Privatizing the U.S. Money Supply

Assignment 1: Privatizing the U.S. Money Supply

Would it be possible to privatize the money supply in the United States completely?  In doing so, what would be the primary obstacle to overcome in implementing such a policy?

By Thursday, February 1, 2013, post your initial discussion response in the M4: Assignment 1 Discussion Area. By Wednesday, February 6, 2013,

 

 Assignment 2: The Multiplier Effect

  1. Go to “FRB: Press Release—FOMC statement—December 16, 2009.”
  2.  You should now find a press release from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, dated December 16, 2009, which discusses the decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) for that date.

This release also states that the Federal Reserve is in the process of purchasing $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and about $175 billion of agency debt. Additionally, the release states that the FOMC has decided to gradually reduce “the pace” of such Fed purchases. Discuss why you believe that the FOMC has made such a decision, and explain the consequences of such a decision on the economy.

In your answer, discuss the Federal Reserve’s use of open-market operations to influence the money supply and the respective consequences of such actions. Include a discussion of the money multiplier effect in your response. Justify your conclusions and provide appropriate examples.

Using Microsoft Word, submit your responses in the form of a short paper ( 2 pages).

By Monday, February 4, 2013

 

I.             
How does open market operation (OMO) affect economic activity:

OMO refers to the sale /purchase of securities (government) by the FED to other banks, institutional buyers and financial institutions in order to influence the total money circulating in the system. Ina recession when the govt wants consumers to spend more it purchases these securities. This releases more funds into the coffers of these institutions, which allows them to use these to extend more credit and raise consumption and investments. the opposite happens in a boom period. When the government wants to reduce spending and arrest rising prices it takes away funds by offering to sell its own securities. Financial institutions buys these  and reduce the amount left with them for credit purposes. Since the FOMC is the policy making branch of the FED it is responsible for any decisions on sale/purchase of securities as well as the price at which these transactions happen. The article is a part of that decision making. It outlines the decisions taken and elucidates the reasons behind the former. Therefore the influence on the economy of OMO is via changes in money supply.

II.            
reasons for the FOMC decision

recent data has been encouraging on a front of fronts, which signalled a recovery from the financial meltdown of 2009. But this recovery was slow compared to most recoveries from previous recessions. Signs of a recovery include:

·         

In the residential real estate sector, home sales and construction were rising, from their earlier low levels-  in some areas prices had even risen.

·          Inventories
were reducing at slower rates, which meant greater confidence in consumption spending by firms.

·          The trend for consumer spending showed an uptrend.

·          There was no rise in inflation, so price rise was subdued.

·          Growth in foreign countries were was on an upswing, which meant greater demand for US exports-a good omen for growth.

However all data was not so positive and bullish on recovery. There remained certain areas of concern:

·      

Unemployment was still high and labour markets were weak.

·       Bank credit did not rise, which meant that either banks don’t have funds or consumers are not picking up loans.-this is a not conducive to a recovery which must be based on rising credit demand that fuels consumption and fresh investments.

·       Business sentiment
was still weak and did not encourage fresh investments. Sentiments affect producers, decisions about capacity expansion, labour recruitment new businesses.

·       Commercial real estate was not picking up. This is critical as a rise in demand for commercial space shows greater confidence in economic conditions that prompt new businesses to be set up. 

These mixed data were the motivation for the decision to continue with purchases of securities. Since the signs of recovery are there the pace of purchases has been reduced. There was a consensus that govt support in terms of pumping money in the economy is still needed to strengthen the initial signs of recovery

III.           
Consequences of FOMC actions:

The estimates and expectations have come true in some respects. Most recent data show a fall in unemployment in USA. However we must understand that OMO have a short, medium and long term effects. Some effects are there to be seen but most of such effects take time to show in concrete data terms. The collection, compilation of data is time consuming. It is clear that USA is recovering from the recession- things are improving . the FOMC’s actions have been helpful as witnessed in the EU support o Greece. The govt’s monetary support has been instrumental in the recovery. This support translates into the actions of the FOMC and provide a signal that the govt is ready to take any action to force an economic recovery.

Press Release

Release Date: December 16, 2009

For immediate release

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in November suggests that economic activity has continued to pick up and that the deterioration in the labor market is abating. The housing sector has shown some signs of improvement over recent months. Household spending appears to be expanding at a moderate rate, though it remains constrained by a weak labor market, modest income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Businesses are still cutting back on fixed investment, though at a slower pace, and remain reluctant to add to payrolls; they continue to make progress in bringing inventory stocks into better alignment with sales. Financial market conditions have become more supportive of economic growth. Although economic activity is likely to remain weak for a time, the Committee anticipates that policy actions to stabilize financial markets and institutions, fiscal and monetary stimulus, and market forces will contribute to a strengthening of economic growth and a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability.

With substantial resource slack likely to continue to dampen cost pressures and with longer-term inflation expectations stable, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued for some time.

The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period. To provide support to mortgage lending and housing markets and to improve overall conditions in private credit markets, the Federal Reserve is in the process of purchasing $1.25 trillion of agency mortgage-backed securities and about $175 billion of agency debt. In order to promote a smooth transition in markets, the Committee is gradually slowing the pace of these purchases, and it anticipates that these transactions will be executed by the end of the first quarter of 2010. The Committee will continue to evaluate the timing and overall amounts of its purchases of securities in light of the evolving economic outlook and conditions in financial markets.

In light of ongoing improvements in the functioning of financial markets, the Committee and the Board of Governors anticipate that most of the Federal Reserve’s special liquidity facilities will expire on February 1, 2010, consistent with the Federal Reserve’s announcement of June 25, 2009. These facilities include the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, and the Term Securities Lending Facility. The Federal Reserve will also be working with its central bank counterparties to close its temporary liquidity swap arrangements by February 1. The Federal Reserve expects that amounts provided under the Term Auction Facility will continue to be scaled back in early 2010. The anticipated expiration dates for the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility remain set at June 30, 2010, for loans backed by new-issue commercial mortgage-backed securities and March 31, 2010, for loans backed by all other types of collateral. The Federal Reserve is prepared to modify these plans if necessary to support financial stability and economic growth.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Charles L. Evans; Donald L. Kohn; Jeffrey M. Lacker; Dennis P. Lockhart; Daniel K. Tarullo; Kevin M. Warsh; and Janet L. Yellen.

2009 Monetary Policy Releases

 

Last update: December 16, 2009


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11: The Financial Sector and the Demand for Money

Colander, David C. Macroeconomics, 7th Edition. McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions

The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.

—John Kenneth Galbraith

AFTER READING THIS CHAPTER, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO:

1. Explain why the financial sector is central to almost all macroeconomic debates.

2. Demonstrate graphically how the long-term interest rate is determined.

3. Explain what money is.

4. Enumerate the three functions of money.

5. State the alternative measures of money and their primary components.

6. Explain how banks create money.

7. Calculate both the simple money multiplier and the money multiplier.

8. Explain why people hold money and how the short-term interest rate is determined in the money market.

The financial sector is exciting (as suggested in this famous painting, “The Bulls and the Bears in the Market”); it is also central to almost all macroeconomic debates. This central role is often not immediately obvious to students. In thinking about the economy, students often focus on the real sector—the market for the production and exchange of goods and services. In the real sector, real goods or services such as shoes, operas, automobiles, and textbooks are exchanged. That’s an incomplete view of the economy. The financial sector—the market for the creation and exchange of financial assets such as money, stocks, and bonds—plays a central role in organizing and coordinating our economy; it makes modern economic society possible. A car won’t run without oil; a modern economy won’t operate without a financial sector.

As I’ve noted throughout this book, markets make specialization and trade possible and thereby make the economy far more efficient than it otherwise would be. But the efficient use of markets requires a financial sector that facilitates and lubricates those trades. Let’s consider an example of how the financial sector facilitates trade. Say you walk into a store and buy a CD. You shell out a 20-dollar bill and the salesperson hands you the CD. Easy, right? Right—but why did the salesperson give you a CD for a little piece of paper? The answer to that question is: Because the economy has a financial system that has convinced him that that piece of paper has value. To convince him (and you) of that requires an enormous structural system, called the financial sector, underlying the CD transaction and all other transactions. That financial system makes the transaction possible; without it the economy as we know it would not exist.

Why Is the Financial Sector Important to Macro?

In thinking about the financial sector’s role, remember the following insight: For every real transaction, there is a financial transaction that mirrors it. For example, when you buy an apple, the person selling the apple is buying 50 cents from you by spending his apple. The financial transaction is the transfer of 50 cents; the real transaction is the transfer of the apple.

FIGURE 11-1: The Financial Sector as a Conduit for Savings

Financial institutions channel saving—outflows from the spending stream from various entities (government, households, and corporations)—back into the spending stream as loans to various entities (government, households, and corporations). To emphasize the fact that savings take many forms, a breakdown of the type of savings for one entity, households, is shown on the left. The same is done for loans on the right, but for corporations. Each of these loans can itself be broken down again and again until each particular loan is identified individually. The lending process is an individualistic process, and each loan is different in some way from each other loan.

The financial sector is central to almost all macroeconomic debates because behind every real transaction, there is a financial transaction that mirrors it.

As long as the financial system is operating smoothly, you hardly know it’s there; but should that system break down, the entire economy would be disrupted and would either stagnate or go into a recession. That’s why it is necessary to give you an overview of the financial sector as part of your foundation of macroeconomics. Thus, although in this book I don’t have a separate section on the steel sector or even the computer sector of the economy, I do have a separate section on money, banking, and the financial sector of the economy.

Q-1

Joe, your study partner, says that since goods and services are produced only in the real sector, the financial sector is not important to the macroeconomy. How do you respond?

The financial sector channels saving back into spending.

The financial sector—financial markets and institutions—transfers saving—outflows from the spending stream in hundreds of different forms—back into spending. Think of the financial sector as a gigantic channeling device, something like that shown in Figure 11-1. If the financial sector expands the spending flow too much, you get inflationary pressures. If it contracts the spending flow too much, you get a recession. And if it transfers just the right amount, you get a smoothly running economy.

For every financial asset, there is a financial liability.

Flow from the spending stream is channeled into the financial sector as saving when individuals buy financial assets—assets such as stocks or bonds, whose benefit to the owner depends on the issuer of the asset meeting certain obligations. These obligations by the issuer of the financial asset are called financial liabilities. For every financial asset, there is a corresponding financial liability. (Financial assets and liabilities are discussed in detail in Appendix A to this chapter.)

The Role of Interest Rates in the Financial Sector

WWW

Web Note 11.1: Interest Rates

Interest rates—the prices paid for the use of a financial asset —are key variables in the financial sector. While there are many interest rates in the economy—mortgage interest rates, interest rates on credit cards, interest rates on government bills, interest rates on corporate bonds, and many more—for simplicity I will talk about interest rates as if there were just two: a short-term interest rate and a long-term interest rate.

The long-term interest rate is the price paid for the use of financial assets with long repayment periods. Examples are mortgages and government bonds. The market for these long-term financial assets is called the loanable funds market. The short-term interest rate is the price paid for the use of financial assets with shorter repayment periods such as savings deposits and checking accounts. These short-term financial assets are called money. So, the long-term interest rate is determined in the loanable funds market and the short-term interest rate is determined in the money market.

FIGURE 11-2: Market for Loanable Funds

The quantity of loanable funds supplied (savings) is equal to the quantity of loanable funds demanded (investment) at an interest rate of 4 percent. If the interest rate for some reason does not equal the 4 percent, say it is 5 percent, the quantity of savings (in this example S1) will exceed the quantity of investment (in this case I1), and all savings will not be channeled back into investment. The circular flow will be broken.

The long-term interest rate is determined in the market for loanable funds as shown in Figure 11-2. In it you can see that the quantity of loanable funds supplied (savings) is equal to the quantity of loanable funds demanded (investment) at an interest rate of 4 percent. If the interest rate for some reason does not equal 4 percent, say it is 5 percent, the quantity of savings (in this case S1) will exceed the quantity of investment (in this case I1), and all savings will not be channeled back into investment. The circular flow will be broken, and macroeconomic problems can develop.

Q-2

Why are interest rates important to the economy?

To get at the problems that can develop, macroeconomics simplifies the flow of saving into two types of financial assets. One type works its way back into the system: bonds, loans, and stocks. These are translated back into investment by financial intermediaries. It is these financial assets to which the loanable funds market refers.1 The other type of financial asset, when held by individuals, is not necessarily assumed to work its way back into the flow—we’ll call this financial asset “money.” Savings held as money are assumed not to work their way back into the loanable funds market and hence those savings do not get translated into investment. This means that some savings escape the circular flow. Compared to the complicated maze of interconnected flows that exists in reality, this is an enormous simplification, but it captures a potentially serious problem and possible cause of fluctuations in the economy.

The Definition and

Functions of Money

Let’s now turn our attention to money.

At this point you’re probably saying, “I know what money is; it’s currency—the dollar bills I carry around.” In one sense you’re right: currency is money. But in another sense you’re wrong; currency is just one example of money. In fact, a number of short-term financial assets are included as money. To see why, let’s consider the definition of money: Money is a highly liquid financial asset that’s generally accepted in exchange for other goods, is used as a reference in valuing other goods, and can be stored as wealth.

Money is a financial asset that makes the real economy function smoothly by serving as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of wealth.

To be liquid means to be easily changeable into another asset or good. When you buy something with money, you are exchanging money for another asset. So any of your assets that are easily spendable are money. Social customs and standard practices are central to the liquidity of money. The reason you are willing to hold money is that you know someone else will accept it in trade for something else. Its value is determined by its general acceptability to others. If you don’t believe that, try spending yuan (Chinese money) in the United States. If you try to buy dinner with 100 yuan, you will be told, “No way—give me money.”

The U.S. Central Bank: The Fed

So is there any characteristic other than general acceptability that gives value to money? Consider the dollar bill that you know is money. Look at it. It states right on the bill that it is a Federal Reserve note, which means that it is an IOU (a liability) of the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed)—the U.S. central bank whose liabilities (Federal Reserve notes) serve as cash in the United States. Individuals are willing to accept the Fed’s IOUs in return for real goods and services, which means that Fed notes are money.

What, you ask, is a central bank? To answer that question, we had better first consider what a bank is. A bank is a financial institution whose primary function is accepting deposits for, and lending money to, individuals and firms. (There are more complicated definitions and many types of banks, but that will do for now; the issues are discussed more fully in Appendix A to this chapter.) If you have more currency than you want, you take it to the bank and it will “hold” the extra for you, giving you a piece of paper (or a computer entry) that says you have that much currency held here (“hold” is in quotation marks because the bank does not actually hold the currency). What the bank used to give you was a bank note, and what you used to bring in to the bank was gold, but those days are gone forever. These days what you bring is that Federal Reserve note described above, and what you get is a paper receipt and a computer entry in your checking or savings account. Individuals’ deposits in these accounts serve the same purpose as does currency and are also considered money.

Which brings us back to the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. central bank. It is a bank that has the right to issue notes (IOUs). By law these Federal Reserve Bank notes are acceptable payment for people’s taxes, and by convention these notes are acceptable payment to all people in the United States, and to many people outside the United States. IOUs of the Fed are what most of you think of as cash.

To understand why money is more than just cash, it is helpful to consider the functions of money in more detail. Having done so, we will consider which financial assets are included in various measures of money.

Functions of Money

Q-3

What are the three functions of money?

As I stated above, money is an asset that can be quickly exchanged for any other asset or good. Money serves three functions:

1. It serves as a medium of exchange.

2. It serves as a unit of account.

3. It serves as a store of wealth.

To get a better understanding of what money is, let’s consider each of its functions in turn.

Money as a Medium of Exchange

The easiest way to understand money’s medium-of-exchange use is to imagine what an economy would be like without money. Say you want something to eat at a restaurant. Without money you’d have to barter with the restaurant owner for your meal. Barter is a direct exchange of goods and/or services. You might suggest bartering one of your papers or the shirt in the sack that you’d be forced to carry with you to trade for things you want. Not liking to carry big sacks around, you’d probably decide to fix your own meal and forgo eating out. Bartering is simply too difficult. Money makes many more trades possible because it does not require a double coincidence of wants by two individuals, as simple barter does.

The use of money as a medium of exchange makes it possible to trade real goods and services without bartering. Instead of carrying around a sack full of diverse goods, all you need to carry around is a billfold full of money. You go into the restaurant and pay for your meal with money; the restaurant owner can spend (trade) that money for anything she wants.

Money doesn’t have to have any inherent value to function as a medium of exchange.

Money doesn’t have to have any inherent value to function as a medium of exchange. All that’s necessary is that everyone believes that other people will accept it in exchange for their goods. This neat social convention makes the economy function more smoothly.

Money as a Unit of Account

A second use of money is as a unit of account, that is, a measure of value. Money prices are actually relative prices. A money price, say 25 cents, for a pencil conveys the information of a relative price—1 pencil = 1/4 of 1 dollar—because money is both our unit of account and our medium of exchange. When you think of 25 cents, you think of 1/4 of a dollar and of what a dollar will buy. The 25 cents a pencil costs only has meaning relative to the information you’ve stored in your mind about what money can buy. If a hamburger costs $1.50, you can compare hamburgers and pencils (1 pencil = 1/6 of a hamburger) without making the relative price calculations explicitly.

Having a unit of account makes life much easier. For example, say we had no unit of account and you had to remember the relative prices of all goods. For instance, with three goods you’d have to memorize that an airplane ticket to Miami costs 6 lobster dinners in Boston or 4 pairs of running shoes, which makes a pair of shoes worth 1½ lobster dinners.

Memorizing even a few relationships is hard enough, so it isn’t surprising that societies began using a single unit of account. If you don’t have a single unit of account, all combinations of 100 goods will require that you remember thousands of relative prices. If you have a single unit of account, you need know only 100 prices. A single unit of account saves our limited memories and helps us make reasonable decisions based on relative prices.

Money is a useful unit of account only as long as its value relative to other prices doesn’t change too quickly.

Money is used as a unit of account at a point in time, and it’s also a unit of account over time. For example, money is a standard of deferred payments such as on college loans that many of you will be making after graduation. The value of those loan payments depends on how the money prices of all other goods change over time.

In hyperinflation, all prices rise so much that our frame of reference is lost.

Money is a useful unit of account only as long as its value relative to the average of all other prices doesn’t change too quickly. For example, in hyperinflation all prices rise so much that our frame of reference for making relative price comparisons is lost. Is 25 cents for a pencil high or low? If the price level increased 33,000 percent (as it did in 1988 in Nicaragua) or over 100,000 percent (as it did in the early 2000s in Zimbabwe), 25 cents for a pencil would definitely be low, but would $100 be low? Without a lot of calculations we can’t answer that question. A relatively stable unit of account makes it easy to answer.

Given the advantages to society of having a unit of account, it’s not surprising that a monetary unit of account develops even in societies with no central bank or government. For example, in a prisoner of war camp during World War II, prisoners had no money, so they used cigarettes as their unit of account. Everything traded was given a price in cigarettes. The exchange rates on December 1, 1944, were

1 bar of soap: 2 cigarettes

1 candy bar: 4 cigarettes

1 razor blade: 6 cigarettes

1 can of fruit: 8 cigarettes

1 can of cookies: 20 cigarettes

As you can see, all prices were in cigarettes. If candy bars rose to 6 cigarettes and the normal price was 4 cigarettes, you’d know the price of candy bars was high.

Money as a Store of Wealth

As long as money is serving as a medium of exchange, it automatically also serves as a store of wealth.

