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Morgan Stanley Cries Wolf on ‘June Gloom’ Economy Outlook

Last Updated September 23, 2020 12:47 PM
Lawrence Meyers
Last Updated September 23, 2020 12:47 PM

By CCN.com:  Morgan Stanley economist Ellen Zentner told clients today that June may be a rough month in the economy, going so far as to suggest “June Gloom” is looming. This comes on top of a similar warning two weeks ago from the very same Wall Street firm. The latest research note  reportedly states:

“The decline shows a sharp deterioration in sentiment this month that was broad-based across sectors.”

Zentner is often solid on many things. On the most recent note, however, she’s off base.

Morgan Stanley is relying on its proprietary Business Conditions Index (BCI), which reflects pivotal moments in the economy.  The post-recession average for the Morgan Stanley BCI is 55.4.  May’s number was 45.  June’s number cratered to 13. The drop is dramatic, and panicked investors are probably noting the index is at the same level as during the 2008-2009 economic crisis.

Morgan Stanley index
Morgan Stanley’s proprietary business index cratered in June. | Source: Morgan Stanley Research/CNBC

Yet both the economic crisis and stock market decline were linked to the mortgage industry debacle.  No such situation exists right now.

In addition, the Morgan Stanley BCI is highly volatile. Business conditions are in a constant state of flux and can change rapidly one month while spiking in the other direction the next month.  The graph above demonstrates how unreliable it is in that regard.

Despite several spikes down over the past decade, no recessions occurred.

The Economy Must Be Viewed as a Whole

As with most things, the economy has to be viewed holistically.  While drilling down into certain subsectors is useful and can provide important indications, a single glance or chart never tells the entire story.

The two most important pieces of economic data show things are fantastic in America.

First quarter GDP was 3.1%, bringing the Trump administration average to 2.9%. That vastly outstrips  the Obama regime, where GDP growth averaged a mere 1.9%.

The unemployment rate is at a multi-decade low of 3.6%.  This does take into account that the labor force participation rate has been virtually flat since Trump took office.

That means the size of the labor force has been essentially unchanged, but more people are working within that labor force.

Economic Indicators Are Strong

Meanwhile, consumer confidence  and numerous other economic indicators  remain at, near, or just below multi-year highs.

So don’t take the Morgan Stanley warning of “June Gloom” too seriously.  It’s only one month of the year.