|AS STOCKS PLUMMET, INVESTORS FRET ABOUT WHAT'S NEXT|
Aruba, June 24, 2013 - All this market turmoil has some investors afraid that the era of easy money will go away, further hammering U.S. credit markets.
It has been a painful two days for investors. Stocks, bonds, and commodities all tumbled after the Federal Reserve suggested the U.S. economy was nearly healthy enough for the central bank to provide less support.
But the big question remains: What will happen to your 401(k) and other investments?
Even though the Fed move theoretically means market fundamentals will rise in importance, the sell-off shows the process is going to be a tricky one for traders and investors to navigate as they encounter economic data likely to give off contradictory signals.
Many expect wild swings in the coming months as the market adjusts to this new reality. Investors are likely to worry that surprisingly strong economic figures will hasten the Fed's exit from markets - ironically putting the market in the position of rooting for good-but-not-great economic figures.
"The market has had its safety blanket taken away," said Chris Wyllie, chief investment officer at wealth manager Iveagh in London.
The safety blanket is the Fed's bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing. The plan has lifted both the U.S. economy and world financial markets by pushing interest rates to historic lows. But comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday, when he laid out a likely end to the program by next year if the economy strengthens further, brought a dose of finality to the markets.
Andrew Szczurowski, a portfolio manager at Eaton Vance in Boston, said he viewed the U.S. economy as a person lost at sea to whom Bernanke had thrown a life vest.
"And now all of a sudden Bernanke is talking about poking a hole in the life vest, perhaps before the stranded person is able to swim to shore, and we are seeing essentially every market in the world react negatively to this," he said.