When you save, you forgo consumption now so that you can consume in the future. To bridge the gap between now and the future, you must acquire a financial asset. This is true even if you squirrel away currency under the mattress. In that case, the financial asset you’ve acquired is simply the currency itself. Money is a financial asset. (It’s simply a bond that pays no interest.) So a third use of money is as a store of wealth. As long as money is serving as a medium of exchange, it automatically also serves as a store of wealth. The restaurant owner can accept your money and hold it for as long as she wants before she spends it. (But had you paid her in fish, she’d be wise not to hold it more than a few hours.)

Q-4

Why do people hold money rather than bonds when bonds pay higher interest than money?

You might wonder why people would hold money that pays no interest. Put another way: Why do people hold a government bond that pays no interest? The reason is that money, by definition, is highly liquid—it is more easily translated into other goods than are other financial assets. Since money is also the medium of exchange, it can be spent instantaneously (as long as there’s a shop open nearby). Our ability to spend money for goods makes money worthwhile to hold even if it doesn’t pay interest.

Alternative Measures of Money

According to the definition of money, what people believe is money and what people will accept as money are determining factors in deciding whether a financial asset is money. Consequently, it’s difficult to measure money unambiguously. A number of different financial assets serve some of the functions of money and thus have claims to being called money. To handle this ambiguity, economists have developed different measures of money and have called them M 1 and M 2. Each is a reasonable concept of money. Let’s consider their components.

M1

M1 is the component of the money supply that consists of currency in the hands of the public plus checking accounts and traveler’s checks.

M1 consists of currency in the hands of the public, checking account balances, and traveler’s checks. Clearly, currency in the hands of the public (the dollar bills and coins you carry around with you) are money, but how about your checking account deposits? The reason they’re included in this measure of money is that just about anything you can do with currency, you can do with a check. You can store your wealth in your checking account; you can use a check as a medium of exchange (indeed, for some transactions you have no choice but to use a check), and your checking account balance is denominated in the same unit of account (dollars) as is currency. If it looks like money, acts like money, and functions as money, it’s a good bet it’s money. Indeed, checking account deposits are included in all measures of money.

The same arguments can be made about traveler’s checks. (Some advertisements even claim that traveler’s checks are better than money because you can get them replaced.) Currency, checking account deposits, and traveler’s checks make up the components of M1, the narrowest measure of money. Figure 11-3 presents the relative sizes of M1’s components.

FIGURE 11-3: Components of

M2

and M1

The two most-used measures of the money supply are M1 and M2. The two primary components of M1 are currency in the hands of the public and checking accounts. M2 includes all of M1, plus savings deposits, time deposits, and money market mutual funds.

Source: H.6 Money Stock Measures, 2007 (www.federalreserve.gov).

M2

M2 is the component of the money supply that consists of M1 plus other relatively liquid assets.

M2 is made up of M1 plus savings deposits, small-denomination time deposits, and money market mutual fund shares. The relative sizes of the components of M2 are given in Figure 11-3.

The money in savings accounts (savings deposits) is counted as money because it is readily spendable—all you need do is go to the bank and draw it out. Small-denomination time deposits are also called certificates of deposit (CDs).

Q-5

Which would be a larger number, M1 or M2? Why?

M2’s components include more financial assets than M1. All its components are highly liquid and play an important role in providing reserves and lending capacity for commercial banks. What makes the M2 measure important is that economic research has shown that M2 is the measure of money often most closely correlated with the price level and economic activity.

Distinguishing between Money and Credit

Credit cards are not money.

You might have thought that credit cards would be included in one of the measures of money. But I didn’t include them. In fact, credit cards are no

where

to be seen in a list of the components of money. Credit cards are not money. Credit cards aren’t a financial liability of the bank that issues them. Instead, credit cards create a liability for their users (money owed to the company or bank that issued the card) and the banks have a financial asset as a result.

Let’s consider how a credit card works. You go into a store and buy something with your credit card. You have a real asset—the item you bought. The store has a financial asset—an account receivable. The store sells that financial asset at a slight discount to the bank and gets cash in return. Either the bank collects cash when you pay off your financial liability or, if you don’t pay it off, the bank earns interest on its financial asset (often at a high rate, from 12 to 18 percent per year). Credit cards are essentially prearranged loans.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

Characteristics of a Good Money

The characteristics of a good money are that its supply be relatively constant, that it be limited in supply (sand wouldn’t make good money), that it be difficult to counterfeit, that it be divisible (have you ever tried to spend half a horse?), that it be durable (raspberries wouldn’t make good money), and that it be relatively small and light compared to its value (watermelon wouldn’t make good money either). All these characteristics were reasonably (but not perfectly) embodied in gold. Many other goods have served as units of account (shells, wampum, rocks, cattle, horses, silver), but gold historically became the most important money, and in the 17th and 18th centuries gold was synonymous with money.

But gold has flaws as money. It’s relatively heavy, easy to counterfeit with coins made only partly of gold, and, when new gold fields are discovered, subject to fluctuations in supply. These flaws led to gold’s replacement by paper currency backed only by trust that the government would keep its commitment to limit its supply.

Paper money can be a good money if somehow people can trust the government to limit its supply and guarantee that its supply will be limited in the future. That trust has not always been well placed.

Most societies today supplement paper money such as dollar bills with electronic money that exists as debits and credit entries recorded on the computer. Both electronic money and paper money are vulnerable to fraud. Electronic money can be created by criminals who electronically change debit and credit entries, which is why banks spend billions of dollars on computer security and encryption technology each year. Paper money can be counterfeited. For example, in World War II, Germany planned to counterfeit a significant amount of British pounds and drop them in Britain to disrupt the British economy. It didn’t succeed; by the time they had printed the notes, they didn’t have the aircraft to fl y them over and drop them in Britain.

Counterfeiting continues today. For example, you may have noticed that some of the higher-denomination-dollar bills you carry have changed their look in recent years. That’s because counterfeiters with new technology could create almost perfect counterfeit copies of the older designs. In 1989, authorities found some counterfeit U.S. $100 bills that had the right mix of cotton and linen and that had been manufactured on the very expensive Intaglio press, the same kind of press used to print real dollar bills. They called these counterfeit notes “supernotes.” To stop the counterfeiters of the supernotes, the United States redesigned the U.S currency, adding additional security measures such as color-shifting ink, watermarks, a security thread, an ultraviolet glow, and microprinting. Counterfeiters will copy these newly designed bills, which means that it is likely that U.S. authorities will have to redesign U.S. paper currency about every 10 years in order to keep ahead of counterfeiters.

So far, counterfeiting is still relatively unimportant in the United States. But in some developing countries, merchants and even banks are hesitant to accept large-denomination U.S. currency, which means that counterfeiting in those countries, is undermining the usefulness of the dollar as money.

This distinction between credit and money should be kept in mind. Money is a financial asset of individuals and a financial liability of banks. Credit is savings made available to be borrowed. Credit is not an asset of the borrowing public.

Q-6

Are credit cards money?

Credit cards and credit impact the amount of money people hold. When preapproved loan credit is instantly available (as it is with a credit card), there’s less need to hold money. (If you didn’t have a credit card, you’d carry a lot more currency.) With credit immediately available, liquidity is less valuable to people. So credit and credit cards do make a difference in how much money people hold, but because they are not financial liabilities of banks, they are not money.

ADDED DIMENSION

Money Laundering

The U.S. government has issued over $820 billion worth of cash. That’s about $2,700 for every man, woman, and child. Now ask yourself how much cash you’re carrying on you. Add to that the amounts banks and businesses keep, and divide that by the number of people in the United States. The number economists get when they do that calculation is way below the total amount of cash the United States has issued. So what happens to the extra cash?

Let’s switch for a minute to a Miami safehouse being raided by drug enforcement officers. They find $50 million in cash. That’s what most economists believe happens to much of the extra cash that remains in the United States. It goes underground. An underground economy lurks below the real economy. The underground economy consists of two components: (1) the production and distribution of illegal goods and services and (2) the nonreporting of legal economic activity.

Illegal activity, such as selling illegal drugs and prostitution, generates huge amounts of cash. (Most people who buy an illegal good or service would prefer not to have the transaction appear on their monthly credit card statements.) This presents a problem for a big-time illegal business. It must explain to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) where all that money came from. That’s where money laundering comes in. Money laundering is simply making illegally gained income look as if it came from a legal business. Any business through which lots of cash moves is a good front for money laundering. Laundromats move lots of cash, which is where the term money laundering came from. The mob bought laundromats and claimed a much higher income from the laundromats than it actually received. The mob thus “laundered” the excess money. Today money laundering is much more sophisticated. It involves billions of dollars and international transactions in three or four different countries, but the purpose is the same: making illegally earned money look legal.

While credit cards are not money, a debit card serves the same function as a check—think of it as a computer checkbook—and hence is part of the monetary system. It allows you to spend money in your bank account (to debit your account) and thus makes your bank account more liquid. With a debit card, no loan is involved; you are spending your money.

Banks and the Creation of Money

Banks are financial institutions that borrow from people (take in deposits) and use the money they borrow to make loans to other individuals. Banks make a profit by charging a higher interest on the money they lend out than they pay for the money they borrow. Individuals keep their money in banks, accepting lower interest rates, because doing so is safer and more convenient than the alternatives.

The Creation of Money

Banking is generally analyzed from the perspective of asset management (how a bank handles its loans and other assets) and liability management (how a bank attracts deposits and what it pays for them). When banks offer people “free checking” and special money market accounts paying 4 percent, they do so after carefully considering the costs of those liabilities to them.

It is important to think of banks as both borrowers and lenders.

To think of banks as borrowers as well as lenders may seem a bit unusual, but borrowing is what they do. When you own a savings account or a checking account, the bank is borrowing from you, paying you a zero (or low) interest rate. It then lends your money to other people at a higher interest rate.

How Banks Create Money

Banks “create” money because a bank’s liabilities are defined as money. So when a bank incurs liabilities, it creates money.

Banks are centrally important to macroeconomics because they create money. How do banks create money? As John Kenneth Galbraith’s epigram at the start of this chapter suggests, the process is simple—so simple it seems almost magical to many.

The key to understanding how banks create money is to remember the nature of financial assets: Financial assets can be created from nothing as long as an offsetting financial liability is simultaneously created. Since money is any financial asset that can be used as a medium of exchange, unit of account, and store of value, money can be created rather easily. The asset just needs to serve the functions of money. Seeing how dollar bills are created is the easiest way to begin examining the process. Whenever the Fed issues an IOU, it creates money.2 Similarly, other banks create money by creating financial assets that serve the functions of money. As we saw when we considered the measures of money, bank checking accounts serve those functions, so they are money, just as currency is money. When a bank places the proceeds of a loan it makes to you in your checking account, it is creating money. You have a financial asset that did not previously exist.

The First Step in the Creation of Money

To see how banks create money, let’s consider what would happen if you were given a freshly printed $100 bill. Remember, the Fed created that $100 bill simply by printing it. The $100 bill is a $100 financial asset of yours and a financial liability of the Fed, which issued it.

If the process of creating money stopped there, it wouldn’t be particularly mysterious. But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s consider what happens next as you use that money.

About 95 percent of all bills printed each year replace worn-out notes. The remaining 5 percent represent new currency in circulation.

The Second Step in the Creation of Money

The second step in the creation of money involves the transfer of money from one form to another—from currency to a bank deposit. Say you decide to put the $100 bill in your checking account. To make the analysis easier, let’s assume that your bank is a branch of the country’s only bank, Big Bank. All money deposited in branch banks goes into Big Bank. After you make your deposit, Big Bank is holding $100 in currency for you, and you have $100 more in your checking account. You can spend it whenever you want simply by writing a check. So Big Bank is performing a service for you (holding your money and keeping track of your expenditures) for free. Neat, huh? Big Bank must be run by a bunch of nice people.

But wait. You and I know that bankers, while they may be nice, aren’t as nice as all that. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Let’s see why the bank is being so nice.

Banking and Goldsmiths

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Web Note 11.2: Gold

To see why banks are so nice, let’s go way back in history to when banks first developed.3 At that time, gold was used for money and people carried around gold to make their payments. But because gold is rather heavy, it was difficult to use for big purchases. Moreover, carrying around a lot of gold left people vulnerable to being robbed by the likes of Robin Hood. So they looked for a place to store their gold until they needed some of it.

From Gold to Gold Receipts

The natural place to store gold was the goldsmith shop, which already had a vault. For a small fee, the goldsmith shop would hold your gold, giving you a receipt for it. Whenever you needed your gold, you’d go to the goldsmith and exchange the receipt for gold.

Pretty soon most people kept their gold at the goldsmith’s, and they began to wonder: Why go through the bother of getting my gold out to buy something when all that happens is that the seller takes the gold I pay and puts it right back into the goldsmith’s vault? That’s two extra trips.

Consequently, people began using the receipts the goldsmith gave them to certify that they had deposited $100 worth (or whatever) of gold in his vault. At that point, gold was no longer the only money—gold receipts were also money since they were accepted in exchange for goods. However, as long as the total amount in the gold receipts directly represented the total amount of gold, it was still reasonable to say, since the receipts were 100 percent backed by gold, that gold was the money supply.

Gold Receipts Become Money

Q-7

Most banks prefer to have many depositors rather than one big depositor. Why?

Once this process of using the receipts rather than the gold became generally accepted, the goldsmith found that he had substantial amounts of gold in his vault. All that gold, just sitting there! On a normal day, only 1 percent of the gold was claimed by “depositors” and had to be given out. Usually on the same day an amount at least equal to that 1 percent came in from other depositors. What a waste! Gold sitting around doing nothing! So when a good friend came in, needing a loan, the goldsmith said, “Sure, I’ll lend you some gold receipts as long as you pay me some interest.” When the goldsmith made this loan, he created more gold receipts than he had covered in gold in his vault. He created money.

Pretty soon the goldsmith realized he could earn more from the interest he received on loans than he could earn from goldsmithing. So he stopped goldsmithing and went full-time into making loans of gold receipts. At that point, the number of gold receipts outstanding significantly exceeded the amount of gold in the goldsmith’s vaults. But not to worry; since everyone was willing to accept gold receipts rather than gold, the goldsmith had plenty of gold for those few who wanted actual gold.

Money is whatever meets the definition of money.

It was, however, no longer accurate to say that gold was the country’s money or currency. Gold receipts were also money. They met the definition of money. These gold receipts were backed partially by gold and partially by people’s trust that the goldsmiths would pay off their deposits on demand. The goldsmith shops had become banks.

Banking Is Profitable

The banking business was very profitable for goldsmiths. Soon other people started competing with them, offering to hold gold for free. After all, if they could store gold, they could make a profit on the loans to other people (with the first people’s money). Some even offered to pay people to store their gold.

The goldsmith story is directly relevant to banks. People store their currency in banks and the banks issue receipts—checking accounts—that become a second form of money. When people place their currency in banks and use their receipts from the bank as money, those receipts also become money because they meet the definition of money: They serve as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of wealth. So money includes both currency that people hold and their deposits in the bank.

Which brings us back to why banks hold your currency for free. They do it not because they’re nice, but because when you deposit currency in the bank, your deposit allows banks to make profitable loans they otherwise couldn’t make.

The Money Multiplier

With that background, let’s go back to your $100, which the bank is now holding for you. You have a checking account balance of $100 and the bank has $100 currency. As long as other people are willing to accept your check in payment for $100 worth of goods, your check is as good as money. In fact, it is money in the same way gold receipts were money. But when you deposit $100, no additional money has been created yet. The form of the money has simply been changed from currency to a checking account or demand deposit.

Now let’s say Big Bank lends out 90 percent of the currency you deposit, keeping only 10 percent as reserves—currency and deposits a bank keeps on hand or at the Fed or central bank, to manage the normal cash inflows and outflows. This 10 percent is the reserve ratio (the ratio of reserves to total deposits). Banks are required by the Fed to hold a percentage of deposits; that percentage is called the required reserve ratio. Banks may also choose to hold an additional percentage, called the excess reserve ratio. The reserve ratio is the sum of the required reserve ratio and the excess reserve ratio. Thus, the reserve ratio is at least as large as the required reserve ratio, but it can be larger.

The reserve ratio is the ratio of currency (or deposits at the central bank) to deposits a bank keeps as a reserve against currency withdrawals.

So, like the goldsmith, Big Bank lends out $90 to someone who qualifies for a loan. That person the bank loaned the money to now has $90 currency and you have $100 in a demand deposit, so now there’s $190 of money, rather than just $100 of money. The $10 in currency the bank holds in reserve isn’t counted as money since the bank must keep it as reserves and may not use it as long as it’s backing loans. Only currency held by the public, not currency held by banks, is counted as money. By making the loan, the bank has created $90 in money.

Of course, no one borrows money just to hold it. The borrower spends the money, say on a new sweater, and the sweater store owner now has the $90 in currency. The store owner doesn’t want to hold it either. She’ll deposit it back into the bank. Since there’s only one bank, Big Bank discovers that the $90 it has loaned out is once again in its coffers. The money operates like a boomerang: Big Bank loans $90 out and gets the $90 back again.

The same process occurs again. The bank doesn’t earn interest income by holding $90, so if the bank can find additional credible borrowers, it lends out $81, keeping $9 (10 percent of $90) in reserve. The story repeats and repeats itself, with a slightly smaller amount coming back to the bank each time. At each step in the process, money (in the form of checking account deposits) is being created.

Determining How Many Demand Deposits Will Be Created

What’s the total amount of demand deposits that will ultimately be created from your $100 when individuals hold no currency? To answer that question, we continue the process over and over: 100 + 90 + 81 + 72.9 + 65.6 + 59 + 53.1 + 47.8 + 43.0 + 38.7 + 34.9. Adding up these numbers gives us $686. Adding up $686 plus the numbers from the next 20 rounds gives us $961.08.

As you can see, that’s a lot of adding. Luckily there’s an easier way. Economists have shown that you can determine the amount of money that will eventually be created by such a process by multiplying the initial $100 in money that was printed by the Fed and deposited by 1/r, where r is the reserve ratio (the percentage banks keep out of each round). In this case the reserve ratio is 10 percent.

Dividing,

so the amount of demand deposits that will ultimately exist at the end of the process is

(10 × $100) = $1,000

The $1,000 is in the form of checking account deposits (demand deposits). The entire $100 in currency that you were given, and that started the whole process, is in the bank as reserves, which means that $900 ($1,000 —$100) of money has been created by the process.

Calculating the Money Multiplier

The simple money multiplier is the measure of the amount of money ultimately created per dollar deposited by the banking system. When people hold no currency, it equals 1/r.

We will call the ratio 1/ r the simple money multiplier—the measure of the amount of money ultimately created per dollar deposited in the banking system, when people hold no currency. It tells us how much money will ultimately be created by the banking system from an initial inflow of money. In our example, 1/.10 = 10. Had the bank kept out 20 percent each time, the money multiplier would have been 1/.20 = 5. If the reserve ratio were 5 percent, the money multiplier would have been 1/.05 = 20. The higher the reserve ratio, the smaller the money multiplier, and the less money will be created.

TABLE 11-1: The Money-Creating Process

The higher the reserve ratio, the smaller the money multiplier.

An Example of the Creation of Money4

To make sure you understand the process, let’s consider an example. Say that the reserve ratio is 20 percent and that John Finder finds $10,000 in currency, which he deposits in the bank. Thus, he has $10,000 in his checking account and the bank has $8,000 ($10,000 —$2,000 in reserves) to lend out. Once it lends that money to Fred Baker, there is $8,000 of additional money in the economy. Fred Baker uses the money to buy a new oven from Mary Builder, who, in turn, deposits the money back into the banking system. Big Bank lends out $6,400 ($8,000 —$1,600 in reserves).

