Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Dec 20, 2023

The Geopolitical Catalysts That Could Affect Markets in 2024

With Michael Zezas
U.S. Public Policy Research for Investors


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Michael Zezas, Global Head of Fixed Income and Thematic Research for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I'll be looking ahead to geopolitical catalysts for markets in 2024. It's Wednesday, December 20th at 11 a.m. in New York.

2023 was a year that, in our view, stood out as one where geopolitics surprisingly impacted markets far less than in recent years. But investors shouldn't get complacent because 2024 is full of potential geopolitical catalysts for markets. Let's start by looking back.

The year that was had plenty of potential catalysts that could have arisen from the political economy. The U.S. flirted again with default by taking a painfully long time to raise the debt ceiling. Its credit rating suffered a downgrade along the way, but the volatility was barely noticeable in the equity and bond markets. Later in the year, a major military conflict broke out in the Middle East, creating a threat of major escalation and confrontation among nations both inside and outside the region, as well as disruptions to the global supply of oil. Still, markets shrugged with the price of oil mostly keeping steady and major global equity indices continuing on their prior trend.

How were markets immune to these events? There's explanations specific to each event. For the debt ceiling, despite the brinkmanship, the probability that Congress wouldn't actually lift the debt ceiling was always quite small. For the Middle East, disruptions of the supply of global oil was not in anyone's interest. But there was also a bigger explanation for investors who look past this. The more important debate all year was whether central banks could turn the tide on inflation, and if so, could they avoid recession along the way.

2024 should be a different story. The debate about inflation in developed markets looks increasingly settled, but the growth debate lingers. While our economists see the U.S. avoiding a recession or having a soft landing, recession remains a key risk. Meaning even small impacts from geopolitical events could meaningfully shift investors perceptions about whether positive or negative economic growth is the base case next year, with asset valuations shifting at the same time. And there will be plenty of events to watch. U.S. elections are clearly one area of focus with implications for Fed policy, global trade and ongoing assistance to Ukraine, whose conflict with Russia continues to carry risks to the European outlook. But it's not just the U.S. There are as many as 40 elections in key countries next year, including in India and Mexico, two secular growth stories our strategist favor. So stay tuned to geopolitics in 2024, we certainly will and we'll continue to share our insight into what it all means for markets.

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While the U.S. debt ceiling challenge and the conflict in the Middle East left markets largely undisturbed this year, 2024 could tell a different story.

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