Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Jun 26, 2024

Fiscal Sustainability and the French and U.S. Elections


Seth Carpenter: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's Global Chief Economist. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll be talking about elections, and what they might mean for fiscal sustainability.

It's Wednesday, June 26th at 10am in New York.

Elections have unexpectedly become a key risk in an otherwise positive growth narrative for France this year. And there are a wide range of possible outcomes for the next government.

Fiscal sustainability is one key market narrative we have been flagging. And in France, the fiscal position is expected to deteriorate. Our strategists note that the 10-year OAT boon spreads have widened more than 20 basis points. And in their view, further discounts on OATs are likely due to the deficit trajectories in the different political scenarios and heightened political and economic uncertainty.

In recent work we've done on developed market government sustainability, we flagged that across DMs, even if fiscal deficits remain steady, interest expense on the debt will continue to rise, pushing up the debt to GDP ratios. Larger deficits would necessarily exacerbate the situation. Austerity is necessary to stabilize or lower the debt to GDP ratios.

For France in particular, the maturity profile and forward rates had meant there could be relatively more time for the repricing to happen; but the market reaction to the election has meant higher yields, effectively pulling forward that repricing. Relative to our analysis in the first quarter of 2024, the debt surfacing costs are already higher.

The election results have now led to expectations of higher deficits, implying faster rising debt to GDP ratios as well. This combination of higher rates and higher deficits is self-reinforcing. The market will pay close attention to specific policy proposals -- and the coalitions that result from the election.

For the U.S. elections, debt sustainability has so far been lower on the list of topics that clients bring up. The elections are expected to be close. In a recent joint note with our U.S. public policy colleagues, we noted four basic scenarios: a Republican sweep; a Democratic sweep; or divided governments with either a Republican or a Democratic president.

Our public policy colleagues see very different outcomes across a 10-year time horizon for the deficit, ranging from an increase of [$]1.6 trillion under the Republican sweep scenario to an increase of about $600 billion in the Democratic sweep scenario, and the split government scenario is somewhere in between.

Of course, fiscal policy is not the only consideration for debt sustainability. Tariffs could generate some higher revenues, but the adverse hit to GDP means that the denominator of the debt to GDP ratio will fall and push the ratio higher.

Our policy colleagues have also flagged a big range of possible immigration policy outcomes. The current positive supply shock to the labor force has allowed for faster GDP growth and consequently, higher revenues. Under the strictest immigration policies, the so-called break-even monthly payrolls flow could fall from a baseline now of just over 200,000 per month to as low as 45,000 per month.

Such an outcome would imply lower revenues and lower GDP, meaning both the numerator and the denominator of the debt to GDP ratio would be pushing upward.

Thanks for listening. And if you enjoy this podcast, please leave us a review wherever you listen and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague today. 

Our Global Chief Economist explains why markets are concerned about uncertainty around the French and U.S. elections, and how their outcomes may affect each economy’s debt load.