Now the process occurs again. Table 11-1 shows the effects of the process for 5 rounds, starting with the initial $10,000. Each time it lends the money out, the money returns like a boomerang and serves as reserves for more loans. After 5 rounds we reach a point where total demand deposits are $33,616, and the bank has $6,723 in reserves. This is approaching the $50,000 we’d arrive at using the money multiplier:

If we carried it out for more rounds, we’d actually reach what the formula predicted.

Note that the process ends only when the bank holds all the currency in the economy, and the only money held by the public is in the form of demand deposits. Notice also that the total amount of money created depends on the amount banks hold in reserve. Specifically, an economy can support a supply of money equal to reserves times the money multiplier.

To see that you understand the process, say that banks suddenly get concerned about the safety of their loans, and they decide to keep excess reserves—reserves held by banks in excess of what banks are required to hold. What will happen to the money multiplier? If you answered that it will decrease, you’ve got it. Excess reserves decrease the money multiplier as much as required reserves do. I mention this example because this is precisely what happened to the banking system in the early 1990s. Banks became concerned about the safety of their loans; they held large excess reserves, and the money multiplier decreased.

In summary, the process of money creation isn’t difficult to understand as long as you remember that money is simply a bank’s financial liability held by the public. Whenever banks create financial liabilities for themselves, they create financial assets for individuals, and those financial assets are money.

Calculating the Money Multiplier

When people hold currency, the money multiplier is (1 + c)/(r + c).

In the example, I assumed that only banks hold currency. The simple money multiplier reflects that assumption. In reality, banks are not the only holders of currency. Firms and individuals hold currency too, so in each round we must also make an adjustment in the multiplier for what people and firms hold. When firms and individuals hold currency, the money multiplier in the economy is:

Q-8

If banks hold 20 percent of their deposits as reserves, and the ratio of money people hold as currency to deposits is 20 percent, what is the money multiplier?

where r is the percentage of deposits banks hold in reserve and c is the ratio of money people hold in currency to the money they hold as deposits.5 Let’s consider an example. Say the banks keep 10 percent in reserve and the ratio of individuals’ currency holdings to their deposits is 25 percent. This means the money multiplier will be:

The more cash people hold, the smaller the money multiplier.

Q-9

If people suddenly decide to hold more currency, what happens to the size of the money multiplier?

Faith as the Backing of Our Money Supply

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Web Note 11.3: Paper Money

The creation of money and the money multiplier are easy to understand if you remember that money held in the form of a checking account (the financial asset created) is offset by an equal amount of financial liabilities of the bank. The bank owes its depositors the amount in their checking accounts. Its financial liabilities to depositors, in turn, are secured by the loans (the bank’s financial assets) and by the financial liabilities of people to whom the loans were made. Promises to pay underlie any modern financial system.

ADDED DIMENSION

The Real-World Money Multiplier and Recent Banking Reforms

Life keeps getting tougher. In the old days, economics students only had to learn the simple money multiplier. Recent reforms in the U.S. banking system have made that impossible. The Depository Institutions Deregulation Act of 1980 extended the reserve requirement to a wide variety of financial institutions besides banks, but it also lowered the reserve requirement for most deposits. In the early 2000s, the average reserve requirement for all types of bank deposits was under 2 percent and banks held very few excess reserves. (The U.S. reserve requirement on checking accounts is between 3 and 10 percent. Great Britain has no reserve requirements.)

If you insert that low average ratio into the simple money multiplier, you get a multiplier of 50! The real-world money multiplier is much lower than that because of people’s holding of currency; the ratio of money people hold as currency is over 50 percent. (For each person in the United States, there’s about $2,700 in currency, although it is estimated that two-thirds of currency in circulation is held abroad. That still leaves about $900 for each person in the United States. Don’t ask me where that currency is, but according to the data it’s out there.) Thus, despite the fact that it makes calculating the real-world money multiplier a bit more difficult, these holdings must be included in the story. Otherwise you won’t have a sense of how the real-world system works.

The initial money in the story about the goldsmiths was gold, but it quickly became apparent that it was far more reasonable to use gold certificates as money. Therefore, gold certificates backed by gold soon replaced gold itself as the money supply. Then, as goldsmiths made more loans than they had gold, the gold certificates were no longer backed by gold. They were backed by promises to get gold if the person wanted gold in exchange for the gold certificate. Eventually the percentage of gold supposedly backing the money became so small that it was clear to everyone that the promises, not the gold, underlay the money supply.

All that backs the modern money supply are bank customers’ promises to repay loans and government guarantees of banks’ liabilities to individuals.

The same holds true with banks. Initially, currency (Federal Reserve IOUs) was backed by gold, and banks’ demand deposits were in turn backed by Federal Reserve IOUs. But by the 1930s the percentage of gold backing money grew so small that even the illusion of the money being backed by anything but promises was removed. All that backs the modern money supply are bank customers’ promises to repay loans and the guarantee of the government to see that the banks’ liabilities to individuals will be met.

The Demand for Money and the Role of the Interest Rate

Now that we’ve discussed the nature of money, let’s consider how money fits in with the financial flows discussed at the beginning of the chapter, and the potential problems that may develop in the macro economy as people shift their holdings between financial assets and money. To do that, we must first ask: Why do people hold money? This is a relevant question because, by assumption, money doesn’t pay any interest, whereas other financial assets do pay interest, so to hold money people are forgoing interest payments.6

Why People Hold Money

Q-10

What are three reasons people hold money?

The three reasons for holding money are the

1. Transactions motive.

2. Precautionary motive.

3. Speculative motive.

The only reason people would be willing to hold money is if they get some benefit from doing so, so we need to examine that benefit. The first benefit is easy: money allows you to buy things. You can spend money; you can’t spend bonds. You can change a financial asset into spendable money, but that takes time and effort. The need to hold money for spending is called the transactions motive. Second, you hold money for emergencies. For example, if your car breaks down, you’ll need cash to get it towed. Knowing that there will always be unforeseen needs, you might carry $20 cash in addition to what you would otherwise carry. Holding money for unexpected expenses and impulse buying is called the precautionary motive for holding money. The third reason for holding money is called the speculative motive. The speculative motive is holding cash to avoid holding financial assets whose prices are falling. It comes about because the price of financial assets such as bonds varies in value as the interest rate fluctuates. For example, if you expect the price of a bond (or any financial asset) to fall, that bond is not something you would want to be holding, because you will be losing money by holding it; you’d rather be holding money. Your money holdings might not be earning any interest, but at least their value isn’t falling like the price of the asset. In a sense, you are speculating on what the future value of the bond will be. That’s why it’s called the speculative motive for holding money. You hold money rather than longer-term financial assets so you don’t lose if asset prices fall. (Of course, if asset prices are expected to rise, then you want to reduce your holdings of money and increase your asset holdings.)

This 18th-century etching by Robert Goez, The Speculator, captures a popular view of financial activities. It shows a man reduced to rags by bad speculation.

Let’s consider an example of bond price fluctuations. (Remember, bonds are often used as the reference asset for all financial assets when people provide loanable funds.) Say you have a one-year $1,000 bond that pays an interest rate of 4 percent a year, and that 4 percent is the interest rate in the economy. The bond sells for $1,000 and will provide $40 interest for the year. You’re happy earning that 4 percent (that’s the best you can do) so you buy the bond for $1,000. Now say that the day after you buy the bond, the interest rate in the economy rises to 6 percent. Because the price of the bond is inversely related to the interest rate in the economy, the price of that 4 percent $1,000 bond that you bought for $1,000 will fall, in this case to $981.13. (See the box “

Interest Rates and the Price of Bonds

” for a further explanation.) In one day, your bond has fallen in value by $18.87, an amount that far exceeds the interest you earned on the bond for that day. In this case, you would have preferred to have held cash instead of the bond because the cash would not have fallen in value. Holding cash in the expectation of falling bond prices is the speculative demand for money.

Most professional bond speculators, who often carry portfolios of millions and even billions of dollars of bonds, make their money on changes in the prices of bonds, not on the interest payments of bonds. The reason is that although the changes in annualized interest rates on any particular day are generally small—so small that they are measured in basis points, each of which is one one-hundredth of a percentage point—even those small changes in interest rates swamp the income made on the interest rate payments for the day.

ADDED DIMENSION
Interest Rates and the Price of Bonds

In the example in the text, you may have thought that if the interest rate in the economy rose from 4 percent to 6 percent, and you had bought the bond paying 4 percent, that you would just sell it and buy the 6 percent bond. Would that you could, but that’s not the way the bond market works. You only get your $1,000 back when the bond matures. If you wanted your money before that time, you would have to sell it to someone else, but the price of the 4 percent bond would have fallen as soon as the interest rate in the economy rose. More generally, we have the following relationship:

As an example, say that you buy a $1,000, one-year bond with a coupon rate (the fixed rate of interest paid on the bond) of 4 percent when the economy’s interest rate is 4 percent. The price of that bond is determined by the formula:

where r is the interest rate in the economy and the numerator is the face value of the bond and the interest it pays. Since the bond’s interest rate is the same as the interest rate for other savings instruments, you pay $1,000 for that bond. Now say that the economy’s interest rate falls to 2 percent so that all new bonds being offered pay only 2 percent. That makes your bond especially desirable since it pays a higher interest rate. The price of the bond rises:

People would be willing to pay up to $1,019.61. Alternatively, if the economy’s interest rate rises to 6 percent, as it did in the example in the text, your bond will be less desirable and people would be willing to pay only $981.13. In summary, when the interest rate falls, the price of existing bonds rises, and when the interest rate rises, the price of existing bonds falls.

The longer the length of the bond to maturity, the more the price varies with the change in the interest rate. (For a further discussion of this inverse relationship, see the present value discussion in Appendix A to this chapter.)

Interest Rates and the Price of Bonds

In the real world, interest rates fluctuate all the time, and bond investors are continually looking for clues about whether the interest rates are going to rise or fall. When they expect bond prices to rise, they get rid of their cash and buy bonds; when they expect bond prices to fall, they get out of bonds and into cash.

Taking all three of these motives—transactions, precautionary, and speculative—into account, you can see that it makes sense to hold some money even though it is costing you something in forgone interest to do so—and the lower the interest rate, the greater the quantity of money demanded.

Equilibrium in the Money Market

We can capture this demand for money relationship in the graph in Figure 11-4, which has the interest rate on the vertical axis and the quantity of money you want to hold on the horizontal axis.

FIGURE 11-4: The Money Market

The demand and supply for money determine the short-term interest rate, as shown in the graph. The demand for money is downward-sloping because, as the interest rate falls, the cost of holding money falls, so it makes more sense to hold more money. The supply of money is fixed; that is, the supply of money is independent of the interest rate.

Notice that the demand for money is downward-sloping. That’s because, as the interest rate falls, the cost of holding money falls (that is, the interest you don’t earn by holding money falls), so it makes sense to hold more money. When interest rates rise, bonds and other financial assets that pay that high interest rate become more attractive, so you hold more financial assets and less money.

To complete our analysis of the financial sector, we need to add a supply of money to Figure 11-4. For simplicity, at this point, we assume the supply of money is set at some fixed level regardless of the interest rate. That is, we assume that the supply curve of money is vertical. (We will discuss the supply of money in much more detail in the next chapter.) The equilibrium interest rate will be where the demand for, and supply of, money intersect—in this case, at i0. As we discussed in the beginning of the chapter, the interest rate determined in this market (the money market) is the short-term interest rate.

The Many Interest Rates in the Economy

As I stated at the beginning, the economy doesn’t have just a single interest rate; it has many, just as there are many types of financial assets. (With recent developments in financial markets, the variety of financial assets grows every year.) Each of these financial assets will have an implicit interest rate associated with it (the implicit interest rate of an asset that pays no interest is the expected percentage change in the price of that asset, so if the asset price is expected to rise by 10 percent, its implicit interest rate is 10 percent). In such a multiple-asset market, which is what we have in the real world, the potential for the interest rate in the loanable funds market (which can be thought of as a composite market for all these varied financial assets) to differ from the interest rate in the market for a particular asset is large. The result can be what is sometimes called a financial asset market bubble.

Let’s take an example: the housing market in the early 2000s. During that period, housing prices were rising 10-15 percent per year (more than 50 percent in some areas) and were expected to continue to rise. That meant that the implicit rate of interest paid by houses was 10–15 percent (minus the costs of buying and selling the house). The interest rate that one could borrow at—the mortgage rate—was about 5.5 percent, which meant that it made sense to borrow as much as one possibly could and buy as many houses as one could. And that’s what many people did. As they did, housing prices rose, and the expectations were confirmed, which led to more and more people buying houses for speculative purposes. The strong housing market, because it led to additional construction and expenditures related to house buying, pulled the real economy along and helped the real economy expand. As long as one expected the housing prices to rise at a higher rate than the interest rate at which one could borrow, the strategy of buying as many houses as one could made good sense.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

The Housing Bust of 2007

Throughout history, market economies have experienced financial panics, which result when what are called financial bubbles burst. There is debate in economics about what a financial bubble is, and whether a seeming financial bubble actually is one, but the general agreement is that if a rise in asset prices is “unsustainable,” then it should be considered a bubble. Let’s consider as an example of what is meant by “unsustainable” the recent housing price increase, where houses in some areas increased by more than 30 percent a year for four or five years. The beginning of the rise was grounded in supply and demand forces—demand was increasing, and since supply was relatively inelastic, prices rose. The people who were buying could afford to pay the mortgages and were buying to live in the houses. The price rise concerned some people who didn’t yet own houses, and they didn’t want to get left out. So they bought more expensive houses that they might not easily afford, but that they could continue to make payments on in a pinch. Had credit been limited to standard mortgages, the price rise in housing would have likely stopped there. But the financial industry began to give out teaser mortgages—mortgages that have low payments in the first couple of years, but which become much more expensive after that. Many people took out these mortgages in the belief that they would either be able to refinance when the higher-rate mortgage kicked in or sell the house at a profit, and pay back the loan. So housing prices rose more, and the houses sold.

These price increases were potentially sustainable as long as the mortgages were only given to people who could pay them off with other assets, should housing prices not continue to rise. But then, a new type of mortgage—the subprime mortgage—developed, which granted mortgages to people who did not have the financial assets or earnings to pay off the loan unless housing prices rose. (They were sometimes called “liar loans” because to get them the mortgage broker and the borrower often had to lie about the borrower’s income.) That development introduced some unsustainability into the situation. The reason is that if prices stopped rising, these buyers would have to sell their houses to meet their mortgage commitments. That meant that there could be a sudden large increase in the supply of houses to the market, which would depress prices. That’s what happened in 2007.

At that point, there was concern that the housing market troubles could spread to other financial markets and to the real economy. How could it spread? If people had to sell other assets to cover their losses in the housing market, the supply of assets in those markets could increase, which would put downward pressure on prices in those markets as well. If all asset prices fell, then people would be forced to reduce their spending on goods, which would shift the aggregate demand curve in to the left and lead to a recession. That recession could feed back on the asset market, further increasing the number of people who couldn’t meet their mortgages. The result would be a vicious cycle and a sustained recession.

Most economists felt that the housing bust of 2007 would be contained to the housing market. But they agreed that, since credit and trust underlie all financial markets, the possibility existed for the housing bust to spread to other sectors, and that the large increase in the indebtedness of the U.S. consumer increased the possibility for broader “financial market adjustment” in the next decade.

In 2006, people lowered their expectations of housing price appreciation; some even expected housing prices to fall. So, many of those who had purchased houses with the intention of selling them at a higher price began to sell their houses more aggressively so that they could return to holding their financial assets in cash before housing prices really fell. The demand for housing decreased substantially, and the equilibrium price of housing available for sale fell. Other asset markets continued to boom, and economists are taking a careful look at whether these markets follow a similar path, and what repercussions, if any, such booms and busts have on the real economy. As of 2007, the U.S. economy seemed to weather the housing market bust reasonably well, but there were concerns about it spreading into a broader financial panic. (See the box “The Housing Bust of 2007.”)

Conclusion

We’ll stop our consideration of money and the financial sector there. As you can see, money is central to the operation of the macroeconomy. If money functions smoothly, it keeps the outflow from the expenditure stream (saving) and the flow back into the expenditure stream at a level that reflects people’s desires. Money can be treated simply as a mirror of people’s real desires.

When money doesn’t function smoothly, it can influence the flows, sometimes creating too large a flow back into the expenditures stream, causing inflationary pressures, and other times creating too small a flow back in, causing a recession.

Summary

• The financial sector is the market where financial assets are created and exchanged. It channels flows out of the circular flow and back into the circular flow.

• Every financial asset has a corresponding financial liability.

• The economy has many interest rates. The long-term interest rate is determined in the market for loanable funds, while the short-term interest rate is determined in the money market.

• Money is a highly liquid financial asset that serves as a unit of account, a medium of exchange, and a store of wealth.

• There are various measures of money: M1 and M2. M1 consists of currency in the hands of the public, checking account balances, and traveler’s checks. M2 is M1 plus savings deposits, small-denomination time deposits, and money market mutual fund shares.

• Since money is what people believe money to be, creating money out of thin air is easy. How banks create money out of thin air is easily understood if you remember that money is simply a financial liability of a bank. Banks create money by loaning out deposits.

• The simple money multiplier is 1/r. It tells you the amount of money ultimately created per dollar deposited in the banking system.

• The money multiplier when people hold cash is (1 + c)/(r + c).

• There are three reasons people hold money, referred to as (1) the transactions motive, (2) the precautionary motive, and (3) the speculative motive. The demand for money is inversely related to the interest rate paid on money.

• Financial asset market bubbles can cause problems for an economy.

