After A 150% Rise, Morgan Stanley Stock Is Unlikely To Continue

MS: Morgan Stanley logo
Morgan Stanley

After almost a 150% gain since the March 23 lows of the last year, at the current price of $69 per share we believe Morgan Stanley Stock (NYSE: MS) is overpriced. Morgan Stanley, one of the top five investment banks in the U.S and a market leader in the Equity Trading space, has seen its stock rally from $28 to $69 off the recent bottom compared to the S&P which moved around 70% – the stock is leading the broader markets by a huge margin and is up 34% from the levels seen at the end of 2019. The stock growth could be attributed to the Q3 earnings beat and positive revenue growth – cumulative nine months revenues of $34.6 billion were 13% above the year-ago period, mainly driven by a 23% jump in sales & trading business followed by a 17% rise in investment banking.

Morgan Stanley’s stock has surpassed the level it was at before the drop in February due to the coronavirus outbreak becoming a pandemic. This seems to make it expensive as, in reality, consumer demand will likely be lower than the previous year.

The company’s revenues grew around 3% from $40.1 billion in 2018 to about $41.4 billion in 2019, which translated into a 4% increase in the net income figure over the same period. This was mainly due to a slight increase in the net income margin from 22.1% in 2018 to 22.3% in 2019.

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While the company has seen some growth in revenue over 2018-2019, its P/E multiple has increased. We believe the stock is overpriced and is unlikely to see much upside after the recent rally and the potential weakness from a recession-driven by the Covid outbreak. Our dashboard “What Factors Drove 73% Change In Morgan Stanley Stock Between 2018-End And Now?” has the underlying numbers.

Morgan Stanley’s P/E multiple has changed from just above 8x in FY 2018 to around 10x in FY 2019. The company’s P/E has benefited from Q2 and Q3 earnings beats and is just below 13x now. This leaves some space for downside risk when the current P/E is compared to levels seen in the past years – P/E multiple of around 10x at the end of 2019 and 8x at the end of 2018.

So Where Is The Stock Headed?

Morgan Stanley has reported better than expected performance in the first nine months of 2020. This was mainly due to a jump in its sales & trading revenues driven by higher trading activity and growth in the investment banking segment due to higher underwriting deal volume. Both the higher trading volumes and increased activity in the investment banking space were due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic slowdown. However, as the economic conditions improve, we expect these factors to normalize in the coming months. Hence, revenues from the above segments are expected to take a hit. Additionally, the lower interest rate environment is likely to hurt its net interest income from wealth management loans – cumulative nine months net interest income from wealth management segment declined by 12% y-o-y. Overall, Morgan Stanley’s revenue is likely to suffer in the near term, acting as a reality check for the investors.  

The actual recovery and its timing hinge on the broader containment of the coronavirus spread. Our dashboard Trends In U.S. Covid-19 Cases provides an overview of how the pandemic has been spreading in the U.S. and contrasts with trends in Brazil and Russia. Following the Fed stimulus — which set a floor on fear — the market has been willing to “look through” the current weak period and take a longer-term view. With investors focusing their attention on 2021 results, the valuations become important in finding value. Though market sentiment can be fickle, and evidence of an uptick in new cases could spook investors once again.  

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