Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Sep 26, 2023

GDP, Inflation and a Possible Government Shutdown

With Andrew Sheets, Global Head of Corporate Credit Research


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Andrew Sheets, Global Head of Corporate Credit Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be talking about trends across the global investment landscape and how we put those ideas together. It's Tuesday, September 26th at 2 p.m. in London.

September has seen widespread market weakness, with both stocks and bonds lower. Several of the big questions behind this move, however, could become much clearer by the end of this week.

One area of market concern remains central banks and the idea that they may continue to raise interest rates to tamp down on inflation. While the Federal Reserve decided not to raise rates at its meeting last week, the first time it's done so since 2022, investors nevertheless left that meeting worried the Fed may have more work to do.

We hold a different view and think that the Fed will not raise interest rates further. But we'll get an important data point to this view on Friday, with the release of PCE, or Personal Consumption Expenditure inflation. This is the inflation gauge that the Fed cares about most, and on Morgan Stanley's forecast, it will fall to just 2.3%, on a three month annualized basis. That's a large, encouraging step down that would show the Fed that inflation is headed in the right direction.

Another area of market concern, somewhat paradoxically, is that the U.S. economy has been quite strong, which in theory would encourage further rate hikes from the Fed. Not only has the US economy shown good GDP numbers so far this year, but unemployment remains near a 50 year low. Fed Chair Powell repeatedly referred to the strength of the economic data in last week's press conference, and some leading economic indicators of industrial activity have actually started to look marginally better.

But two other events this week might change that perception. Thursday will see regular revisions to measurements of U.S. economic growth, and Morgan Stanley's economists think U.S. GDP is more likely to be revised downwards, perhaps significantly. A few days later, the US government faces a shutdown as key appropriations bills have failed to clear the U.S. House of Representatives. That shutdown will act as a drag on the economy, potentially to the tune of about 0.2% of GDP per week.

Both nominal and real yields have risen as the market remains concerned that the Fed will keep policy restrictive for a longer period of time, given still elevated inflation and robust U.S. economic growth. But it's possible, the GDP revisions, inflation data and a government shutdown all this week could change that perception.

For credit, it's worth noting that corporate credit has been a relative outperformer during this rough September. As we discussed on this program last week, higher yields are also meaning fewer bonds are being issued for investors to buy as companies balk at the higher yields they're now being charged to borrow. And in a world where government bonds and equities all yield less than cash does, a so-called negative carry asset, credit again has a marginal advantage. It's a tough backdrop, but we think the credit will continue to be a relative outperformer.

Thanks for listening. Subscribe to Thoughts on the Market on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen, and leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Corporate credit is likely to continue outperforming, even if downward revisions to GDP, sticky inflation data and a potential government shutdown could mean a less restrictive approach from the Fed.

Other Thoughts on the Market From Andrew Sheets