Key Terms

asset management (265)

bank (260)

excess reserves (270)

Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) (260)

financial assets (258)

interest rate (258)

liability management (265)

M1 (262)

M2 (263)

money (260)

money multiplier (270)

precautionary motive (272)

reserve ratio (268)

reserves (267)

simple money multiplier (268)

speculative motive (272)

transactions motive (272)

Questions for Thought and Review

1. If financial institutions don’t produce any tangible real assets, why are they considered a vital part of the U.S. economy? LO1

2. What are loanable funds? LO2

3. In what market are long-term interest rates determined? Short-term interest rates? LO2

4. Will there be too much or too little investment in the economy if the interest rate is higher than the rate that would equilibrate the supply and demand for loanable funds? LO2

5. Money is to the economy as oil is to an engine. Explain. LO3

6. If dollar bills (Federal Reserve notes) are backed by nothing but promises and are in real terms worthless, why do people accept them? LO3

7. About 30 U.S. localities circulate their own currency with names like “Ithaca Hours” and “Dillo Hours.” Doing so is perfectly legal (although by law they are subject to a 10 percent federal tax, which currently the government is not collecting). These currencies are used as payment for rent, wages, goods, and so on. Are these currencies money? Explain. LO3

8. What function is money serving when people compare the price of chicken to the price of beef? LO4

9. How does inflation affect money’s function as a store of wealth? LO4

10. What are two components of M2 that are not components of M1? LO5

11. Why was character George Bailey in the film It’s a Wonderful Life right when he stated on the day of a bank run that depositors could not withdraw all their money from the bank? LO6

12. Write the equations for the simple money multiplier and the money multiplier. Which multiplier is most likely to be larger? LO7

13. If the U.S. government were to raise the reserve requirement to 100 percent, what would likely happen to the interest rate banks pay on deposits? Why? LO7

14. If people expect interest rates to rise in the future, how will they change the quantity of money they demand? Explain your answer. LO8

15. Do interest rates and prices of bonds vary inversely or directly with one another? Explain your answer. LO8

16. Why is the demand for money downward-sloping? LO8

17. If the interest rate equilibrates the loanable funds market, but is too high to equilibrate the money market, what will happen to the price of financial assets? LO8

Problems and Exercises

18. Explain the effect of the following events on the interest rate in the loanable funds market. Demonstrate your answer graphically.

a. Tax revenue is lower than expected and people expect cities to default on municipal bonds. They sell their bonds and hold cash instead.

b. A significant number of people begin to use online banking services, allowing them to lower the average balance on their checking account.

c. Economists begin to expect economic growth to pick up. In response, firms increase the amount they spend on capital goods. LO2

19. For each of the following, state whether it is considered money in the United States. Explain why or why not.

a. A check you write against deposits you have at Bank USA.

b. Brazilian reals.

c. The available credit you have on your MasterCard.

d. Reserves held by banks at the Federal Reserve Bank.

e. Federal Reserve notes in your wallet.

f. Gold bullion.

g. Grocery store coupons. LO3

20. Economist Michael Bryan reports that on the island of Palau, the Yapese used stone disks as their currency. The number of stones in front of a person’s house denoted how rich he or she was.

a. Would you expect these stones to be used for small transactions?

b. An Irish-American trader, David O’Keefe, was shipwrecked on the island, and thereafter returned to the island with a boatload of stones. If they were identical to the existing stones, what would that do to the value of the stones?

c. If O’Keefe’s stones could be distinguished from the existing stones, how would that change your answer to b?

d. An anthropologist described the stones as “a memory of contributions”—the more stones a person has, the more that person has contributed to the community. Could the same description be used to describe our money? LO3

21. State whether the following is an example of the transactions, precautionary, or speculative motive for holding money:

a. I like to have the flexibility of buying a few things for myself, such as a latte or a snack, every day, so I generally carry $10 in my pocket.

b. You never know when your car will break down, so I always keep $50 in my pocket.

c. When the stock market is falling, money managers generally hold more in cash than when the stock market is rising.

d. Any household has bills that are due every month. LO4

22. Categorize the following as components of M1, M2, both, or neither.

a. State and local government bonds.

b. Checking accounts.

c. Money market mutual funds.

d. Currency.

e. Stocks.

f. Corporate bonds.

g. Traveler’s checks. LO5

23. State the immediate effect of each of the following actions on M1 and M2:

a. Barry writes his plumber a check for $200. The plumber takes the check to the bank, keeps $50 in cash, and deposits the remainder in his savings account.

b. Maureen deposits the $1,000 from her CD in a money market mutual fund.

c. Sylvia withdraws $50 in cash from her savings account.

d. Paulo cashes a $100 traveler’s check that was issued in his Ohio bank at a New York bank. LO5

24. While Jon is walking to school one morning, a helicopter flying overhead drops a $100 bill. Not knowing how to return it, Jon keeps the money and deposits it in his bank. (No one in this economy holds currency.) If the bank keeps 5 percent of its money in reserves:

a. How much money can the bank now lend out?

b. After this initial transaction, by how much is the money in the economy changed?

c. What’s the money multiplier?

d. How much money will eventually be created by the banking system from Jon’s $100? LO6, LO7

25. U.S. paper currency is made with several features that are difficult to counterfeit including a security thread, color-shifting ink, microprinting, a portrait, a watermark, and a fine-line printing pattern. As duplication technology, however, continually improves and more and more counterfeits are circulated, what will happen to the following?

a. The value of money circulated.

b. The volume of cashless transactions.

c. The amount of money the U.S. Treasury spends to introduce additional security measures. LO6

26. Calculate the money multipliers below:

a. Assuming individuals hold no currency, calculate the simple money multiplier for each of the following: 5%, 10%, 20%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%.

b. Assuming the currency to deposit ratio is 20 percent, recalculate the money multipliers in a. LO7

27. Explain the effect of the following events on the interest rate in the money market. Demonstrate your answer graphically.

a. The supply of money increases.

b. A significant number of people begin to use credit cards for daily transactions, reducing the amount of money they hold.

c. Bond traders expect bond prices to rise, and therefore reduce their cash holdings. LO8

Questions from Alternative Perspectives

1. The U.S. government has a monopoly on U.S. dollars.

a. Could money be supplied privately?

b. Has money ever been supplied privately? If so, how do you suppose people knew its value? (Austrian)

2. The Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors is arguably the most powerful policy-making body in the United States.

a. Since its inception, how many women have served on the Board of Governors?

b. What do all of the current members of the Board of Governors have in common? www.federalreserve.gov/bios/boardmembership.htm (Feminist)

3. In Institutional economists’ view, money not only serves as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of wealth, it also operates as an idea that shapes human understanding and interaction. Construct a list of examples during a day’s interactions where money operates as an idea whereby people interact or attempt to understand a situation. For example, a friend might say, “Sherry is dating Herbert; she can do better than that!” (Institutionalist)

4. The chapter talks about the role that depositors and banks play in the “creation” of money.

a. Do you think this role is consistent with the view that the money supply is only determined exogenously by the central bank?

b. How could depositors and banks endogenously deter mine the money supply? (Post-Keynesian)

5. While sharia (interest) is banned in Islam, profit-sharing is not. An Islamically sound banking practice could be a system in which depositors deposited money under a principle of profit-sharing and the bank provided funds on the same principle with a mark-up as payment for their financial services.

a. How does this system differ from a system based on interest?

b. How might the system of interest be exploitative and a system based on profit-sharing not be exploitative? (Religious)

Web Questions

1. Evocash is advertised as the Web’s currency. But is it money? Go to www.evocash.com and check it out.

a. What is evocash? How do you acquire it and how do you spend it?

b. Does evocash fulfill the three functions of money? Explain your answer.

c. Are evos money?

2. The Federal Reserve publishes a number of pamphlets describing its activities and the financial market. Go to the New York Fed’s home page to read Fed Point #1 at www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/fedpoint/fed01.html, and answer the following questions:

a. How much currency is in circulation today? How much is that per person?

b. What days during the week is there more cash in circulation?

c. What’s the life expectancy of a $1 bill?

d. What collateral does the Fed put up when accepting currency from the Treasury?

e. Which agency pays for the printing of Federal Reserve notes?

Answers to Margin Questions

1. I would respond by saying that the financial sector is central to the macroeconomy. It facilitates the trades that occur in the real sector. (258)

2. Savings that escape the circular flow can cause fluctuations in the economy. Interest rates help translate the flow of saving into investment, which make their way back into the spending stream. (259)

3. The three functions of money are (1) medium of exchange, (2) unit of account, and (3) store of wealth. (260)

4. Money provides liquidity and ease of payment. People hold money rather than bonds to get this liquidity and hold down transaction costs. (262)

5. M2 would be the larger number, since it includes all of the components of M1 plus additional components. (263)

6. Credit cards are not money. Credit cards are a method by which people borrow. (264)

7. Banks operate on the fact that they will have some money flowing in and some money flowing out at all times. When the number of withdrawals and deposits is large, on average, they will offset one another, allowing banks to make loans on the “float,” the average amount that they are holding. If there is one big depositor at a bank, this is less likely to happen, and the bank must hold larger reserves in case that big depositor withdraws that money. (267)

8. The money multiplier is (1 + c)/(r + c), which is equal to 1.2/0.4 = 3. (270)

9. The real-world money multiplier would decrease since individuals holding cash make the denominator of the money multiplier larger. (270)

10. People hold money to spend (transactions motive), for unexpected expenses and impulse buying (precautionary motive), and to avoid holding financial assets whose prices are falling (speculative motive). (272)

Appendix A: A Closer Look at Financial Assets and Liabilities

Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities

To understand the financial sector and its relation to the real sector, you must understand how financial assets and liabilities work and how they affect the real economy.

An asset is something that provides its owner with expected future benefits. There are two types of assets: real assets and financial assets. Real assets are assets whose services provide direct benefits to their owners, either now or in the future. A house is a real asset—you can live in it. A machine is a real asset—you can produce goods with it.

Financial assets are assets, such as stocks or bonds, whose benefit to the owner depends on the issuer of the asset meeting certain obligations. Financial liabilities are liabilities incurred by the issuer of a financial asset to stand behind the issued asset.

It’s important to remember that every financial asset has a corresponding financial liability; it’s that financial liability that gives the financial asset its value. In the case of bonds, for example, a company’s agreement to pay interest and repay the principal gives bonds their value. If the company goes bankrupt and reneges on its liability to pay interest and repay the principal, the asset becomes worthless. The corresponding liability gives the financial asset its value.

For example, a stock is a financial asset that conveys ownership rights in a corporation. It is a liability of the firm; it gives the holder ownership rights that are spelled out in the financial asset. An equity liability such as a stock usually conveys a general right to dividends, but only if the company’s board of directors decides to pay them.

A debt liability conveys no ownership right. It’s a type of loan. An example of a debt liability is a bond that a firm issues. A bond is a promise to pay a certain amount of money plus interest in the future. A bond is a liability of the firm but an asset of the individual who holds the bond. A debt liability such as a bond usually conveys legal rights to interest payments and repayment of principal.

Real assets are created by real economic activity. For example, a house or a machine must be built. Financial assets are created whenever somebody takes on a financial liability or establishes an ownership claim. For example, say I promise to pay you $1 billion in the future. You now have a financial asset and I have a financial liability. Understanding that financial assets can be created by a simple agreement of two people is fundamentally important to understanding how the financial sector works.

Valuing Stocks and Bonds

A financial asset’s worth comes from the stream of income it will pay in the future. With financial assets such as bonds, that stream of income can be calculated rather precisely. With stocks, where the stream of income is a percentage of the firm’s profits, which fluctuate significantly, the stream of future income is uncertain and valuations depend significantly on expectations.

Let’s start by considering some generally held beliefs among economists and financial experts. The first is that an average share of stock in a company in a mature industry sells for somewhere between 15 and 20 times its normal profits. The second is that bond prices rise as market interest rates fall, and fall as market interest rates rise. The first step in understanding where the beliefs come from is to recognize that $1 today is not equal to $1 next year. Why? Because if I have $1 today, I can invest it and earn interest (say 10 percent per year), and next year I will have $1.10, not $1. So if the annual interest rate is 10 percent, $1.10 next year is worth $1 today; alternatively, $1 next year is worth roughly 91 cents today. A dollar two years in the future is worth even less today, and dollars 30 years in the future are worth very little today.

Present value is a method of translating a flow of future income or savings into its current worth. For example, say a smooth-talking, high-pressure salesperson is wining and dining you. “Isn’t that amazing?” the salesman says. “My company will pay $10 a year not only to you, but also to your great-great-great-grandchildren, and more, for 500 years—thousands of dollars in all. And I will sell this annuity—this promise to pay money at periodic intervals in the future—to you for a payment to me now of only $800, but you must act fast. After tonight the price will rise to $2,000.”

Do you buy it? My rhetoric suggests that the answer should be no—but can you explain why? And what price would you be willing to pay?

To decide how much an annuity is worth, you need some way of valuing that $10 per year. You can’t simply add up the $10 five hundred times. Doing so is wrong. Instead you must discount all future dollars by the interest rate in the economy. Discounting is required because a dollar in the future is not worth a dollar now.

If you have $1 now, you can take that dollar, put it in the bank, and in a year you will have that dollar plus interest. If the interest rate you can get from the bank is 5 percent, that dollar will grow to $1.05 a year from now. That means also that if the interest rate in the economy is 5 percent, if you have 95 cents now, in a year it will be worth $0.9975 (5% × $0.95 = $0.0475). Reversing the reasoning, $1 one year in the future is worth 95 cents today. So the present value of $1 one year in the future at a 5 percent interest rate is 95 cents.

A dollar two years from now is worth even less today. Carry out that same reasoning and you’ll find that if the interest rate is 5 percent, $1 two years from now is worth approximately 90 cents today. Why? Because you could take 90 cents now, put it in the bank at 5 percent interest, and in two years have $1.

The Present Value Formula

Carrying out such reasoning for every case would be a real pain. But luckily, there’s a formula and a table that can be used to determine the present value (PV) of future income. The formula is

PV = A1/(1 + i) + A2/(1 + i)2 +… + An/(1 + i)n

where

An = the amount of money received n periods in the future

i = the interest rate in the economy (assumed constant)

TABLE A11-1 (A AND B): Sample Present Value and Annuity Tables

Solving this formula for any time period longer than one or two years is complicated. To deal with it, people either use a business calculator or a present value table such as the one in Table A11-1.

Table A11-1(a) gives the present value of a single dollar at some time in the future at various interest rates. Notice a couple of things about the chart. First, the further into the future one goes, the lower the present value. Second, the higher the interest rate, the lower the present value. At a 12 percent interest rate, $1 fifty years from now has a present value of essentially zero.

Table A11-1(b) is an annuity table; it tells us how much a constant stream of income for a specific number of years is worth. Notice that as the interest rate rises, the value of an annuity falls. At an 18 percent interest rate, $1 per year for 50 years has a present value of $5.55. To get the value of amounts other than $1, simply multiply the entry in the table by the amount. For example, $10 per year for 50 years at 18 percent interest is 10 × $5.55 or $55.50.

As you can see, the interest rate in the economy is a key to present value. You must know the interest rate to know the value of money over time. The higher the current (and assumed constant) interest rate, the more a given amount of money in the present will be worth in the future. Or, alternatively, the higher the current interest rate, the less a given amount of money in the future will be worth in the present.

Some Rules of Thumb for Determining Present Value

Sometimes you don’t have a present value table or a business calculator handy. For those times, there are a few rules of thumb and simplified formulas for which you don’t need either a present value table or a calculator. Let’s consider two of them: the infinite annuity rule and the Rule of 72.

The Annuity Rule

To find the present value of an annuity that will pay $1 for an infinite number of years in the future when the interest rate is 5 percent, we simply divide $1 by 5 percent (.05). Doing so gives us $20. So at 5 percent, $1 a year paid to you forever has a present value of $20. The annuity rule is that the present value of any annuity is the annual income it yields divided by the interest rate. Our general annuity rule for any annuity is expressed as

PV = X/i

That is, the present value of an infinite flow in income, X, is that income divided by the interest rate, i.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

The Press and Present Value

The failure to understand the concept of present value often shows up in the popular press. Here are three examples.

Headline: COURT SETTLEMENT IS $40,000,000.

Inside story: The money will be paid out over a 40-year period.

Actual value: $11,925,000 (8 percent interest rate).

Headline: DISABLED WIDOW WINS $25 MILLION LOTTERY

Inside story: The money will be paid over 20 years.

Actual value: $13,254,499 (8 percent interest rate).

Headline: BOND ISSUE TO COST TAXPAYERS $68 MILLION

Inside story: The $68 million is the total of interest and principal payments. The interest is paid yearly; the principal won’t be paid back to the bond purchasers until 30 years from now.

Actual value: $20,000,000 (8 percent interest rate).

Such stories are common. Be on the lookout for them as you read the newspaper or watch the evening news.

Most of the time, people don’t offer to sell you annuities for the infinite future. A typical annuity runs for 30, 40, or 50 years. However, the annuity rule is still useful. As you can see from the present value table, in 30 years at a 9 percent interest rate, the present value of $1 isn’t much (it’s 8 cents), so we can use this infinite flow formula as an approximation of long-lasting, but less than infinite, flows of future income. We simply subtract a little bit from what we get with our formula. The longer the time period, the less we subtract. For example, say you are wondering what $200 a year for 40 years is worth when the interest rate is 8 percent. Dividing $200 by .08 gives $2,500, so we know the annuity must be worth a bit less than $2,500. (It’s actually worth $2,411.)

The annuity rule allows us to answer the question posed at the beginning of this section: How much is $10 a year for 500 years worth right now? The answer is that it depends on the interest rate you could earn on a specified amount of money now. If the interest rate is 10 percent, the maximum you should be willing to pay for that 500-year $10 annuity is $100:

$10/.10 = $100

If the interest rate is 5 percent, the most you should pay is $200 ($10/.05 = $200). So now you know why you should have said no to that supersalesman who offered it to you for $800.

The Rule of 72

A second rule of thumb for determining present values of shorter time periods is the Rule of 72, which states:

The number of years it takes for a certain amount to double in value is equal to 72 divided by the rate of interest.

Say, for example, that the interest rate is 4 percent. How long will it take for your $100 to become $200? Dividing 72 by 4 gives 18, so the answer is 18 years. Conversely, the present value of $200 at a 4 percent interest rate 18 years in the future is about $100. (Actually it’s $102.67.)

Alternatively, say that you will receive $1,000 in 10 years. Is it worth paying $500 for that amount now if the interest rate is 9 percent? Using the rule of 72, we know that at a 9 percent interest rate it will take about eight years for $500 to double:

72/9 = 8

so the future value of $500 in 10 years is more than $1,000. It’s probably about $1,200. (Actually it’s $1,184.) So if the interest rate in the economy is 9 percent, it’s not worth paying $500 now in order to get that $1,000 in 10 years. By investing that same $500 today at 9 percent, you can have $1,184 in 10 years.

The Importance of Present Value

Many business decisions require such present value calculations. In almost any business, you’ll be looking at flows of income in the future and comparing them to present costs or to other flows of money in the future.

Generally, however, when most people calculate present value, they don’t use any of the formulas. They pull out a handy business calculator, press in the numbers to calculate the present value, and watch while the calculator graphically displays the results.

Let’s now use our knowledge of present value to explain the two observations at the beginning of this section: (1) an average share of stock sells for between 15 and 20 times its normal profits and (2) bond prices and interest rates are inversely related. Since all financial assets can be broken down into promises to pay certain amounts at certain times in the future, we can determine their value with the present value formula. If the asset is a bond, it consists of a stream of income payments over a number of years and the repayment of the face value of the bond. Each year’s interest payment and the eventual repayment of the face value must be calculated separately, and then the results must be added together.

If the financial asset is a share of stock, the valuation is a bit less clear since a stock does not guarantee the payment of anything definite—just a share of the profits. No profits, no payment. So, with stocks, expectations of profits are of central importance. Let’s consider an example: Say a share of stock is earning $1 per share per year and is expected to continue to earn that long into the future. Using the annuity rule and an interest rate of 6.5 percent, the present value of that future stream of expected earnings is about 1/.065, or a bit more than $15. Assuming profits are expected to grow slightly, that would mean that the stock should sell for somewhere around $20, or 20 times its profit per share, which is the explanation to economists’ view that an average stock sells for about 15 times normal profits.

To see the answer to the second—bond prices and interest rates are inversely related—say the interest rate rises to 10 percent. Then the value of the stock or bond that is earning a fixed amount—in this case $1 per share—will go down to $10. Interest rate up, value of stock or bond down. This is the explanation of the second observation.

There is nothing immutable in the above reasoning. For example, if promises to pay aren’t trustworthy, you don’t put the amount that’s promised into your calculation; you put in the amount you actually expect to receive. That’s why when a company or a country looks as if it’s going to default on loans or stop paying dividends, the value of its bonds and stock will fall considerably. For example, in the early 2000s, many people thought Argentina would default on its bonds. That expectation caused the price of Argentinean bonds to fall and interest rates to rise more than 30 percentage points.

