Buckle up! 2014 will be a bumpy ride

davos laurence fink
BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink: "I hear way too much optimism going forward -- we're going to be in a world of much greater volatility."

Get ready for a volatile year. Last week's stock market gyrations and currency swings are a sign of things to come as central banks wean investors off cheap money.

Financial experts at the World Economic Forum in Davos were cautiously optimistic about the outlook for growth in 2014, but the beginning of the end of post-crisis emergency financial support will be bumpy.

The Dow just had its worst week since 2011. And emerging market currencies got hit hard as investors fled riskier assets.

Investors were troubled by signs of weakness in China's huge manufacturing sector and a looming default in the shadow banking system. Expectations that the Federal Reserve will continue to pull back monetary stimulus pushed things along.

"I hear way too much optimism going forward -- we're going to be in a world of much greater volatility," said BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink.

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Investors had been encouraged by "good, consistent" central bank policy around the world in recent years, he said. But the next impetus for growth would depend on governments in China, Japan, the U.S. and Europe delivering on promised economic reforms.

"That troubles me, because there has been great consistency of governments dragging their feet," Fink said.

Monetary policy is already beginning to change in the U.S. and U.K., in response to stronger growth and falling unemployment.

The Federal Reserve has begun to "taper" its purchases of government bonds, and some analysts predict the Bank of England will raise interest rates as early as the fourth quarter.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said there was "no immediate need" for an increase in the cost of borrowing, and that when it comes, the process will be gradual.

But the return to more normal levels of market volatility would feel worse than it is, coming after an extended period of calm, he said.

Related: India headed for 8% growth

Goldman exec: World needs faster growth
Goldman exec: World needs faster growth

The International Monetary Fund upgraded its forecast for world growth on Tuesday. It warned that the outlook would depend on the impact of the withdrawal of central bank support.

"This is clearly a new risk on the horizon, and it needs to be watched," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.

The flow of money back to the U.S. and other developed economies would not affect emerging markets uniformly, she added. Investors would differentiate based on political stability, commitment to reform, and signs of financial weakness.

"The risk is there, but well managed emerging markets will be able to cope with it," said Montek Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's planning commission.

Fink said too much attention was paid to the actions of the Fed and other central banks, and not enough to the reforms needed to respond to the massive technological changes that are destroying jobs.

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