negatively impacted by future legal and regulatory developments, including but not limited to increased regulation of such Digital Assets. Any such developments may make such Digital Assets less valuable, impose additional burdens and expenses on a fund or product investing in such assets or impact the ability of such a fund or product to continue to operate, which may materially decrease the value of an investment therein.
• Due to the new and evolving nature of digital currencies and the absence of comprehensive guidance, many significant aspects of the tax treatment of Digital Assets are uncertain. Prospective investors should consult their own tax advisors concerning the tax consequences to them of the purchase, ownership and disposition of Digital Assets, directly or indirectly through a fund or product, under U.S. federal income tax law, as well as the tax law of any relevant state, local or other jurisdiction.
• Over the past several years, certain Digital Asset exchanges have experienced failures or interruptions in service due to fraud, security breaches, operational problems or business failure. Such events in the future could impact any fund’s or product’s ability to transact in Digital Assets if the fund or product relies on an impacted exchange and may also materially decrease the price of Digital Assets, thereby impacting the value of your investment, regardless of whether the fund or product relies on such an impacted exchange.
• Although any Digital Asset product and its service providers have in place significant safeguards against loss, theft, destruction and inaccessibility, there is nonetheless a risk that some or all of a product’s Digital Asset could be permanently lost, stolen, destroyed or inaccessible by virtue of, among other things, the loss or theft of the “private keys” necessary to access a product’s Digital Asset.
• Investors in funds or products investing or transacting in Digital Assets may not benefit to the same extent (or at all) from “airdrops” with respect to, or “forks” in, a Digital Asset’s blockchain, compared to investors who hold Digital Assets directly instead of through a fund or product. Additionally, a “fork” in the Digital Asset blockchain could materially decrease the price of such Digital Asset.
• Digital Assets are not legal tender, and are not backed by any government, corporation or other identified body, other than with respect to certain digital currencies that certain governments are or may be developing now or in the future. No law requires companies or individuals to accept digital currency as a form of payment (except, potentially, with respect to digital currencies developed by certain governments where such acceptance may be mandated). Instead, other than as described in the preceding sentences, Digital Asset products’ use is limited to businesses and individuals that are willing to accept them. If no one were to accept digital currencies, virtual currency products would very likely become worthless.
• Platforms that buy and sell Digital Assets can be hacked, and some have failed. In addition, like the platforms themselves, digital wallets can be hacked, and are subject to theft and fraud. As a result, like other investors have, you can lose some or all of your holdings of Digital Assets.
• Unlike US banks and credit unions that provide certain guarantees of safety to depositors, there are no such safeguards provided to Digital Assets held in digital wallets by their providers or by regulators.
• Due to the anonymity Digital Assets offer, they have known use in illegal activity, including drug dealing, money laundering, human trafficking, sanction evasion and other forms of illegal commerce. Abuses could impact legitimate consumers and speculators; for instance, law enforcement agencies could shut down or restrict the use of platforms and exchanges, limiting or shutting off entirely the ability to use or trade Digital Asset products.
• Digital Assets may not have an established track record of credibility and trust. Further, any performance data relating to Digital Asset products may not be verifiable as pricing models are not uniform.
• Investors should be aware of the potentially increased risks of transacting in Digital Assets relating to the risks and considerations, including fraud, theft, and lack of legitimacy, and other aspects and qualities of Digital Assets, before transacting in such assets.
• The exchange rate of virtual currency products versus the USD historically has been very volatile and the exchange rate could drastically decline. For example, the exchange rate of certain Digital Assets versus the USD has in the past dropped more than 50% in a single day. Other Digital Assets may be affected by such volatility as well.
• Digital Asset exchanges have limited operating and performance histories and are not regulated with the same controls or customer protections available to more traditional exchanges transacting equity, debt, and other assets and securities. There is no assurance that a person/exchange who currently accepts a Digital Asset as payment will continue to do so in the future.
• The regulatory framework of Digital Assets is evolving, and in some cases is uncertain, and Digital Assets themselves may not be governed and protected by applicable securities regulators and securities laws, including, but not limited to, Securities Investor Protection Corporation coverage, or other regulatory regimes.
• Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC or its affiliates (collectively, “Morgan Stanley”) may currently, or in the future, offer or invest in Digital Asset products, services or platforms. The proprietary interests of Morgan Stanley may conflict with your interests.
• The foregoing list of considerations and risks are not and do not purport to be a complete enumeration or explanation of the risks involved in an investment in any product or fund investing or trading in Digital Assets.
For index, indicator and survey definitions referenced in this report please visit the following: https://www.morganstanley.com/wealth-investmentsolutions/wmir-definitions
Asset Class and Additional Risk Considerations
Investing in foreign markets entails greater risks than those normally associated with domestic markets, such as political, currency, economic and market risks. Investing in currency involves additional special risks such as credit, interest rate fluctuations, derivative investment risk, and domestic and foreign inflation rates, which can be volatile and may be less liquid than other securities and more sensitive to the effect of varied economic conditions. In addition, international investing entails greater risk, as well as greater potential rewards compared to U.S. investing. These risks include political and economic uncertainties of foreign countries as well as the risk of currency fluctuations. These risks are magnified in countries with emerging markets, since these countries may have relatively unstable governments and less established markets and economies.
