Morgan Stanley: Legislation that Matters to Markets

In this “Thoughts on the Market” series, Michael Zezas offers perspective on how U.S. public policy affects equity and fixed income markets, including trade tensions, infrastructure and government policy. Listen to this week’s update.

The U.S. Congress has been quietly making progress on a couple of key pieces of legislation, and investors should be aware of which bills will matter to markets.” Michael Zezas

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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Michael Zezas, Head of Public Policy Research and Municipal Strategy for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I’ll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It’s Wednesday, April 27th, at 11 a.m. in New York.

Compared to the Russia Ukraine situation, which rightfully has investors focus when it comes to geopolitics, congressional deliberations in D.C. may seem less important. But this is often where things of consequence to markets happen. So we think investors should keep an eye on Congress this week, where progress is quietly being made on key pieces of legislation that will matter to markets.

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Let’s start with legislation directed at boosting energy infrastructure investment. Reports suggest that Democratic senators are seeking to revive the clean energy spending proposed in the build back better plan, and pair it with fresh authorization for traditional energy exploration. The deliberations have momentum for a few reasons. While environment conscious Senate Democrats may have in the past balked about supporting traditional energy investment, they could now see this effort as the last chance to boost clean energy investment for years, given the chance that Democrats lose control of Congress in the midterm elections. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting need to boost American energy production to aid Europe, may also be persuasive. And while there are several roadblocks to this deal getting done, in particular negotiations about which taxes to increase in order to fund it, investors should pay attention. Such a deal could unlock substantial government energy investments that benefit both the clean tech, and oil and gas sectors of the market. The downside could be that corporate tax increases become its funding source, and if the corporate minimum tax proposal becomes part of the package, that drives margin pressure in banks and telecoms.

Investors should also keep an eye on the competition and innovation bill that includes about $250 billion of funding for re-shoring semiconductor supply chains, and federal research into new technologies. The bill, known in the Senate as the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and the House as the COMPETES Act, is in part motivated by policymakers view that the U.S. must invest in critical areas to maintain a competitive economic advantage over China. While this kind of industrial policy is uncommon in the mostly laissez faire U.S. economic system, these policy motives make it likely, in our view, to be enacted this year. That should help the semiconductor sector, which has been facing uncertainty about how to cope with the risks to its supply chains from export controls and tariffs enacted by the U.S. This week these two bills move into conference, which means in the coming weeks we should have a better sense as to what the final version will look like, and if our view that it will be enacted this year will be right or wrong.

So summing it up, don’t sleep on Congress. There’s slowly but surely working on policies that impact markets. We’ll of course track it all, and keep you in the loop.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the show, please share Thoughts on the Market with a friend or colleague or leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show.

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