Of course, the expectations could go in the opposite direction. Say that the interest rate is 10 percent, and that you expect a company’s annual profit, which is now $1 per share, to grow by 10 percent per year. In that case, since expected profit growth is as high as the interest rate, the current value of the stock is infinite. It is such expectations of future profit growth that fueled the Internet stock craze and caused the valuation of firms with no current profits (indeed, many were experiencing significant losses) at multiples of sales of 300 or more. Financial valuations based on such optimistic expectations are the reason most economists considered the stock market in Internet stocks to be significantly overvalued in the late 1990s and correctly predicted the fall in prices that occurred in 2001 and 2002.

Financial Institutions

A financial institution is a business whose primary activity is buying, selling, or holding financial assets. For example, some financial institutions (depository institutions and investment intermediaries) sell promises to pay in the future. These promises can be their own promises or someone else’s promises. When you open a savings account at a bank, the bank is selling you its own promise that you can withdraw your money, plus interest, at some unspecified time in the future. Such a bank is a depository institution—a financial institution whose primary financial liability is deposits in checking or savings accounts. When you buy a newly issued government bond or security from a securities firm, it’s also selling you a promise to pay in the future. But in this case, it’s a third party’s promise. So a securities firm is a financial broker that sells third parties’ promises to pay. It’s a type of marketing firm for financial IOUs.

As financial institutions sell financial assets, they channel saving from savers (individuals who give other people money now in return for promises to pay it back with interest later) to borrowers (investors or consumers who get the money now in return for their promise to pay it and the interest later).

As economists use the term, when economists buy a financial asset they are saving not investing. To invest (in economic terminology) is to buy real, not financial, assets that you hope will yield a return in the future.1 How do you get funds to invest if you don’t already have them? You borrow them. That means you create a financial asset that you sell to someone else who saves.

Some financial institutions serve several purposes and their various functions may have various names. For example, a depository institution such as a commercial bank may also serve as a contractual intermediary—a financial institution that holds and stores individuals’ financial assets. Contractual intermediaries intermediate (serve as a go- between) between savers and investors. For example, a pension fund is a financial institution that takes in individuals’ savings, relends those savings, and ultimately pays back those savings plus interest after the individuals retire. It uses individuals’ savings to buy financial assets from people and firms who want to borrow. Similarly, a commercial bank is a financial institution that relends an individual’s checking account deposits. A checking deposit is a financial asset of an individual and a financial liability of the bank.

ADDED DIMENSION

Do Financial Assets Make Society Richer?

Financial assets are neat. You can call them into existence simply by getting someone to accept your IOU. Remember, every financial asset has a corresponding financial liability equal to it. So when you say a country has $1 trillion of financial assets, you’re also saying that the country has $1 trillion of financial liabilities. An optimist would say a country is rich. A pessimist would say it’s poor. An economist would say that financial assets and financial liabilities are simply opposite sides of the ledger and don’t indicate whether a country is rich or poor.

To find out whether a country is rich or poor, you must look at its real assets. If financial assets increase the economy’s efficiency and thereby increase the amount of real assets, they make society better off. This is most economists’ view of financial assets. If, however, they decrease the efficiency of the economy (as some economists have suggested some financial assets do because they focus productive effort on financial gamesmanship), financial assets make society worse off.

The same correspondence between a financial asset and its liability exists when a financial asset’s value changes. Say stock prices fall significantly. Is society poorer? The answer is: It depends on the reason for the change. Let’s say there is no known reason. Then, while the people who own the stock are poorer, the people who might want to buy stock in the future are richer since the price of assets has fallen. So in a pure accounting sense, society is neither richer nor poorer when the prices of stocks rise or fall for no reason.

But there are ways in which changes in the value of financial assets might signify that society is richer or poorer. For example, the changes in the values of financial assets might reflect (rather than cause) real changes. If suddenly a company finds a cure for cancer, its stock prices will rise and society will be richer. But the rise in the price of the stock doesn’t cause society to be richer. It reflects the discovery that made society richer. Society would be richer because of the discovery even if the stock’s price didn’t rise.

There’s significant debate about how well the stock market reflects real changes in the economy. Classical economists believe it closely reflects real changes; Keynesian economists believe it doesn’t. But both sides agree that the changes in the real economy, not the changes in the price of financial assets, underlie what makes an economy richer or poorer.

Leading You Through Two Financial Transactions

To give you an idea of how financial markets work, let’s follow two transactions you’ll likely make in your lifetime and see how they work their way through the financial system.

Insuring Your Car

You want to drive. The law requires you to have insurance, so you go to two or three insurance companies, get quotes of their rates, and choose the one offering the lowest rate. Say it costs you $800 for the year. You write a check for $800 and hand the check to the insurance agent, who keeps a commission (let’s say $80) and then sends her check for $720 to the insurance company. The insurance company has $720 more sitting in the bank than it had before you paid your insurance premium.

The insurance company earns income in two ways: (1) in the difference between the money it receives in payments and the claims it pays out and (2) in the interest it makes on its financial assets. What does the company use to buy these financial assets? It has payments from its customers (your $720, for example) available because payments come in long before claims are paid out.

Because earnings on financial assets are an important source of an insurance company’s income, your $720 doesn’t stay in the insurance company’s bank for long. The insurance company has a financial assets division that chooses financial assets it believes have the highest returns for the risk involved. Bond salespeople telephone the financial assets division offering to sell bonds. Similarly, developers who want to build shopping malls or ski resorts go to the financial assets division, offering an opportunity to participate (really asking to borrow money).

The financial assets division might decide to lend your $720 (along with $10 million more) to a mall developer who builds in suburban locations. The division transfers the $720 to the mall developer and receives a four-year, 12 percent promissory note (a promise to pay the $720 back in four years along with $86.40 per year in interest payments). The promissory note is a financial asset of the insurance company and a financial liability of the developer. When the developer spends the money, the $720 leaves the financial sector and reenters the spending stream in the real economy. At that point, it becomes investment in the economic sense.

Buying a House

Most people, when they buy a house, don’t go out and pay the thousands of dollars it costs in cash. Instead, they go to a bank or similar financial institution and borrow a large portion of the sales price, taking out a mortgage on the house. A mortgage is simply a special name for a secured loan on real estate. By mortgaging a house, you are creating a financial liability for yourself and a financial asset for someone else. This financial asset is secured by the house. If you default on the loan, the mortgage holder (who, as you will see, may or may not be the bank) can foreclose on the mortgage and take title to the house.

The funds available in banks come primarily from depositors who keep their savings in the bank in the form of savings accounts or checking accounts. Balances in these accounts are often small, but with lots of depositors they add up and provide banks with money to lend out. If you’re planning to buy a house, you’ll most likely go to a bank.

The bank’s loan officer will have you fill in a lengthy form, and the bank will send an appraiser out to the house to assess its value. The appraiser asks questions about the house: Does it meet the electrical code? What kind of pipes does it have? What kind of windows does it have? All this information about you and the house is transferred onto a master form that the loan officer uses to decide whether to make the loan. (Contrary to what many laypeople believe, in normal times a loan officer wants to make the loan. Remember, a bank’s profits are the difference between what it pays in interest and what it receives in interest; it needs to make loans to make profits. So the loan officer often looks at hazy answers on the form and puts an interpretation on them that’s favorable to granting the loan.)

In a month or so, depending on how busy the bank is, you hear back that the loan is approved for, say, $180,000 at 6 percent interest and two points. A point is 1 percent of the loan; it is a charge the bank makes for the loan. So two points means the bank is charging you $3,600 for making you a loan of $180,000 at 6 percent interest. (And you wondered why the bank was anxious to make you a loan!) The bank credits your account with $176,400, which allows you to write a check to the seller of the house at a meeting called the closing.

The bank gets a lot of money in deposits, but generally it doesn’t have anywhere near enough deposits to cover all the mortgages it would like to make. So the process doesn’t stop there. Instead, the bank generally sells your mortgage on the secondary market to the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA or, popularly, Fannie Mae) or the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA, or Ginnie Mae), which pay, say, $180,400 for the $180,000 mortgage. They’re buying your mortgage (which you paid $3,600 in points to be allowed to get) for $400 more than its amount. The bank makes money both ways: when it makes the loan and when it sells the loan.

Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae are companies organized by the government to encourage home ownership. They do this by easing the flow of savings into mortgages. They take your mortgage and a number of similar ones from different areas and make them into a bond package: a $100 million bond fund secured by a group of mortgages. (Remember the long forms and the questions the appraiser asked? Those forms and answers allow Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae to classify the mortgage and put it in a group with similar mortgages.) They then sell shares in that bond fund to some other institution that gives Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae money in return. The Maes use that money to buy more mortgages, thereby channeling more savings into financing home ownership.

Who buys Fannie Mae and Ginnie Mae bonds? Let’s go back and consider our insurance company. If the insurance company hadn’t made the loan to the developer, the company might have decided that Ginnie Mae bonds were the best investment it could make. So who knows? Your insurance company may hold the mortgage to your house.

You, of course, don’t know any of this. You simply keep making your mortgage payment to the bank, which, for a fee, forwards it to Ginnie Mae, which uses it to pay the interest on the bond it sold to the insurance company.

Summary

We could go through other transactions, but these two should give you a sense of how real-world financial transactions work their way through financial institutions. Financial institutions make money by the fees and commissions they charge for buying and selling loans, and on the difference between the interest they pay to get the money and the interest they receive when they lend the money out.

Key Terms

annuity rule (281)

bond (280)

contractual intermediary (283)

depository institution (283)

financial assets (279)

financial institution (283)

financial liabilities (279)

mortgage (285)

present value (280)

Rule of 72 (282)

stock (280)

Questions for Thought and Review

1. If the government prints new $1,000 bills and gives them to all introductory students who are using the Colander text, who incurs a financial liability and who gains a financial asset?

2. Is the currency in your pocketbook or wallet a real or a financial asset? Why?

3. Joe, your study partner, has just said that, in economic terminology, when he buys a bond he is investing. Is he correct? Why?

4. Joan, your study partner, has just made the following statement: “A loan is a loan and therefore cannot be an asset.” Is she correct? Why or why not?

5. How much is $50 to be received 50 years from now worth if the interest rate is 6 percent? (Use Table A11-1.)

6. How much is $50 to be received 50 years from now worth if the interest rate is 9 percent? (Use Table A11-1.)

7. Your employer offers you a choice of two bonus packages: $1,400 today or $2,000 five years from now. Assuming

a 6 percent rate of interest, which is the better value? Assuming an interest rate of 10 percent, which is the better value?

8. Suppose the price of a one-year 10 percent coupon bond with a $100 face value is $98.

a. Are market interest rates likely to be above or below 10 percent? Explain.

b. What is the bond’s yield or return?

c. If market interest rates fell, what would happen to the price of the bond?

9. Explain in words why the present value of $100 to be received in 10 years would decline as the interest rate rises.

10. A 6 percent bond will pay you $1,060 one year from now. The interest rate in the economy is 10 percent. How much is that bond worth now?

11. You are to receive $100 a year for the next 40 years. How much is it worth now if the current interest rate in the economy is 6 percent? (Use Table A11-1.)

12. You are to receive $200 in 30 years. About how much is it worth now? (The interest rate is 3 percent.)

13. A salesperson calls you up and offers you $200 a year for life. If the interest rate is 9 percent, how much should you be willing to pay for that annuity?

14. The same salesperson offers you a lump sum of $20,000 in 10 years. How much should you be willing to pay? (The interest rate is still 9 percent.)

15. What is the present value of a cash flow of $100 per year forever (a perpetuity), assuming:

The interest rate is 10 percent.

The interest rate is 5 percent.

The interest rate is 20 percent.

a. Working with those same three interest rates, what are the future values of $100 today in one year? How about in two years?

b. Working with those same three interest rates, how long will it take you to double your money?

16. State whether you agree or disagree with the following statements:

a. If stock market prices go up, the economy is richer.

b. A real asset worth $1 million is more valuable to an individual than a financial asset worth $1 million.

c. Financial assets have no value to society since each has a corresponding liability.

d. The United States has much more land than does Japan. Therefore, the value of all U.S. land should significantly exceed the value of land in Japan.

e. U.S. GDP exceeds Japan’s GDP; therefore, the stock market valuation of U.S.-based companies should exceed that of Japan-based companies.

Appendix B: Creation of Money Using T-Accounts

In this appendix I use T-accounts to demonstrate the example of the creation of money given in the text of the chapter.

The basis of financial accounting is the T-account presentation of balance sheets. The balance sheet is made up of assets on one side and liabilities and net worth on the other. By definition the two sides are equal; they balance (just as the T-account must).

To cement the money creation process in your mind, let’s discuss how banks create money using transactions that affect the balance sheet. To keep the analysis simple, we limit the example to the case where only banks create money.

Table B11-1 shows the initial balance sheet of an imaginary Textland Bank, which we assume is the only bank in the country. As you can see, Textland has $500,000 in assets: $30,000 in cash, $300,000 in loans, and $170,000 in property. On the liabilities side, it has $150,000 in checking deposits and $350,000 in net worth. The two sides of the balance sheet are equal.

The first thing to notice about this balance sheet is that if all holders of checking accounts (demand deposits) wanted their currency, the bank couldn’t give it to them. The currency it holds is only a portion—20 percent—of the total deposits:

Banks rely on statistical averages and assume that not all people will want their money at the same time. Let’s assume that Textland Bank has decided 20 percent is an appropriate reserve ratio.

TABLE B11-1: Textland Bank Balance Sheet

Now let’s say that John Finder finds $10,000 in currency. He deposits that $10,000 into Textland Bank. After he does so, what will happen to the money supply? The first step is seen in Transaction 1, which shows the effect of John Finder’s deposit on the bank’s account. The bank gains $10,000 in currency, but its liabilities also increase by $10,000, so, as you can see, the two sides of the balance sheet are still equal. At this point no additional money has been created; $10,000 currency has simply been changed to a $10,000 checking deposit.

Now let’s assume the bank uses a reserve ratio of 20 percent, meaning it lends out 80 percent of the currency it receives in new deposits. Say it lends out 80% × $10,000 = $8,000 to Fred Baker, keeping 20 percent × $10,000 = $2,000 in reserve. The change in the bank’s balance sheet is seen in Transaction 2. This step creates $8,000 in money. Why? Because John Finder still has $10,000 in his checking account, while Fred Baker has $8,000 currency, so, combining John’s checking account balance with Fred’s currency, the public has $8,000 in money. As you can see, loans have increased by $8,000 and currency in Textland Bank has decreased by $8,000.

Fred Baker didn’t borrow the money to hold onto it. He spends it buying a new oven from Mary Builder, who, in turn, deposits the $8,000 into Textland Bank (the only bank according to our assumptions). Textland’s balance sheet now looks like Transaction 3.

Mary Builder has a demand deposit of $8,000 and John Finder has a demand deposit of $10,000. But Textland bank has excess reserves of $6,400, since it must keep only $1,600 of Mary’s $8,000 deposit as reserves:

80% × $8,000 = $6,400

So the bank is looking to make a loan.

At this point the process continues in the fashion described in the chapter text. A good exercise to see that you understand T-accounts is to use T-accounts to demonstrate the next two rounds of the process.

Questions for Thought and Review

1. Assume that there’s only one bank in the country, that the reserve requirement is 10 percent, and that the ratio of individuals’ currency holdings to their bank deposits is 20 percent. The bank begins with $20,000 in currency, $225,000 in loans, $105,000 in physical assets, $200,000 in demand deposits, and $150,000 in net worth.

a. An immigrant comes into the country and deposits $10,000 in the bank. Show this deposit’s effect on the bank’s balance sheet.

b. The bank keeps enough of this money to satisfy its reserve requirement, and loans out the rest to Ms. Entrepreneur. Show the effect on the bank’s balance sheet.

c. Ms. Entrepreneur uses the money to pay Mr. Carpenter, who deposits 80 percent of what he gets in the bank. Show the effect on the bank’s balance sheet.

d. Show the bank’s balance sheet after the money multiplier is all through multiplying (based on the appendix).

2. Assume there is one bank in the country whose reserve requirement is 20 percent. It has $10,000 in currency; $100,000 in loans; $50,000 in physical assets; $50,000 in demand deposits; and $110,000 in net worth. Mr. Aged withdraws $1,000 from the bank and dies on the way home without spending a penny. He is buried with the currency still in his pocket.

a. Show this withdrawal’s effect on the bank’s balance sheet.

b. What happened to the bank’s reserve ratio and what must the bank do to meet reserve requirements?

c. What is the money multiplier? (Assume no currency holdings.)

d. What will happen to total money supply because of this event after the money multiplier is through multiplying?

3. Assume reserve requirements are 15 percent. Textland Bank’s balance sheet looks like this:

a. How much is the bank holding in excess reserves?

b. If the bank eliminates excess reserves by making new loans, how much new money would be created (assuming no currency holdings)? Show, using T-accounts.

1 With a different interest rate for each different type of financial asset, you may be wondering which interest rate we are talking about. The answer is that we are talking about an average of the many different interest rates. Since that average interest rate is generally not easily calculable, often the interest rate on 10-year bonds is used as a proxy for the interest rate on all loanable funds.

2 As we’ll see when we discuss the Fed in more detail, dollar bills aren’t the Fed’s only IOUs.

3 The banking history reported here is, according to historians, apocryphal (more myth than reality). But it so nicely makes the point that I repeat it anyhow.

4 The first three rounds of this example are shown in Appendix B to this chapter, using T-accounts.

5 Notice that this becomes the simple money multiplier when c = 0; that is, when people do not hold currency.

6 As discussed above, in today’s economy, many components of money pay interest, but they pay a lower interest than do other financial assets. The analysis I present here applies to the differential rate of interest paid between money and longer-term financial assets; we assume zero interest on money simply to keep the presentation as simple as possible.

1 This terminology isn’t the terminology most laypeople use. When a person buys a stock, in economic terms that person is saving, though most laypeople call that investing.

(Colander 257)

Colander, David C. Macroeconomics, 7th Edition. McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 102007. . 12: Monetary Policy

There have been three great inventions since the beginning of time: fire, the wheel and central banking.

—Will Rogers

When Ben Bernanke speaks, people listen. That’s because he’s chairman of the U.S. central bank—the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed)—and it is the Fed that determines monetary policy for the United States. Monetary policy is a policy of influencing the economy through changes in the banking system’s reserves that influence the money supply and credit availability in the economy. Unlike fiscal policy, which is controlled by the government directly, monetary policy is controlled by the central bank in the United States, the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed).

AFTER READING THIS CHAPTER, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO:

1. Explain how monetary policy works in the AS/AD model.

2. Summarize the structure and duties of the Fed.

3. Describe how the Fed changes the supply of money primarily through open market operations.

4. Define the Federal funds rate and discuss how the Fed uses it as an intermediate target.

5. State the Taylor rule and explain its relevance to monetary policy.

6. Define the yield curve and explain how its shape reflects the limit of the Fed’s ability to control the economy.

How Monetary Policy Works in the Models

Monetary policy works through its influence on credit conditions and the interest rate in the economy. As shown in Figure 12-1(a), expansionary monetary policy shifts the AD curve out to the right and contractionary monetary policy shifts it in to the left. Changes in nominal income will be split between changes in real income and changes in the price level.

If the economy is significantly above potential output, once long-run equilibrium is reached, monetary policy affects only nominal income and the price level, as shown in Figure 12-1 (b). Real output remains unchanged. Suppose the economy begins at potential output YP (point A), and expansionary monetary policy shifts the AD curve from AD0 to AD1. Because the economy is beyond potential, rising factor cost pressures very quickly shift the SAS curve up from SAS0 to SAS1. Once the long-run equilibrium has been reached, the price level rises from P0 to P1 and real output returns to potential output (point B). So, beyond potential output, expansionary monetary policy does not affect real output.

