Most experts say the U.S. Federal Reserve's massive bond-buying program that ended in October helped stablilize the U.S. economy, but it also sent billions of dollars into emerging economies. Now, as 2014 winds down, some of that money is starting to return to the U.S.
Since 2008, the U.S. central bank has pumped nearly $4 trillion into the global economy with its stimulus policy. Besides boosting liquidity, quantitative easing, as the practice is known, also sent U.S. interest rates to record lows.
But instead of causing a spike in inflation as many had feared, some of the money began flowing into countries where yields were higher.
“Emerging markets have been the beneficiaries of investors' search for yield,” said Catherine Mann, chief economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Among the beneficiaries have been the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia India and China. But now, with U.S. interest rates set to rise next year, Brad McMillan at Commonwealth Financial Network said some of that money will start flowing back to the United States.
“With U.S. rates starting to rise, the attractiveness of the U.S. as an investment destination continues to increase," he said. "You’re going to see a lot of capital that went to emerging markets potentially come back.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, said the OECD’s Mann.
“Part of the reason why that’s the case is that tapering has happened along with a speed-up in the U.S. economy," she said. "So emerging markets, even as capital was being reallocated, ended up doing better from the standpoint of exporting.”
That’s because a stronger dollar makes foreign exports cheaper. On the other hand, it's also likely to produce increased volatility, the ups and down in financial markets.
Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at financial services firm Allianz, said volatility returned to the foreign exchange market "because we’re going from a world of multispeed central banking to multitrack central banking. In the old days, everybody was doing the same thing, just different magnitudes. Now we have two central banks that are lifting their foot off the accelerator — Bank of England and the Fed — and we have two other central banks that are putting their foot more on the accelerator — the ECB (the European Central Bank) and the Bank of Japan.”
Experts say price volatility is an integral part of economic normalization. James Berkeley of Ellice Consulting said it might prove to be a turning point for the global economy.
“I think governments should really be focused on trying to maximize international trade and to really take advantage of this period of beyond recovery," he said. "We’re now into a period I would describe as serious sustained growth.”
Despite the economic slowdown in parts of the world, experts say a stronger U.S. economy along with lower oil prices is likely to boost consumption. And when consumers buy more, emerging markets that produce more than 35 percent of the world's goods are likely to be among the winners in 2015.