Equity securities may fluctuate in response to news on companies, industries, market conditions and general economic environment.
An investment in an exchange-traded fund involves risks similar to those of investing in a broadly based portfolio of equity securities traded on an exchange in the relevant securities market, such as market fluctuations caused by such factors as economic and political developments, changes in interest rates and perceived trends in stock and bond prices. Investing in an international ETF also involves certain risks and considerations not typically associated with investing in an ETF that invests in the securities of U.S. issues, such as political, currency, economic and market risks. These risks are magnified in countries with emerging markets, since these countries may have relatively unstable governments and less established markets and economics. ETFs investing in physical commodities and commodity or currency futures have special tax considerations. Physical commodities may be treated as collectibles subject to a maximum 28% long-term capital gains rates, while futures are marked-to-market and may be subject to a blended 60% long- and 40% short-term capital gains tax rate. Rolling futures positions may create taxable events. For specifics and a greater explanation of possible risks with ETFs¸ along with the ETF’s investment objectives, charges and expenses, please consult a copy of the ETF’s prospectus. Investing in sectors may be more volatile than diversifying across many industries. The investment return and principal value of ETF investments will fluctuate, so an investor’s ETF shares (Creation Units), if or when sold, may be worth more or less than the original cost. ETFs are redeemable only in Creation Unit size through an Authorized Participant and are not individually redeemable from an ETF.
Physical precious metals are non-regulated products. Precious metals are speculative investments, which may experience short-term and long term price volatility. The value of precious metals investments may fluctuate and may appreciate or decline, depending on market conditions. If sold in a declining market, the price you receive may be less than your original investment. Unlike bonds and stocks, precious metals do not make interest or dividend payments. Therefore, precious metals may not be appropriate for investors who require current income. Precious metals are commodities that should be safely stored, which may impose additional costs on the investor. The Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”) provides certain protection for customers’ cash and securities in the event of a brokerage firm’s bankruptcy, other financial difficulties, or if customers’ assets are missing. SIPC insurance does not apply to precious metals or other commodities.
Bonds are subject to interest rate risk. When interest rates rise, bond prices fall; generally the longer a bond's maturity, the more sensitive it is to this risk. Bonds may also be subject to call risk, which is the risk that the issuer will redeem the debt at its option, fully or partially, before the scheduled maturity date. The market value of debt instruments may fluctuate, and proceeds from sales prior to maturity may be more or less than the amount originally invested or the maturity value due to changes in market conditions or changes in the credit quality of the issuer. Bonds are subject to the credit risk of the issuer. This is the risk that the issuer might be unable to make interest and/or principal payments on a timely basis. Bonds are also subject to reinvestment risk, which is the risk that principal and/or interest payments from a given investment may be reinvested at a lower interest rate.
Treasury Inflation Protection Securities’ (TIPS) coupon payments and underlying principal are automatically increased to compensate for inflation by tracking the consumer price index (CPI). While the real rate of return is guaranteed, TIPS tend to offer a low return. Because the return of TIPS is linked to inflation, TIPS may significantly underperform versus conventional U.S. Treasuries in times of low inflation.
Venture Capital investments involve a high degree of risk and are not appropriate for all investors. Financial and operating risks confronting startups are significant. While targeted returns should reflect the perceived level of risk in any investment situation, such returns are unrealized and based solely on the startup’s own estimate of the current value of its fund investments, are not verified or audited by third party valuation, and do not represent actual return of capital or gain, may never be realized and/or may not be adequate to compensate an investor for risks taken. Loss of an investor’s entire investment is possible and can easily occur. Moreover, the timing of any return on investment is highly uncertain given the illiquid nature of venture capital investments. The venture capital market is highly competitive and the percentage of companies that survive and prosper is small. Startup investments often experience unexpected problems in the areas of product development, manufacturing, marketing, financing, and general management, among others, which frequently cannot be solved. In addition, startups may require substantial amounts of financing, which may not be available through institutional private placements, the public markets or otherwise.
REITs investing risks are similar to those associated with direct investments in real estate: property value fluctuations, lack of liquidity, limited diversification and sensitivity to economic factors such as interest rate changes and market recessions.
Because of their narrow focus, sector investments tend to be more volatile than investments that diversify across many sectors and companies. Risks applicable to companies in the energy and natural resources sectors include commodity pricing risk, supply and demand risk, depletion risk and exploration risk.
The returns on a portfolio consisting primarily of environmental, social, and governance-aware investments (ESG) may be lower or higher than a portfolio that is more diversified or where decisions are based solely on investment considerations. Because ESG criteria exclude some investments, investors may not be able to take advantage of the same opportunities or market trends as investors that do not use such criteria. The companies identified and investment examples are for illustrative purposes only and should not be deemed a recommendation to purchase, hold or sell any securities or investment products. They are intended to demonstrate the approaches taken by managers who focus on ESG criteria in their investment strategy. There can be no guarantee that a client's account will be managed as described herein.
Asset allocation and diversification do not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining financial markets.
Rebalancing does not protect against a loss in declining financial markets. There may be a potential tax implication with a rebalancing strategy. Investors should consult with their tax advisor before implementing such a strategy.
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