The general rule is: Expansionary monetary policy increases nominal income. Its effect on real income depends on how the price level responds:

%ΔReal income = %ΔNominal income −%ΔPrice level

FIGURE 12-1 (A AND B): The Effect of Monetary Policy in the AS/AD Model

Expansionary monetary policy shifts the AD curve to the right; contractionary monetary policy shifts the AD curve to the left. In (a) we see how monetary policy affects both real output and the price level. If the economy is at or above potential, as in (b), expansionary monetary policy will cause input costs to rise, which will eventually shift the SAS curve up enough so that real output remains unchanged. The only long-run effect of expansionary monetary policy when the economy is above potential is to increase the price level.

Thus, if nominal income rises by 5 percent and the price level rises by 2 percent, real income will rise by 3 percent.

In this chapter I explore how monetary policy changes aggregate expenditures, shifting the aggregate demand curve out to the right or in to the left. The effect of monetary policy on aggregate demand is not direct; rather it affects aggregate demand indirectly through the short-term and long-term interest rates. To see the indirect effect, consider Figure 12-2. Figure 12-2(a) shows the supply and demand for money graph that I presented in the last chapter. Recall that the interest rate in the money market is determined by the supply of money and the demand for money. The demand for money comes from people’s desire to hold money, which is affected by the short-term interest rate. The Fed undertakes monetary policy by changing the supply of money. When it conducts expansionary monetary policy, it increases the supply of money from M0 to M1. In response, the interest rate in the money market falls from i0 to i1. That increase in the supply of money leads to a parallel increase in the supply of loanable funds, shown in Figure 12-2(b), which lowers the interest rate that firms pay to borrow.

FIGURE 12-2 (A AND B): Monetary Policy and the Money Market

Monetary policy affects the interest rate in the money market. When conducting expansionary monetary policy, the Fed increases the money supply from M0 to M1 as shown in (a). The increase in the supply of money leads to a parallel increase in the supply of loanable funds as shown in (b). The decline in interest rates increases investment spending, which shifts the aggregate demand curve out to the right.

That lower interest rate for loanable funds increases the quantity of loanable funds demanded, which increases investment. Since investment is a component of aggregate demand, that increase in investment shifts out the aggregate demand curve, as we saw in Figure 12-1(a).

Expansionary monetary policy is monetary policy aimed at reducing interest rates and raising the level of aggregate demand.

Summarizing, expansionary monetary policy is a policy that increases the money supply and decreases the interest rate. It tends to increase both investment and output.

Contractionary monetary policy is monetary policy aimed at increasing interest rates and thereby restraining aggregate demand.

Contractionary monetary policy works in the opposite direction. Contractionary monetary policy is a policy that decreases the money supply and increases the interest rate. It tends to decrease both investment and output.

Q-1

Demonstrate the effect of expansionary monetary policy in the AS/AD model.

How Monetary Policy Works in Practice

Models make it all look so easy. Would that it were so easy. The reality of monetary policy is much messier and more complicated, and in this section, I discuss some of the institutional details that make monetary policy so complicated. I begin with a short summary of structure and workings of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States—generally called, “the Fed.”

Monetary Policy and the Fed

It is the central bank’s ability to create money that gives it the power to control monetary policy.

Monetary policy is conducted by a country’s central bank —a type of banker’s bank whose financial obligations underlie an economy’s money supply. The central bank in the United States is the Fed. If commercial banks (the banks you and I use) need to borrow money, they go to the central bank. If there’s a financial panic and a run on banks, the central bank is there to make loans to the banks until the panic goes away. Since its IOUs (I owe you’s) are cash, the Fed can create money simply by issuing an IOU. It is this ability to create money that gives the central bank the power to control monetary policy. (A central bank also serves as a financial adviser to government. As is often the case with financial advisers, the government sometimes doesn’t like the advice and doesn’t follow it.)

WWW

Web Note 12.1: Other Central Banks

In many countries, such as Great Britain, the central bank is a part of the government, just as this country’s Department of the Treasury and the Department of Commerce are part of the U.S. government. In the United States, the central bank is not part of the government in the same way. The box “

Central Banks in Other Countries

” on page 669 gives you an idea of some differences.

Structure of the Fed

Q-2

What group of the Fed decides monetary policy?

The Fed is not just one bank; it is composed of 12 regional banks along with the main Federal Reserve Bank whose headquarters are in Washington, D.C. The Fed is governed by a seven-member Board of Governors. Members of the Board of Governors, together with the president of the New York Fed and a rotating group of four presidents of the other regional banks, are voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Fed’s chief body that decides monetary policy. All 12 regional bank presidents attend, and can speak at, FOMC meetings. The financial press and business community follow their discussions closely. There are even Fed watchers whose sole occupation is to follow what the Fed is doing and to tell people what it will likely do.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

Central Banks in Other Countries

In the United States, the central bank is the Fed, and much of this chapter is about its structure. But the Fed is only one of many central banks in the world. Let’s briefly introduce you to some of the others.

The People’s Bank of China

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) was established in 1948, shortly after the communist victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, by nationalizing all Chinese banks and incorporating them into a single bank. (The former Chinese central bank, named the Central Bank of China, was relocated to Taipei in 1949 and is the central bank for Taiwan.) From 1949 to 1978, the PBOC was the only bank in the People’s Republic of China.

In the 1980s the commercial banking functions of the PBOC were split off into state-owned independent banks, and the PBOC began focusing on central bank functions such as monetary policy and regulation of the financial sector. In 1995, it was restructured and consciously modeled after the U.S. Fed. It opened nine regional branches and focused its operations on foreign reserve issues, monetary policy, and financial regulation.

People’s Bank of China

European Central Bank

In the late 1990s a number of European Union countries formed a monetary union, creating a common currency called the euro, and a new central bank called the European Central Bank (ECB), whose structure is still evolving. As of 2007, the governing council had 21 members, including 6 permanent members and up to 15 rotating members.

The primary objective of the ECB is different from the Fed’s; the ECB is focused solely on maintaining price stability, as was the former German central bank, the Bundesbank, after which it was modeled. Some economists have considered the ECB an expansion of the Bundesbank for the entire EU.

Most economists hold a wait-and-see attitude about the bank. They point out that the ECB is a new bank and it will take time for its operating procedures to become established. We can expect significant political infighting as the various countries attempt to influence the decisions of the ECB to favor them.

The Bank of England

The Bank of England is sometimes called the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street (because it’s located on that street, and the British like such quaint characterizations). It does not use a required reserve mechanism. Instead, individual banks determine their own needed reserves, so any reserves they have would, in a sense, be excess reserves. Needless to say, bank reserves are much lower in England than they are in the United States.

How does the Old Lady control the money supply? With the equivalent of open market operations and with what might be called “tea control.” Since England has only a few large banks, the Old Lady simply passes on the word at tea as to which direction she thinks the money supply should be going. Alas for sentimentalists, “tea control” is fading in England, as are many of the quaint English ways.

The Bank of Japan

Like the People’s Bank of China, the Bank of Japan is quite similar to the Fed. It uses primarily open market operations to control the money supply. Reserve requirements are similar to the Fed’s, but because it allows banks a longer period in which to do their averaging, and Japan does not have the many small banks that the United States does—banks that often hold excess reserves—excess reserves are much lower in Japan than in the United States. The Japanese financial system exhibits more interdependence between the central bank, commercial banks, and industry than does the U.S. system, which means that Japanese companies get more of their funding from commercial banks, which in turn borrow more from the Bank of Japan than U.S. commercial banks borrow from the Fed. The financial position of many Japanese commercial banks was questionable over the past decade, and the Bank of Japan worked with the banks to restructure loans without causing a breakdown of the financial system.

Clearly, there’s more to be said about each of these central banks, but this brief introduction should give you a sense of both the similarities and the diversities among the central banks of the world.

The president of the United States appoints each governor for a term of 14 years, although most governors choose not to complete their terms. The president also designates one of the governors to be the chairperson of the Fed (in 2008, this was Ben Bernanke) for a four-year term. A chairperson can serve multiple terms, and the Fed chairperson is sometimes referred to as the second most powerful person in Washington (the most powerful being the president of the United States).

The Fed’s general structure reflects its political history. Figure 12-3 demonstrates that structure. Notice in Figure 12-3(a) that most of the 12 regional Fed banks are in the East and Midwest. The South and West have only three banks: Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco. The reason is that in 1913, when the Fed was established, the West and South were less populated and less important economically than the rest of the country, so fewer banks were established there.

FIGURE 12-3 (A AND B): The Federal Reserve System

The Federal Reserve System is composed of 12 regional banks. It is run by the Board of Governors. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the most important policy-making body.

Source: The Federal Reserve System (www.federalreserve.gov).

ADDED DIMENSION

How Independent Should the Central Bank Be?

The Fed is relatively independent, but not all central banks are. One of the big debates in the early 2000s concerned how independent the central bank should be. Advocates of central bank independence argued that independence allows central banks to make the hard political decisions that a government influenced by political pressures cannot make. Increasing interest rates hurts—it slows down the economy and causes unemployment. But if the economy is above its sustainable level, it needs to be slowed down, or inflation will accelerate. As former Fed chairman William Martin said, “The job of the Federal Reserve is to take away the punch bowl just when the party is getting good.” Independence, such as exists with the U.S. central bank, gives the Fed the ability to do that.

In some developing countries, the central bank is part of the government—and economists have found that when that is the case, the punch bowl tends to remain out longer. The result is that the money supply is more expansionary, and there tend to be higher levels of inflation.

There are many dimensions of independence—one is goal independence and another is policy instrument independence. Goal independence is having the freedom to determine what ultimate goals, such as low unemployment or low inflation, take priority. Policy instrument independence is having the freedom to determine how to achieve those goals. Many economists point out that goal independence is not necessarily a good thing. In a democracy goals are determined in the political process, and in a well-functioning democracy, the central bank is accountable for achieving the goals set by the political process, and does not set the goals itself. Once the goals are set, then one can talk about policy instrument independence.

Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Fed, put it this way:

The independence of the Fed means, to me, two things. First, that we have very broad latitude to pursue our goals as we see fit; we decide what to do in pursuit of those goals.

Second, it means that once our monetary policy decisions are made, they cannot be reversed by anybody in the U.S. government—except under extreme circumstances. (Congress would have to pass a law limiting the power of the Fed.) But although we are free to choose the means by which we achieve our goals, the goals themselves are given to us by statute, by the U.S. Congress. And that is how it should be in a democracy.

In the United States, the Fed has policy instrument independence, but not goal independence. By federal law, the goals of the Federal Reserve Bank are “maximum employment,” “stable prices,” and “moderate long-term interest rates.” Those are different goals than the goals of the European Central Bank (ECB); the ECB’s goal is only “stable prices.” These different goals, however, become almost identical if one believes, as a number of economists do, that the only way to achieve maximum employment and moderate long-term interest rates is by achieving stable prices.

As these regions grew, the original structure remained because no one wanted to go through the political wrangling that restructuring would bring about. Instead, the southern and western regional Feds established a number of branches to handle their banking needs.

Even though each of the 12 geographic districts has a separate regional Federal Reserve bank, these regional banks have little direct power over the banking system. District banks and their branch banks handle administrative matters and gather information about business and banking conditions in their geographic regions for the Fed.

Duties of the Fed

In legislation establishing the Fed, Congress gave it six explicit functions:

1. Conducting monetary policy (influencing the supply of money and credit in the economy).

2. Supervising and regulating financial institutions.

3. Serving as a lender of last resort to financial institutions.

4. Providing banking services to the U.S. government.

5. Issuing coin and currency.

6. Providing financial services (such as check clearing) to commercial banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions.

Of these functions, the most important one is conducting monetary policy, which is why I presented that first and will spend most of the chapter discussing it.

The Conduct of Monetary Policy

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Web Note 12.2: The FOMC

You’ve already seen that monetary policy shifts the AD curve. Let’s now consider how it does so in practice. To do so, we need to look more specifically at the institutional structure of the banking system and the role of the Fed in that institutional structure.

Allowable reserves are either banks’ vault cash or deposits at the Fed.

Think back to our discussion of the banking system in the last chapter. Banks take in deposits, make loans, and buy other financial assets, keeping a certain percentage of reserves for those transactions. Those reserves are IOUs of the Fed—either vault cash held by banks or deposits at the Fed. Vault cash, deposits at the Fed, plus currency in circulation make up the monetary base. The monetary base held at banks serves as legal reserves of the banking system. By controlling the monetary base, the Fed can influence the amount of money in the economy and the activities of banks. The money supply is determined directly by the monetary base—the amount of IOUs that the Fed has outstanding, and, indirectly, by the amount of credit that banks extend.

Open Market Operations

The Fed’s buying and selling of government securities is called open market operations.

The primary way that the Fed changes the amount of reserves in the system is through open market operations—the Fed’s buying and selling of government securities (the only type of asset the Fed is allowed by law to hold in any appreciable quantity). These open market operations are the primary tool of monetary policy.

When the Fed buys Treasury bills or bonds (government securities), it pays for them with IOUs that serve as reserves for banks. These IOUs don’t have to be a written piece of paper. They may simply be a computer entry credited to the bank’s account, say $1 billion. An IOU of the Fed is money.

Because the IOU the Fed uses to buy a government security serves as reserves to the banking system, with the simple act of buying a Treasury bond and paying for it with its IOU, the Fed can increase the money supply (since this creates reserves for the bank). To increase the money supply, the Fed goes to the bond market, buys a bond, and pays for it with its IOU. The individual or firm that sold the bond now has an IOU of the Fed. When the individual or firm deposits the IOU in a bank—presto!—the reserves of the banking system are increased. If the Fed buys $1 million worth of bonds, it increases reserves by $1 million and the total money supply by $1 million times the money multiplier.

Q-3

When the Fed buys bonds, is it expanding or contracting the money supply?

When the Fed sells Treasury bonds, it collects back some of its IOUs, reducing banking system reserves and decreasing the money supply. Thus,

To expand the money supply, the Fed buys bonds.

To contract the money supply, the Fed sells bonds.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

Inside an FOMC Meeting

Let’s go inside one of the eight regular Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings to gain some insight into how the Fed actually conducts monetary policy. The meeting consists of FOMC members and top Fed staff sitting around a large table debating what should be done. There’s been enormous preparation for the meeting. The economists on the Federal Reserve staff have tracked the economy and have made economic forecasts. Based on their studies, they’ve briefed the FOMC members, and the high-level staff get to sit in on the meeting. (Getting to sit in on the meeting is seen as a real perk of the job.)

The information they’ve put together is gathered in three books, which are distinguished by colors. The Beige Book is prepared by each of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks and summarizes regional business conditions based on local surveys and conversations with local business people. The Green Book is prepared by the staff of the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C.; it presents a two-year forecast of the U.S. economy as a whole. The Blue Book, also prepared by the Fed staff in Washington, analyzes three possible monetary policy options. This Blue Book is the central policy document, and one of the three options it presents will be selected by the FOMC.

The meeting begins with a summary of monetary policy actions since the committee last met, followed by a forecast of the economy. The Fed governors and regional bank presidents also present their forecasts. Once current economic conditions and forecasts are discussed, the director of monetary affairs presents the three monetary policy proposals in the Blue Book. Then there is open discussion of the various policy proposals. The committee meeting ends with a vote on what policy to follow, along with a policy directive on what open market operations to execute. At that point, the FOMC also makes a public announcement regarding current policy actions as well as what future actions they may take. For example, on March 21, 2007, the FOMC issued the following statement:

The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 51/4 percent. Recent indicators have been mixed and the adjustment in the housing sector is ongoing.

Nevertheless, the economy seems likely to continue to expand at a moderate pace over coming quarters. Recent readings on core inflation have been somewhat elevated. Although inflation pressures seem likely to moderate over time, the high level of resource utilization has the potential to sustain those pressures. In these circumstances, the Committee’s predominant policy concern remains the risk that inflation will fail to moderate as expected. Future policy adjustments will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information.

The announcement was made at about 2:15 PM and within the next hour, the interest rate in the economy fell and the stock market shot up, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 1.3 percent as you can see in the graph below.

Why did this happen? The statement did not announce a change of interest rates. It said only that future policy adjustments are uncertain. What caused the change was what was not said in the statement. Previous statements had said that the Fed was leaning toward raising interest rates. This one did not, which led many in the stock market to believe that the Fed might lower interest rates in the future. Since traders saw that as good for the stock market, they bought stocks, pushing their prices up.

Understanding open market operations is essential to understanding monetary policy as it is actually practiced in the United States. So let’s go through some examples.1

Tools of Monetary Policy

Open market operations involve the purchase or sale of federal government securities (bonds). When the Fed buys bonds, it deposits the funds in federal government accounts at a bank. Bank cash reserves rise. Banks don’t like to hold excess reserves, so they lend out the excess, thereby expanding the deposit base of the economy. The money supply rises. Thus, an open market purchase is an example of expansionary monetary policy (monetary policy that tends to reduce interest rates and raise income), since it raises the money supply (as long as the banks strive to minimize their excess reserves).

An open market sale has the opposite effect. Here, the Fed sells bonds. In return for the bond, the Fed receives a check drawn against a bank. The bank’s reserve assets are reduced (since the Fed “cashes” the check and takes the money away from the bank), and the money supply falls. That’s an example of contractionary monetary policy (monetary policy that tends to raise interest rates and lower income).

The Reserve Requirement and the Money Supply

As I discussed in the previous chapter, the total amount of money created from a given amount of currency depends on the percentage of deposits that a bank keeps in reserves (the bank’s reserve ratio). By law, the Fed controls the minimum percentage of deposits banks keep in reserves by controlling the reserve requirement of all U.S. banks. That minimum is called the reserve requirement—the percentage the Federal Reserve System sets as the minimum amount of reserves a bank must have.

For checking accounts (also called demand deposits), the amount banks keep in reserves depends partly on the Federal Reserve requirements and partly on how much banks feel they need for safety (the cash they need to keep on hand at any time to give to depositors who claim some of their deposits in the form of cash). The amount most banks need for safety is much smaller than what the Fed requires. For them, it’s the Fed’s reserve requirement that determines the amount they hold as reserves.

Banks hold as little in reserves as possible.

Banks hold as little in reserves as possible. Why? Because reserves earn no interest for a bank. And we all know that banks are in business to earn profits. How much is as little as possible? That depends on the type of liabilities the bank has. In the early 2000s, required reserves for large banks for their checking accounts were about 10 percent. The reserve requirement for all other accounts was zero, making the reserve requirement for total liabilities somewhat under 2 percent.

In the early 2000s, total reserves were about $45 billion and required reserves were about $43 billion. This means excess reserves (reserves in excess of requirements) were about $2 billion.

The total money supply, which includes checking account deposits in banks, depends upon the reserve requirement. Thus, by changing the reserve requirements, the Fed can increase or decrease the money supply. If the Fed increases the reserve requirement, it contracts the money supply; banks have to keep more reserves so they have less money to lend out; the decreased money multiplier contracts the money supply. If the Fed decreases the reserve requirement, it expands the money supply; banks have more money to lend out; the increased money multiplier further expands the money supply.

The money multiplier is (1 +c)/(r + c).

