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Morgan Stanley: Betting on Good Earnings

MORGAN STANLEY (MS)

Last of the big investment banks to report earnings this week. Larger than Lehman, smaller than Goldman.

Reports Q1 earnings Wednesday 3/19 at about 730a ET. Conference call at 11a ET.

Morgan Stanley
Oliver P. Quillia for cnbc.com
Morgan Stanley

WHAT WILL MOVE THE STOCK:

WILL MORGAN BE MORE GOOD NEWS? - Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs told investors what they wanted to hear in their earnings reports and stocks responded with a huge rally. Can Morgan Stanley earnings provide fuel for another surge? It won't take a lot to please the Street: consensus is for a 53% decline in profits and a 28% drop in revenues. If Morgan doesn't announce unexpected writedowns or give disappointing guidance, the markets should be good to go.

BETS ARE IN ALREADY - Morgan Stanley shares closed up 18% on Tuesday, 28% above the Monday lows and posted their highest close in March. Does it look like anyone's worrying about landmines in Morgan's earnings? It sure doesn't seem that way.

WHAT'S IT WORTH? - Who knows? Book value is out of fashion (for the moment). Even with this week's rally, MS is still trading at levels not seen in nearly three years.

IF YOU WANT TO WORRY... - Watch the same potential problem areas you did for Goldman and Lehman: asset markdowns, anything that would reduce confidence in the firm's ability to conduct business, and warnings about future profits and revenues.

ESTIMATES:

Q1 Estimates: EPS down 53% to $1.03, revenues down 28% to $7.187 billion

Q2 Estimates: EPS down 39% to $1.37, revenues down 20% to $8.444 billion

FY 08 Estimates: EPS up 129% to $5.43, revenues up 22% to $34.112 billion

Year-ago actuals: Q1 EPS $2.17, revenues $9.994 billion

Source: Thomson Financial

*All estimates are current as of 3/18 and subject to change.*

FACTOIDS:

TIDE HAS TURNED? - UBS downgraded Lehman and Goldman (but not Morgan) on Monday. On Tuesday, Goldman upgraded Morgan and Lehman.

MONDAY'S MESS, TUESDAY'S REBOUND - On Monday, Morgan Stanley got whacked along with everyone else within a country mile of Bear Stearns. At their low, Morgan shares fell to $33.56, the lowest in nearly five years (April 2003). Morgan also bounced back with the rest of the market. MS has erased all of Monday's losses (and then some).

A STREAK THEY WANT TO BREAK - Lehman has met or beat earnings estimates for 21 straight quarters. Goldman Sachs has an eleven-quarter streak going. So what about Morgan Stanley? It has come in below consensus the last two quarters, and last quarter it missed by more than $3 per share. Starmine says Morgan will beat, based on its read of which analysts are the most accurate. Worth noting: on Feb. 8th analysts were looking for $1.51 per share in profits from Morgan. Now consensus is just $1.03. Ending this ugly streak may not be so hard after all...

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