Economic Roundtable: What’s in Store for ’24?
Seth Carpenter: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Seth Carpenter, Morgan Stanley's Global Chief Economist. On this special episode of the podcast, we're going to hold a roundtable discussion focusing on Morgan Stanley's global economic outlook for 2024. It's Friday, December 15th at 4 p.m. in London.
Ellen Zentner: 11 a.m. in New York.
Jens Eisenschmidt: 5 p.m. in Frankfurt.
Chetan Ahya: And midnight in Hong Kong.
Seth Carpenter: So today I am joined by the leaders of the economics teams in key regions for a roundtable discussion that we're going to start to share each quarter. I'm with Ellen Zentner, our Chief U.S. Economist, Chetan Ahya, our Chief Asia Economist, and Jens Eisenschmidt, our Chief Europe economist. I want to talk with you three about the outlook for the global economy in 2024. Clearly, we're going to need to hit on growth, inflation, and we'll talk about how the various central banks are likely to respond. Let's start with the U.S., Ellen, how do you see the U.S. economy faring next year? What's just like the broad contours of that forecast?
Ellen Zentner: Sure. Well, you know, the soft landing call that we've had since early 2022, we're rolling forward into a third year. I think what's important is why do we expect to finally get the slowing in the economy? We think that the fiscal impulse, which has been positive and made the Fed's job harder, is finally overcome by monetary policy lags that overcome and become more of a strain on the economy. We've got a slowing consumer. That's basically because labor demand is slowing and labor income is slowing. But again I think the whole view, the outlook is that the economy is slowing but not falling off a cliff. That's going to lead deflation in core goods to continue and disinflation in services so that inflation is coming down. So the Fed, after having remained on hold for quite some time, we think will start to cut in June of next year and ultimately deliver four rate cuts through the course of the year. And then another 200 basis points as we move through 2025.
Jens Eisenschmidt: Yeah, if I can jump in here with a view from Europe. So it's striking how similar and at the same time different the views are here, in the sense that the starting point for Europe is much weaker growth. Yet we also get a big disinflation on the way we see actually euro area inflation ending at the ECBs target, or reaching the ECB target at the fourth quarter of 2024. Now for growth, we do have, as I said, a weak patch we are in. It's actually a technical recession with two negative quarters, Q3 and Q4 and 23. And then we are actually accelerating from there, but not an awful lot. So because we see potential growth very low, but consumption actually is picking up. So that's essentially the opposite in some sense, the flip side, but still very weak growth overall.
Seth Carpenter: Okay, Jens. So against that backdrop of your outlook for Europe, what does that mean for the ECB? And in particular, it sort of looks like if the Fed's cutting in June, does the ECB have to wait until the Fed cuts or can it go before the Fed? How are you thinking about policy in Europe?
Jens Eisenschmidt: No, I think that's a great question also, because we get that a lot from clients and we get a lot this sort of based on past regularities observation that the ECB will never cut before the Fed. And technically speaking, we have actually now forecast the ECB cutting before the Fed just one week. So they cut in June as well. And I think the issue here is really hardwired in the way we see the disinflation process and the information arriving at the doorstep of the ECB. They are really monitoring wages and are really worried about the wage developments. So they really want to have clarity about Q1 in particular wages, Q1 24. This clarity will only arrive late May, early June. And so June really for them is the first opportunity to cut in the face of weak inflation data.
Seth Carpenter: Thanks, Jens. That makes a lot of sense. So if I'm reading you right, though, part of the weakness in Europe, especially in Germany, comes from the weakness in China, which is a target for exports from Germany. So let's turn to you, Chetan. What is the baseline outlook for China? It's been a little bit disappointing. How do you see China evolving in 2024?
Chetan Ahya [00:04:17] Well, in our base case, we expect China's GDP growth to improve marginally from an underlying base of 4% in 2023 to 4.2% in 2024, as the effects from coordinated monetary and fiscal easing kicks in. However, a part of the reason why we see only a modest improvement is because the economy is constrained by the three D challenges of high levels of debt, weakening demographics and deflationary pressures. And within that, what will influence the near-term outlook the most is how policymakers will address the deflation challenge.
Jens Eisenschmidt: Chetan, I get a lot of clients, though, questioning the outlook for China and thinking that this is quite optimistic. So what is the downside case for China that you have in your forecast?
Chetan Ahya: Well in the downside case, we think the risk is China falls into that deflation loop. To recall, in our base case, we expect policymakers to stimulate domestic demand with coordinated monetary and fiscal easing. But if that does not materialize, deflationary pressures will persist, nominal GDP growth and corporate revenue growth will decelerate, Corporate profits will decline, forcing them to cut wage growth. This, against the backdrop of declining property prices, will mean consumers will turn risk averse, leading to the formation of a negative feedback loop. In this scenario, we could see real GDP growth at 2.7% and nominal GDP growth at just about 1%.
Seth Carpenter: Wow. That would be a pretty bleak outcome in the downside scenario, Chetan. Maybe if we shift a little bit because we have a pretty compelling story for Japan that there's been a positive structural shift there. Why don't you walk us through the outlook for Japan for next year?
Chetan Ahya: Well, we think Japan is entering a new era of higher nominal GDP growth. We expect Japan's nominal GDP growth to be at 3.8% in 2024, compared with the relatively flat trend for decades. The most important driver to this is policymakers concerted effort to deflate the economy with coordinated monetary and fiscal easing. We think Japan has decisively exited deflation, and its underlying inflation should be supported by sustained wage growth. Indeed, we are getting early signals that the wage increase in 2024 could be higher than the 2.1% that we saw in the 2023 spring wage negotiations.
Seth Carpenter: Super helpful, Chetan. And it reminds me that a baseline forecast is critical, but thinking about the ways in which we can be wrong is just as important for markets as they think through where things are going to go. So, Ellen, let me turn to you. If we are going to be wrong about our Fed call, what's likely to drive that forecast error and which direction would it most likely be?
Ellen Zentner: Yeah, thanks Seth. It's a great question because oftentimes you can get the narrative on the economy right, you can even get the numbers right sometimes, but you can get the Fed reaction function wrong. And so I think what we'll be looking for here is how well Chair Powell sends the message that you can cut rates in line with falling inflation and keep the policy stance just as restrictive. And if that's something that he really gives a full throated view around, then it could lead them to cutting in March, one quarter earlier than we've expected, because inflation has been coming down faster than expected.
Jens Eisenschmidt: If I may chime in here for the ECB, I think we have essentially pretty high conviction that this will be June. And that has to do with what I explained before, that there is essentially a cascading of information and for the ECB, the biggest upside risk to inflation is wages. And they really want to have clarity on that. So it would take a much larger fall in inflation that we observe until, say, March for them to really move before June and we think June is it. But of course the latest is inflation that we are getting that was sort of a little bit more than was expected might have or is a risk actually to our 25 basis point cut calls. So it could well be a 50. In particular if we see more of these big prints.
Seth Carpenter: Ellen, Chetan, Jens, thanks so much for joining and for everyone listening. Thank you for listening. If you enjoy the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or a colleague today.