Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Jan 3, 2024

New Year, New Investment Themes?

With Paul Walsh and Ed Stanley


Paul Walsh: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Paul Walsh, Morgan Stanley's European Head of Research Product. And on this special episode of the podcast, we'll take a look back at 2023, which has been an extraordinary year. And we'll also touch on what 2024 could have in store for investors. It's Wednesday, January the 3rd at 2 p.m. in London.

Paul Walsh: At the start of last year, we identified ten overarching long term themes that we believed would command investor focus throughout 2023 and beyond. And they ranged from macro developments like inflation, China's reopening and India's economic transformation to micro oriented themes such as Chat GPT, obesity, drugs and a number of others. Of course, the year did throw in a few curveballs, so I wanted to sit down with Ed Stanley to review some of the major themes that did hold investor interest last year, and that will likely continue to unfold in 2024.

Paul Walsh: The whole energy and utilities space has been a topic of constant debate, be it at the energy transition or what's been going on around energy security. And then slightly more sort of sector specific with some of the micro dynamics, we've had the value of innovation in pharma at work around GLP-1s proving to be tremendously popular, as one would expect. And clearly the proliferation of artificial intelligence has really been, you know, the other non macro big theme this year, which has been tremendously prevalent, pretty much whichever corner you've looked in. If I take a little bit of a step back, Ed, and I think about the global themes that we've tried to own this year, namely multipolar world, decarbonization and tech diffusion, from a thematics perspective what themes worked and what played out in the way that you thought, and where have we seen things happening that were unexpected?

Ed Stanley: I think the three big themes that you talk about remain as relevant, if not more relevant now than when we started the year. If you think about tech diffusion, A.I. has been the theme of the year. In multipolar world, we've had more conflict this year, and obviously  that kind of sharpens people's minds to what stocks will and won't work in this kind of backdrop. And then if you think about the decarb theme as the final structural theme, higher interest rates are making investors really question whether the net zero transition is on track. So those three themes remain super relevant. We talked about the China reopening that sort of worked and then it was a bit of a disappointment mid and later on in the year. I'd say we got the micro probably better nailed down than the macro, but in a volatile year, I think we did a fairly good job of picking what to watch out for.

Paul Walsh: What themes have people not been talking about that have been on your radar screen over recent years that you think could make a resurgence as we look forwards?

Ed Stanley: There is a kind of joke in the tech world that we go in three year cycles, so we have A.I, then we have Web3, which is de facto crypto, and then we go back to AR/VR and we run in these cycles waiting for whatever breakthrough comes next. We've had crypto having another rally and we've had A.I this year, so we've had sort of all of them this year, but those are always rotating on the back burner. There are always things like unexpected news in quantum computing that could have overflow and disruption effects across the economy, which most investors are not thinking about until it becomes relevant. So I think there are a lot of things in the background which very easily could thrust themselves into the core of the debate.

Paul Walsh: Well, let's talk a little bit about that and think about what we should be looking out for 2024. So how are you thinking about how the sort of themes and the landscape across the themes is going to develop into 2024 Ed, and what listeners should be thinking about?

Ed Stanley: I think if you think on the top down three structural themes, there is very little to change our view that those remain pretty quarter to our thinking. If you think maybe geographically and then from a micro perspective, geographically, not much has changed on our view on the US, we're threading a needle on that. I think what is more of a shift is a much greater focus on Japan and India relative to China and the US. I think the debate will shift a bit, we won't leave generative A.I behind by any means, but we will shift probably more to talking about EDGE A.I. That is where A.I. is being done on your consumer device, in effect rather than in a data center. And this is something where we see many more catalysts. We see the prospect of killer apps emerging in 2024 to really thrust that debate into people's consciousness. So I think you'll be hearing more about EDGE. So now is the time to get clued up on that if it's not on your radar screen. I think if we're keeping up with the healthcare space, obesity will obviously carry on as a debate, but I think, you know, another piece is on smart chemo. And this is a great topic where there are more catalysts coming up. Not an awful lot is being priced into the underlying equities. Where I think there are exciting things to look forward to. And then the final one is what happens to decarbon renewables. This is a huge debate, but this is the question where you have highly polarized views on both sides.

Paul Walsh: Ed, thanks for sharing your views and for all of your great insights through 2023. And we really look forward to what I'm sure will be an interesting and exciting 2024.

Ed Stanley: Thank you.

Paul Walsh: And to our listeners, thanks for listening. If you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and do share the podcast with a friend or colleague today.

Tune in as our analysts take a look back at the major themes from 2023 and a look ahead to what investors should be eyeing in 2024.