The total effect on the money supply of changing the reserve requirement can be determined by thinking back to the money multiplier, which, as you saw in the previous chapter, equals (1 + c)/(r + c) where r is the percentage of each dollar that banks hold in reserves and c is the ratio of people’s cash to deposits. When banks hold no excess reserves and face a reserve requirement of 15 percent, and people’s cash-to-deposit ratio is 35 percent, the approximate money multiplier will be 1.35/0.5 = 2.7, so $1 million in reserves will support a total $2.7 million money supply. In reality, the cash-to-deposit ratio is about 0.4 (c = 0.4), the average reserve requirement for demand deposits is about 0.1 (r = 0.1), and banks hold little in the way of excess reserves. So the realistic money multiplier for demand deposits (M1) is

ADDED DIMENSION

Using the Money Multiplier in Practice

The money multiplier has been a staple of the macro principles course since its inception, and it remains an important concept in understanding how the monetary base is related to the aggregate supply of money in the economy. But recent changes in the financial system have made the operational use of the multiplier less important. For the most part, central banks don’t determine how much to change the monetary base to get a desired change in the money supply using an assumed fixed multiplier. Instead, they adjust the monetary base to target either a desired amount of bank credit in the economy or a short-term interest rate.

The money multiplier relationship continues to be true by definition, but it is not the operational concept that it once was. The reasons include the decrease in the reserve requirement (in many countries, required reserves are zero); financial innovations that have increased the ways in which individuals can hold money; the increase in the amount of cash that individuals hold; and the decline in the stability of the relationship between the money supply and output. Each of these makes it harder to use the money multiplier as an operational variable, which is why much of the monetary policy discussion today focuses more on the interest rate than on the money supply.

Q-4

If the cash-to-deposit ratio is 0.2 and the reserve requirement is 0.1, what happens to the money supply when the Fed sells $100 of bonds?

A $100 increase of reserves will support a $280 increase in demand deposits. For other deposits the reserve requirement is zero, so the money multiplier is larger for those.

What does a bank do if it comes up short of reserves? It can borrow from another bank that has excess reserves in what’s called the Federal funds market. (The rate of interest at which these reserves can be borrowed is called the Fed funds rate. As I will discuss below, this Fed funds rate is a significant indicator of monetary policy.)

Another option that the bank has if it is short of reserves is to stop making new loans and to keep as reserves the proceeds of loans that are paid off. Still another option is to sell Treasury bonds to get the needed reserves. (Banks often hold some of their assets in Treasury bonds so that they can get additional reserves relatively easily if they need them.) Treasury bonds are sometimes called secondary reserves. They do not count as bank reserves—only IOUs of the Fed count as reserves. But Treasury bonds can be easily sold and transferred into cash that does count as reserves. Banks use all these options.

It is important to note that while these options are open to the individual banks, they are not open to the entire system of banks. The total amount of reserves is controlled by the Fed, and if the entire banking system is short of reserves, the banking system will have to figure out a way of either reducing the need for reserves or borrowing reserves from the Fed.

Borrowing from the Fed and the Discount Rate

As I stated at the beginning of the chapter, a central bank is a banker’s bank, and if the entire banking system is short of reserves, banks can go to the Federal Reserve and take out a loan. The discount rate is the rate of interest the Fed charges for loans it makes to banks. An increase in the discount rate makes it more expensive for banks to borrow from the Fed. A discount rate decrease makes it less expensive for banks to borrow.

Up until 2002, the Fed set the discount rate slightly lower than the cost of reserves for banks from other sources, relying on moral suasion to stop banks from borrowing unless they really needed to. Beginning in 2003, the Fed changed this policy and now it sets the discount rate slightly higher than the banks’ other costs of funds. An increase in the discount rate discourages banks from borrowing and contracts the money supply; a decrease in the discount rate encourages the banks to borrow and increases the money supply.

The Fed Funds Market

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Web Note 12.3: Fed Funds

To get an even better sense of the way monetary policy works, let’s look at it from the perspective of a bank. The bank will review its books, determine how many reserves it needs to meet its reserve requirement, and see if it has excess reserves or a shortage of reserves.

The Federal funds rate is the interest rate banks charge one another for overnight reserve loans.

Say your bank didn’t make as many loans as it expected to, so it has a surplus of reserves (excess reserves). Say also that another bank has made a few loans it didn’t expect to make, so it has a shortage of reserves. The bank with surplus reserves can lend money to the bank with a shortage, and it can lend it overnight as Fed funds—loans of excess reserves banks make to one another. At the end of a day, a bank will look at its balances and see whether it has a shortage or surplus of reserves. If it has a surplus, it will call a Federal funds dealer to learn the Federal funds rate—the interest rate banks charge one another for Fed funds. Say the rate is 6 percent. The bank will then agree to lend its excess reserves overnight to the other bank for the daily equivalent of 6 percent per year. It’s all simply done electronically, so there’s no need actually to transfer funds. In the morning the money (plus overnight interest) is returned. The one-day interest rate is low, but when you’re dealing with millions or billions, it adds up.

The Federal funds market, the market in which banks lend and borrow reserves, is highly efficient. The Fed can reduce reserves, and thereby increase the Fed funds rate, by selling bonds. Alternatively, when the Fed buys bonds, it increases reserves, causing the Fed funds rate to fall. Generally, large city banks are borrowers of Fed funds; small country banks are lenders of Fed funds.

Figure 12-4 shows the Fed funds rate and the discount rate since 1990. As you can see, in 2001 and 2002 the Fed funds rate fell from 6 to 1.25 percent as the Fed followed an expansionary monetary policy. Starting in mid-2004, the Fed began to raise the Federal funds rate as it switched to a contractionary monetary policy, and in 2007 the target Fed funds rate was 5.25 percent. Notice also that the Fed funds rate tended to be slightly above the discount rate until 2003, when the Fed changed its operating procedures and began setting the discount rate slightly above the Fed funds rate.

FIGURE 12-4: The Fed Funds Rate and the Discount Rate Since 1990

The Federal Reserve Bank follows expansionary or contractionary monetary policy by targeting a lower or higher Fed funds rate. The discount rate generally follows the Fed funds rate closely. Before 2003, it was kept lower than the Fed funds rate. Since 2003, the discount rate has been set slightly above the Fed funds rate target.

REAL-WORLD APPLICATION

Will the Reserve Requirement Be Eliminated?

In 2006, President Bush signed the Financial Services Regulatory Relief A ct of 2006 to imp rove the efficiency of the banking system. The Act allows the Fed, beginning in 2011, to reduce the reserve ratio to zero and to pay interest on reserves that banks maintain at the Fed. Currently, the Fed does not pay interest on reserves. If the Fed makes this change, it would be following the practices of central banks of other industrialized nations such as Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan. The reason for the change is that financial institutions are changing. More and more financial transactions take place outside the banking system, and distinguishing banks from other financial institutions is becoming harder and harder.

In practice, the change will make all reserves excess reserves, and make the interest rate paid on reserve balances a key element in the determination of reserves and hence of the money supply. Thus, the Fed will be able to affect reserves through the discount rate, open market operations, and the interest rate paid on reserves.

The transition to the new system will likely involve some changes in the amount of reserves held by banks, but it is unlikely to have a significant effect on the actual conduct of monetary policy. In practice, central banks conduct monetary policy largely by targeting short-term interest rates through open market operations. If the system changes, the Fed will establish a relationship between the discount rate (the rate the Fed charges banks for lending reserves), the interest rate on reserves, and the targeted Fed funds rate. Which of these will become the lead indicator of Fed policy will depend on the relative differentials that the Fed chooses for these interest rates.

Offensive and Defensive Actions

Q-5

There’s been a big storm and cash held by individuals has increased. Should the Fed buy or sell bonds? Why?

Economists keep a close eye on the Federal funds rate in determining the state of monetary policy. It has become an important intermediate target of the Fed in determining what monetary policy to conduct. Remember, the Fed sets minimum reserve requirements, but the actual amount of reserves available to banks is influenced by the amount of cash people hold and excess reserves that banks may choose to hold. That changes daily. For example, say there’s a storm, and businesses don’t make it to the bank with their cash. Bank reserves will fall even though the Fed didn’t do anything. The Fed can, and does, offset such changes—by buying and selling bonds. Such actions are called defensive actions. They are designed to maintain the current monetary policy. These defensive actions are to be contrasted with offensive actions, which are actions meant to make monetary policy have expansionary or contractionary effects on the economy.

The Fed Funds Rate as an Operating Target

Monetary policy affects interest rates such as the Federal funds rate. The Fed looks at the Federal funds rate to determine whether monetary policy is tight or loose.

How does the Fed decide whether its buying and selling of bonds is having the desired effect? It has to look at other targets—and in recent years the Federal funds rate has been the operating target of the Fed. Thus, the Fed determines whether monetary policy is tight or loose depending on what is happening to the Federal funds rate. In practice, it targets a range for that rate, and buys and sells bonds to keep the Federal funds rate within that range. If the Federal funds rate rises above the Fed’s target range, it buys bonds, which increases reserves and lowers the Federal funds rate. If the Federal funds rate falls below the Fed’s target range, it sells bonds, which decreases reserves and raises the Federal funds rate.

The Complex Nature of Monetary Policy

While the Fed focuses on the Fed funds rate as its operating target, it also has its eye on its ultimate targets: stable prices, acceptable employment, sustainable growth, and moderate long-term interest rates. But those ultimate targets are only indirectly affected by changes in the Fed funds rate, so the Fed watches what are called intermediate targets: consumer confidence, stock prices, interest rate spreads, housing starts, and a host of others. Intermediate targets are not always good guides for the Fed’s ultimate targets. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco once had an exhibit of an electronic video game in its lobby.2 The object of the game was to hit a moving target with a dart from a moving arm. With both the arm and the target moving, most visitors missed the target.

The game was there to demonstrate the difficulties of implementing monetary policy. Monetary policy “shoots from a moving arm.” Ultimately, policy actions of the Fed influence output and inflation but the influence is not direct, and many other factors also influence output and inflation.

In reality, the Fed’s problem is even more complicated than the video game suggests. A more telling game would be one modeled after a Rube Goldberg cartoon. If you hit the first moving target, it releases a second dart when hit. That second dart is supposed to hit a second moving target, which in turn releases a third dart aimed at yet another moving target. Given the complicated path that monetary policy follows, it should not be surprising that the Fed often misses its ultimate targets. Small wonder that the Fed often doesn’t have the precise effect it wants.

The following diagram summarizes the tools and targets of the Fed:

The Taylor Rule

U.S. Treasury economist John Taylor has summarized a rule that, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, described Fed policy relatively well. The rule, which has become known as the Taylor rule, can be stated as follows: Set the Fed funds rate at 2 percent plus current inflation if the economy is at desired output and desired inflation. If the inflation rate is higher than desired, increase the Fed funds rate by 0.5 times the difference between desired and actual inflation. Similarly, if output is higher than desired, increase the Fed funds rate by 0.5 times the percentage deviation.

Q-6

If inflation is 1 percent and the Fed wants 2 percent inflation and output is 2 percent below potential, what would the Taylor rule predict for a Fed funds rate target?

Formally the Taylor rule is

Fed funds rate = 2 percent + Current inflation + 0.5 × (actual inflation less desired inflation) + 0.5 × (percent deviation of aggregate output from potential)

Let’s consider some examples. Say that inflation is 2.5 percent, the Fed’s target rate of inflation is 2 percent, and the aggregate output exceeds potential output by 1 percent. That means that the Fed would set the Fed funds rate at 5.25 percent (2 + 2.5 + 0.5(2.5 − 2) + 0.5(1)). The first row in the table below shows the calculations. The second row shows another example with different numbers.

The Fed does not always slavishly follow the Taylor rule. For example, in late 2000 and early 2001, the economy was 1 percent over potential output by most estimates and inflation was 2 percent, which was equal to the target rate. The Taylor rule predicted that the Fed would set the Fed funds rate at 4.5 percent. (See the calculations in row 2 of the table.) Instead, it targeted a 6 percent rate, because it was especially concerned about the economy overheating. Then right after September 11, the Fed became concerned about the economy going into a severe recession and it lowered the Fed funds rate significantly—close to zero—even though little else had changed. Despite the fact that the Fed considers more issues than just inflation and potential output in determining interest rate targets, the Taylor rule provides a useful first guide to understanding Fed policy choices.

Controlling the Interest Rate

Notice how the Taylor rule focuses the discussion of monetary policy on the interest rate (specifically, the Fed funds rate), not the money supply. On the surface, this may seem inconsistent with the discussions of monetary policy that focused on the money supply, but it is not. It is simply a difference in focus. The Fed does control the amount of money in the economy, but it uses that control to target an interest rate, not to control the money supply. Specifically, as the demand for money shifts, the Fed adjusts the money supply (through open market operations) so that the market equilibrates at the targeted interest rate. Essentially, the Fed is choosing a monetary rule that creates an effective supply curve of money that is perfectly flat at the target interest rate. How it does so is shown in Figure 12-5.

FIGURE 12-5: The Effective Supply Curve for Money

When the Fed chooses a monetary rule that targets the interest rate, it creates an effective supply curve of money that is flat at the target rate. To create a flat effective supply of money, the Fed adjusts the supply of money to changes in the demand for money at the targeted rate.

The Fed targets the interest rate by adjusting the money supply so that its targeted interest rate will equalize the supply and demand for money.

Say that we start with an interest rate of 5 percent, a money supply of S1, and a money demand of D1. Then, the demand for money rises to D2. If the Fed held the money supply constant, the interest rate would rise to 8 percent. However, if in response to the increase in demand the Fed automatically raises the money supply to S2, the interest rate remains at 5 percent. Similarly, if money demand rises to D3, the Fed increases the money supply to S3. As long as the Fed is willing to change the money supply to whatever level is necessary to achieve the targeted interest rate, it can determine the interest rate in the money market.

Q-7

How does the Fed create a flat effective money supply curve?

Limits to the Fed’s Control of the Interest Rate

The yield curve is a curve that shows the relationship between interest rates and bonds’ time to maturity.

The above discussion makes it sound as if the Fed can control the interest rate, and it can, if by interest rate we mean the short-term interest rate. But, as we discussed in the last chapter, the economy has more than one interest rate. The long-term interest rate in the economy is determined in the loanable funds market, not the money market. As long as the short-term interest rate and the long-term interest rate move in tandem, then the Fed can also control the long-term interest rate. Unfortunately, they do not always move in tandem, and that has made the study of the relationship between the short-term and long-term rates an important part of discussions of monetary policy. Economists carefully follow this relationship in a graph called the yield curve—a curve that shows the relationship between interest rates and bonds’ time to maturity. I show two alternative yield curves in Figure 12-6. As you can see, as you move out along the yield curve, bonds’ time to maturity increases. Figure 12-6(a) demonstrates what is called a standard yield curve. It is a yield curve in which the short-term rates are lower than the long-term rate. Thus, if you invest in a one-year bond, you would earn 4 percent interest, and if you invest in a 30-year bond, you would earn 6 percent interest. This is considered a standard yield curve because long-term bonds are riskier than short-term bonds, so it is reasonable that they generally have a slightly higher interest rate.

FIGURE 12-6 (A AND B): The Yield Curve

The standard yield curve shown in (a) is upward-sloping: as the time to maturity increases, so does the interest rate. An inverted yield curve shown in (b) is downward-sloping: as the time to maturity increases, the interest rate decreases.

That relationship between short-term and long-term interest rates does not always hold. Figure 12-6(b) shows what is called an inverted yield curve—a yield curve in which the short-term rate is higher than the long-term rate. In the graph, you can see that a one-year bond pays 6 percent interest and a 30-year bond pays a lower, 4 percent, interest rate.

Why is the shape of the yield curve important? Because the standard discussion of monetary policy is based on the assumption that when the Fed pushes up the short-term rate, the long-term rate moves up as well. If the long-term rate doesn’t move with the short-term rate, then investment won’t respond, and monetary policy won’t have any significant effect. Think of the issue as one of pushing a pea along a plate with a noodle. If the noodle is dry, you can do it easily, but if the noodle is wet, when you move one end, the other end doesn’t move, and it is much more difficult.

As financial markets have become more liquid, and as technological changes in financial markets have provided firms with many alternative sources of credit, the Fed has found that its ability to control the long-term rate has lessened, and that monetary policy is becoming more and more like controlling the economy with a wet noodle rather than a dry noodle. When it uses contractionary monetary policy, as opposed to shifting the entire yield curve up the policy simply causes an inverted yield curve. That’s why policy makers pay close attention to the yield curve.

The monetary influence is not gone; economists have found that if the Fed is willing to push the short-term rate high enough, it is able to pull the long-term rate with it, but the Fed’s control of the long-term rate is more like the control parents have over their kids—they can influence (and hope) but cannot caontrol.

A REMINDER

Some Limits of Fed Control

• In much of the discussion of the macro model, economists assume a single interest rate, which suggests more control of the economy by the Fed than it actually has.

• The long-term and short-term interest rates can differ; with the money market determining the short-term interest rate and the loanable funds market determining the long-term interest rate.

• The Fed’s primary influence is in the money market and hence on the short-term interest rate. Its influence on the long-term interest rate is less direct.

• The yield curve is generally upward-sloping, but when the Fed attempts to contract the money supply, it can become inverted, or downward-sloping. Similarly, if the Fed tries to expand the money supply, the yield curve will generally become steeper.

Maintaining Policy Credibility

Q-8

What is the difference between a standard yield curve and an inverted yield curve?

Policy makers are very concerned about establishing policy credibility. The reason why is that they believe that it is necessary to prevent inflationary expectations from becoming built into the system. They fear that if inflationary expectations become built into the system, the long-term interest rate, which is the rate that primarily influences investment, will be pushed up, making the yield curve steeper and requiring even stronger contractionary monetary policy to eliminate the inflation. To see why the long-term rate will rise if inflationary expectations become built into the system, it is important to remember that the long-term interest rate has two components: a real interest rate component and an inflationary expectations component, which means that you must distinguish the real interest rate from the nominal interest rate.

You learned about this real/nominal interest rate distinction in an earlier chapter. Recall, nominal interest rates are the rates you actually see and pay. When a bank pays 7 percent interest, that 7 percent is a nominal interest rate. What affects the economy is the real interest rate. Real interest rates are nominal interest rates adjusted for expected inflation.

For example, say you get 7 percent interest from the bank, but the price level goes up 7 percent. At the end of the year you have $107 instead of $100, but you’re no better off than before because the price level has risen—on average, things cost 7 percent more. What you would have paid $100 for last year now costs $107. (That’s the definition of inflation.) Had the price level remained constant, and had you received 0 percent interest, you’d be in the equivalent position to receiving 7 percent interest on your $100 when the price level rises by 7 percent. That 0 percent is the real interest rate. It is the interest rate you would expect to receive if the price level remains constant.

Q-9

If the nominal interest rate is 10 percent and expected inflation is 3 percent, what is the real interest rate?

The real interest rate cannot be observed because it depends on expected inflation. To calculate the real interest rate, you must subtract what you believe to be the expected rate of inflation from the nominal interest rate:

Real interest rate = Nominal interest rate − Expected inflation rate

For example, if the nominal interest rate is 7 percent and expected inflation is 4 percent, the real interest rate is 3 percent. The relationship between real and nominal interest rates is important both for your study of economics and for your own personal finances.

Q-10

How does the distinction between nominal and real interest rates add uncertainty to the effect of monetary policy on the economy?

What does this distinction between nominal and real interest rates mean for monetary policy? It adds yet another uncertainty to the effect of monetary policy. In the AS/AD model, we assumed that expansionary monetary policy lowers the interest rate and contractionary monetary policy increases the interest rate. However, if the expansionary monetary policy leads to expectations of increased inflation, expansionary monetary policy can increase nominal interest rates (the ones you see) and leave real interest rates (the ones that affect borrowing decisions) unchanged. Why? Because of expectations of increasing inflation. Lenders will want to be compensated for the inflation (which will decrease the value of the money they receive back) and will push the nominal interest rate up to get the desired real rate of interest.

