(Bloomberg) -- Stock investors probably have more important things to worry about than the emergence of the new coronavirus strain, according to Morgan Stanley strategists.
While they are “not that concerned about omicron as a major risk factor for equities,” the strategists see headwinds building elsewhere, after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled the possible accelerated tapering of asset purchases. “Tapering is tightening for the markets and it will lead to lower valuations like it always does at this stage of any recovery,” the strategists led by Michael Wilson wrote in a note to clients.
The comments echo the views of other strategists, including those at JPMorgan Chase & Co., who singled out a hawkish turn by central banks as the main risk to their outlook for stocks. But while JPMorgan reiterated on Monday that its base-case scenario is for the equities rally to continue into next year, Morgan Stanley sees the S&P 500 trending lower, and valuations declining.
“Equity markets are resuming their de-rating process that began over nine months ago for numerous reasons,” the Morgan Stanley strategists wrote. They forecast that the S&P 500 forward price-to-earnings ratio would fall by about 12%, with that decline potentially deeper “as equity investors start to demand much higher risk premiums in anticipation of considerably higher long-term interest rates.”
UBS Global Wealth Management strategists said Monday they “expect a period of heightened volatility ahead as investors attempt to assess the risks from omicron and the Fed, based on insufficient and patchy data.” While they advise investors to refrain from a hasty exit from risk assets, the strategists, led by Mark Haefele, said monetary tightening could present a bear case to their base scenario.
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