Biggest risk to markets? Global politics

January 6, 2014: 8:00 AM ET
ian bremmer
Ian Bremmer, founder of the Eurasia Group, is more worried about global political instability than a new financial crisis.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

For the first time in five years, the big risk for the global economy is not a collapse of the financial system, according to a report by the Eurasia Group released Monday.

Eurasia, which advises businesses on political and economic concerns, released its annual list of potential risks to global economic stability in 2014 -- and impending financial doom is not among them.

"That's over," the Eurasia analysts wrote in the report. "In 2014, big-picture economics are stable if not yet comforting."

Europe has emerged from recession and Japan's economy is shaking off decades of stagnation. The recovery in the United States is expected to accelerate this year even as the Federal Reserve gradually reduces its stimulus policies. China's new government is implementing reforms to make the world's second-largest economy more stable.

The relatively calm outlook comes after a period of heightened financial risks. Investors and economists have been on alert for another meltdown since 2008. But none of the dire predictions came to pass. The euro is still around. China has not crash landed. And the U.S. didn't fall off the fiscal cliff.

Despite all the partisan rancor in Washington, talk that political dysfunction would derail the economy was overblown, according to Eurasia.

Related: World markets: What's hot in 2014

"This year will be much less politically volatile, with further upside market implications," Eurasia analysts said.

So what should you be worried about? The main risks in 2014 are all geopolitical, according to Eurasia.

The report describes a shifting balance of power in which the U.S. is losing its influence abroad. Ian Bremmer, the political scientist that founded Eurasia Group, describes a clear lack of global leadership in his 2012 book "Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World."

The number one risk this year stems from U.S. foreign policy, specifically how Washington manages its relationship with key allies.

"U.S. allies perceive a poorly defined and vastly reduced U.S. role in the world," the Eurasia analysts wrote. "They question old assumptions about U.S. commitments and worry about Washington's reluctance to deploy military, economic, and diplomatic capital."

What to expect in the stock market in 2014

Eurasia is also concerned about the risk of unrest in emerging economies that will hold elections this year, including Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

Related: World's best economies

There are also worried that China's new leaders will stumble as they overhaul the nation's economy. Iran is still a threat, despite signs of progress in talks with the West over the nation's nuclear program.

The Middle East will remain in turmoil this year, according to Eurasia. While the civil war in Syria is less of a risk to the broader region, the group predicts a resurgent threat posed by "Al Qaeda 2.0."

Other hotspots include Russia and Turkey, where political and economic forces are colliding.

Beyond geopolitics, the boom in unconventional energy could pose risks for "Petrostates," such as Saudi Arabia, as abundant supplies weigh on oil prices.

Eurasia also expects governments to surpass companies this year in the business of gathering "strategic data."

Of course, snooping by the U.S. government was the biggest stories of 2013 due to the revelation that the NSA had a massive surveillance program in place known as PRISM.

But Eurasia thinks that officials around the world will be collecting and aggregating more data on consumers' online behavior "both for purposes of domestic and international security as well as to support strategic economic priorities."

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