Monetary Policy Regimes

The distinction between nominal and real interest rates and the possible effect of monetary policy on expectations of inflation has led most economists to conclude that a monetary regime, not a monetary policy, is the best approach to policy. A monetary regime is a predetermined statement of the policy that will be followed in various situations. A monetary policy, in contrast, is a response to events; it is chosen without a predetermined framework.

Monetary regimes are now favored because rules can help generate the expectations that even though in certain instances the Fed is increasing the money supply, that increase is not a signal that monetary expansion and inflation are imminent. The monetary regime that the Fed currently uses involves feedback rules that center on the Federal funds rate. If inflation is above its target, the Fed raises the Federal funds rate (by selling bonds, thereby decreasing the money supply) in an attempt to slow inflation down. If inflation is below its target, and if the economy is going into a recession, the Fed lowers the Fed funds rate (by buying bonds, thereby increasing the money supply). The Taylor rule discussed above is a quantification of this general feedback rule.

Problems with Monetary Policy Regimes

Establishing an explicit monetary policy regime to hold down expectations of inflation is not without its problems. Inevitably, special circumstances arise where it makes sense to deviate from the regime. The problem is analogous to the problem faced by parents. All parenting manuals tell parents to maintain credibility and to set fair and firm rules. Most parents attempt to do so. But as all, or at least most, parents know, sometimes exceptions are necessary. Not all contingencies can be planned for. So I suspect that both parents and monetary policy makers will consistently emphasize their firm rules and state that they will follow them no matter what, but that inevitably they will trade some credibility for some short-term gain, or in the belief that the initial rule did not take into account the particular situation that arose.

A REMINDER

Conventional Wisdom about Monetary Policy

To make its commitment to a monetary regime clear to the public, even as it deviates slightly from that commitment in specific instances, the Fed has been trying, over the past decade, to increase the degree of transparency that accompanies its monetary policy decisions. Specifically, the Fed is releasing the minutes of its FOMC meetings much sooner after the meetings adjourn than it did in the past, and is going out of its way to explain its decisions. The hope is that the greater degree of transparency will demonstrate the Fed’s general resolve to fight inflation, and show that any possible deviation from that resolve can be explained by special circumstances.

Conclusion

The Fed can influence, not steer, the economy.

The above discussion should give you a good sense that conducting monetary policy is not a piece of cake. It takes not only a sense of the theory but also a feel for the economy. (See the box “Conventional Wisdom about Monetary Policy” for a summary of the standard view of monetary policy.) In short, the conduct of monetary policy is not a science. It does not allow the Fed to steer the economy as it might steer a car. It does work well enough to allow the Fed to influence the economy—much as an expert rodeo rider rides a bronco bull.

Summary

• Monetary policy is the policy of influencing the economy through changes in the banking system’s reserves that affect the money supply.

• In the AS/AD model, contractionary monetary policy works as follows:

• Expansionary monetary policy works as follows:

• The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) makes the actual decisions about monetary policy.

• The Fed is a central bank; it conducts monetary policy for the United States and regulates financial institutions.

• The Fed changes the money supply through open market operations:

To expand the money supply, the Fed buys bonds.
To contract the money supply, the Fed sells bonds.

• When the Fed buys bonds, the price of bonds rises and interest rates fall. When the Fed sells bonds, the price of bonds falls and interest rates rise.

• A change in reserves changes the money supply by the change in reserves times the money multiplier.

• The Federal funds rate is the rate at which one bank lends reserves to another bank. It is the Fed’s primary operating target.

• The Taylor rule is a feedback rule that states: Set the Fed funds rate at 2 plus current inflation plus one-half the difference between actual and desired inflation plus one-half the percent difference between actual and potential output.

• The yield curve shows the relationship between interest rates and bonds’ time to maturity.

• The Fed’s direct control is on short-term interest rates; its effect on long-term interest rates is indirect. Fed policy intended to shift the yield curve might instead change its shape, and therefore not have the intended impact on investment.

• Nominal interest rates are the interest rates we see and pay. Real interest rates are nominal interest rates adjusted for expected inflation: Real interest rate = Nominal interest rate —Expected inflation.

• Because monetary policy can affect inflation expectations as well as nominal interest rates, the effect of monetary policy on interest rates can be uncertain. This uncertainty has led the Fed to follow monetary regimes.

Key Terms

central bank (292)

contractionary monetary policy (292)

discount rate (299)

expansionary monetary policy (292)

Fed funds (300)

Federal funds market (300)

Federal funds rate (300)

Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (292)

inverted yield curve (305)

monetary base (296)

monetary policy (290)

monetary regime (306)

nominal interest rate (305)

open market operations (296)

real interest rate (305)

reserve requirement (298)

Taylor rule (302)

yield curve (304)

Questions for Thought and Review

1. Investment increases by 20 for each interest rate drop of 1 percent. The expenditures multiplier is 3. If the money multiplier is 4, and each change of 5 in the money supply changes the interest rate by 1 percent, what open market policy would you recommend to increase income by 240? LO1, LO4

2. Demonstrate the effect of contractionary monetary policy in the AS/AD model. LO1

3. Demonstrate the effect of expansionary monetary policy in the money and loanable funds markets. LO1

4. Is the Fed a private or a public agency? LO2

5. Why are there few regional Fed banks in the western part of the United States? LO2

6. What are the six explicit functions of the Fed? LO2

7. How does the Fed use open market operations to increase the money supply? LO3

8. Write the formula for the money multiplier. If the Fed eliminated the reserve requirement, what would happen to the money multiplier and the supply of money? LO3

9. If a bank is unable to borrow reserves from the Fed funds market to meet its reserve requirement, where else might it borrow reserves? What is the name of the rate it pays to borrow these reserves? LO3

10. What happens to interest rates and the price of bonds when the Fed buys bonds? LO3

11. If the Federal Reserve announces a change in the direction of monetary policy, is it describing an offensive or defensive action? Explain your answer. LO3

12. “The effects of open market operations are somewhat like a stone cast in a pond.” After the splash, discuss the first three ripples. LO1, LO3

13. Why would a bank hold Treasury bills as secondary reserves when it could simply hold primary reserves—cash? LO3

14. Define the Federal funds rate and explain why it is the interest rate that the Fed most directly controls. LO4

15. Explain the relationship between tools, operating targets, intermediate targets, and ultimate targets. Give examples of each. LO4

16. The table below gives the Fed funds rate target at the end of each year shown.

Using these figures, describe how the monetary policy directions changed from 2003 through 2006. LO5

17. Target inflation is 2 percent; actual inflation is 3 percent. Output equals potential output. What does the Taylor rule predict will be the Fed funds rate? LO5

18. Why is the effective supply curve for money horizontal? LO6

19. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. How might this adage be relevant to expansionary (as opposed to contractionary) monetary policy? LO6

20. If the nominal interest rate is 6 percent and inflation is 5 percent, what’s the real interest rate? LO6

21. What is an inverted yield curve? Are you more likely to see one when the Fed is implementing contractionary or expansionary monetary policy? LO6

22. Why would policy makers pay attention to the shape of the yield curve? LO6

23. Does it matter to policy makers how people form expectations? LO6

24. How does a policy regime differ from a policy? LO6

25. How might an inflation target policy impair the ability of the Fed? LO6

26. How are transparency and credibility related? LO6

Problems and Exercises

27. Demonstrate the effect of expansionary monetary policy in the AS/AD model when the economy is

a. Below potential output.

b. Significantly above potential output. LO1

28. The Fed wants to increase the money supply (which is currently 4,000) by 200. The money multiplier is 3 and people hold no cash. For each 1 percentage point the discount rate falls, banks borrow an additional 20.

Explain how the Fed can achieve its goals using the following tools:

a. Change the reserve requirement.

b. Change the discount rate.

c. Use open market operations. LO3

29. Suppose the Fed decides it needs to pursue an expansionary policy. Assume people hold no cash, the reserve requirement is 20 percent, and there are no excess reserves.

a. Show how the Fed would increase the money supply by $2 million by changing the reserve requirement.

b. Show how the Fed would increase the money supply by $2 million through open market operations. LO3

30. Suppose the Fed decides that it needs to pursue a contractionary policy. It wants to decrease the money supply by $2 million. Assume people hold 20 percent of their money in the form of cash balances, the reserve requirement is 20 percent, and there are no excess reserves.

a. Show how the Fed would decrease the money supply by $2 million by changing the reserve requirement.

b. Show how the Fed would decrease the money supply by $2 million through open market operations.

c. Go to your local bank and find out how much excess reserves it holds. Recalculate a and b assuming all banks held that percentage in excess reserves. LO3

31. Some individuals have suggested raising the required reserve ratio for banks to 100 percent.

a. What would the money multiplier be if this change were made?

b. What effect would such a change have on the money supply?

c. How could that effect be offset?

d. Would banks likely favor or oppose this proposal? Why? LO3

32. One of the proposals to reform monetary policy has been to have the central bank pay interest on reserves held at the bank.

a. What effect would that proposal have on excess reserves?

b. Would banks generally favor or oppose this proposal? Why?

c. Would central banks generally favor or oppose this proposal? Why?

d. What effect would this proposal probably have on interest rates paid by banks? LO3

33. Congratulations! You have been approved adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank.

a. The Federal Open Market Committee decides that it must increase the money supply by 60. Committee members tell you the reserve ratio is 0.1 and the cash-to-deposit ratio is 0.3. They ask you what directive they should give to the open market desk. You tell them, being as specific as possible, using the money multiplier.

b. They ask you for two other ways they could have achieved the same end. You tell them.

c. Based on the AS/AD model, tell them what you think the effect on the price level of your policy will be. LO3

34. The “Check 21” Act, which went into effect in 2004, allows banks to transfer check images instead of paper checks. This act makes check processing much quicker. What will be the likely effect on the following?

a. Float.

b. Variability of float.

c. Defensive Fed actions. LO4

35. State the Taylor rule. What does the rule predict will happen to the Fed funds rate in each of the following situations?

a. Inflation is 2 percent, the inflation target is 3 percent, and output is 2 percent below potential.

b. Inflation is 4 percent, the inflation target is 2 percent, and output is 3 percent above potential.

c. Inflation is 4 percent, the inflation target is 3 percent, and output is 2 percent below potential. LO5

36. What would the Fed have to do in the following in stances to keep the interest rate constant? Demonstrate graphically.

a. A significant number of people begin to use credit cards for daily transactions, reducing the amount of money they hold.

b. Bond traders expect bond prices to fall, and therefore increase their cash holdings. LO5

37. Fill in the blanks in the following table: LO6

Questions from Alternative Perspectives

1. Fisher Black, an economist who designed a famous options pricing model, argued that because of developments in financial markets, central banks would soon have no ability to control the economy with monetary policy, and that the price level would be indeterminant rather than determined by the money supply. What do you think his argument was? (Austrian)

2. The quotation at the beginning of this chapter, and those for almost all the chapters, is from a man not a woman.

a. Does this suggest anything about the author’s view point or about the economics profession?

b. Should we be concerned about the lack of quotations from women? (Feminist)

3. Monetary policy is difficult when interest rates are low. For example, in the early 2000s the Bank of Japan lowered the interest rate to 0.01 percent with little effect on investment.

a. Why is it difficult for monetary policy to be effective when interest rates are very low?

b. How might institutions be changed to make monetary policy effective under these circumstances? (Institutionalist)

4. Monetarists believe that money is neutral in that it has no real effect on interest rates, output, or employment. Keynes, alternatively, believed that money is not neutral in both the short and long run. For Keynesians, money supply can affect real decision making, providing liquidity when firms need it. How would a belief in the non-neutrality of money affect the policy discussion in the book? (Post-Keynesian)

5. As radical economists see it, when it comes to making monetary policy, the Fed consistently puts the interests of bondholders ahead of people seeking work. It regularly moves to protect the value of their stocks and bonds by keeping inflation low even at the expense of maintaining employment growth.

a. In your opinion, does the Fed use monetary policy to direct the economy to everyone’s benefit?

b. Should the Fed serve the interests of the holders of financial assets or the interests of workers? (Radical)

Web Questions

1. Go to the Federal Reserve’s home page at www.federalreserve.gov.

a. Who is the chairman of the board? For how long has he or she served?

b. Who are the governors of the board?

c. The site publishes a short biography for each governor. What experiences and/or degrees do all members have? What experiences and/or degrees differ among members?

2. Go to the New York Fed’s Web site at www.ny.frb.org/research/current_issues/ci2-7 to read “The Yield Curve as a Predictor of Recessions.” Then answer the following questions:

a. Why should the steepness of the yield curve be a predictor of recessions?

b. Is the economy more likely to be headed for recession if there is a standard yield curve or if the yield curve is flat or inverted? Explain your answer.

c. What is the current yield curve spread? What does this mean for future economic activity?

Answers to Margin Questions

1. Expansionary monetary policy makes more money available to banks for lending. Banks lower their interest rates to attract more borrowers. With lower interest rates, businesses will borrow more money and increase investment expenditures. The multiplier shifts the AD curve to the right by a multiple of the increase in investment expenditures. Real output increases to Y1, and the price level rises to P1. What ultimately happens to output and the price level depends on where the economy is relative to potential. (292)

2. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decides on monetary policy (292).

3. When the Fed buys bonds, it is expanding the money supply. (296)

4. The money multiplier in this case is 4, so the money supply declines by $400. (299)

5. The Fed should buy bonds to offset the unintended decline in reserves. (301)

6. The Taylor rule predicts a Fed funds rate target of 1.5 percent. (302)

7. The Fed adjusts the money supply so that the targeted interest rate equilibrates the demand and supply for money. When demand increases, the Fed increases supply to maintain the interest rate target. It does the opposite when demand decreases. (304)

8. In a standard yield curve, bonds with greater time to maturity pay higher interest rates. In an inverted yield curve, bonds with greater time to maturity pay lower interest rates. (305)

9. The real interest rate is 7 percent, the nominal interest rate (10) less expected inflation (3). (306)

10. Because expansionary monetary policy can lead to expectations of higher inflation, expansionary monetary policy can lead to higher nominal interest rates. Because real interest rates cannot be observed directly, interest rates are not always a good guide for the direction of monetary policy. (306)

APPENDIX A: The Effect of Monetary Policy Using T-Accounts

The Fed uses the discount rate, the reserve requirement, and open market operations to change the money supply. Each of these tools works initially by affecting the amount of reserves in the banking system. Here I will show you exactly how the Fed changes the money supply using T-accounts. To simplify things, say there’s only one bank, Textland Bank, with branches all over the country. Text-land is fully loaned out at a 10 percent reserve requirement. For simplicity, assume people hold no cash. Textland’s beginning balance sheet is presented below in Table A12-1.

Now say the Fed sells $10,000 worth of Treasury bonds to individuals. The person who buys them pays with a check to the Fed for $10,000. The Fed, in turn, presents that check to the bank, getting $10,000 in cash from the bank. This step is shown in Table A12-2.

As you can see, bank reserves are now $290,000, which is too low to meet requirements on demand deposits of $2,990,000. With a 10 percent reserve requirement, $2,990,000 in deposits would require × $2,990,000 = $299,000, so the bank is $9,000 short of reserves. It must figure out a way to meet its reserve requirement. Let’s say that it calls in $9,000 of its loans. After doing so it has assets of $299,000 in cash and $2,990,000 in demand deposits, so it looks as if the bank has met its reserve requirement.

If the bank could meet its reserve requirement that way, its balance sheet would be as shown in Table A12-3. Loans would decrease by $9,000 and cash would increase by the $9,000 necessary to meet the reserve requirement.

Unfortunately for the bank, meeting its reserve requirement isn’t that easy. That $9,000 in cash had to come from somewhere. Most likely, the person who paid off the loans in cash did it partly by running down her checking account, borrowing all the cash she could from others, and using whatever other options she had. Since, by assumption in this example, people don’t hold cash, the banking system was initially fully loaned out, and Textland Bank was the only bank, the only cash in the economy was in Textland Bank’s vaults! So that $9,000 in cash had to come from its vaults. Calling in the loans cannot directly solve its reserve problem. It still has reserves of only $290,000.

TABLE A12-1: Textland Bank Balance Sheet

TABLE A12-2

TABLE A12-3

But calling in its loans did indirectly help solve the problem. Calling in loans decreased investment, which, because it decreased aggregate demand, decreased the income in the economy. (If you’re not sure why this is the case, think back to the macro policy model.) That decrease in income decreases the amount of demand deposits people want to hold. As demand deposits decrease, the bank’s need for reserves decreases.

Contraction of the money supply in this example works in the opposite way to an expansion of the money supply. Banks keep trying to meet their reserve requirement by getting cash, only to find that for the banking system as a whole the total cash is limited. Thus, the banking system as a whole must continue to call in loans until that decline in loans causes income to fall sufficiently to cause demand deposits to fall to a level that can be supported by the smaller reserves. In this example, with a money multiplier of 10, when demand deposits have fallen by $100,000 to $2.9 million, total reserves available to the system ($290,000) will be sufficient to meet the reserve requirement.

Questions for Thought and Review

1. Demonstrate, using T-accounts, the effect of the Fed selling $1 million of Treasury bonds when the reserve requirement is 10 percent and people hold no cash.

2. Demonstrate, using T-accounts, the effect of the Fed buying $2 million of Treasury bonds when the reserve requirement is 10 percent and people hold no cash.

1 A discussion of the effects of open market operations on the supply of money using T-accounts is presented in Appendix A of this chapter.

2 Because of security concerns, central bank lobbies are now generally off limits to the public and this exhibit is no longer accessible.

(Colander 290)

Colander, David C. Macroeconomics, 7th Edition. McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 102007. .

I. How does open market operation (OMO) affect economic activity:

OMO refers to the sale /purchase of securities (government) by the FED to other banks, institutional buyers and financial institutions in order to influence the total money circulating in the system. Ina recession when the govt wants consumers to spend more it purchases these securities. This releases more funds into the coffers of these institutions, which allows them to use these to extend more credit and raise consumption and investments. the opposite happens in a boom period. When the government wants to reduce spending and arrest rising prices it takes away funds by offering to sell its own securities. Financial institutions buys these and reduce the amount left with them for credit purposes. Since the FOMC is the policy making branch of the FED it is responsible for any decisions on sale/purchase of securities as well as the price at which these transactions happen. The article is a part of that decision making. It outlines the decisions taken and elucidates the reasons behind the former. Therefore the influence on the economy of OMO is via changes in money supply.

II. reasons for the FOMC decision

recent data has been encouraging on a front of fronts, which signalled a recovery from the financial meltdown of 2009. But this recovery was slow compared to most recoveries from previous recessions. Signs of a recovery include:

· In the residential real estate sector, home sales and construction were rising, from their earlier low levels- in some areas prices had even risen.

· Inventories were reducing at slower rates, which meant greater confidence in consumption spending by firms.

· The trend for consumer spending showed an uptrend.

· There was no rise in inflation, so price rise was subdued.

· Growth in foreign countries were was on an upswing, which meant greater demand for US exports-a good omen for growth.

However all data was not so positive and bullish on recovery. There remained certain areas of concern:

· Unemployment was still high and labour markets were weak.

· Bank credit did not rise, which meant that either banks don’t have funds or consumers are not picking up loans.-this is a not conducive to a recovery which must be based on rising credit demand that fuels consumption and fresh investments.

· Business sentiment was still weak and did not encourage fresh investments. Sentiments affect producers, decisions about capacity expansion, labour recruitment new businesses.

· Commercial real estate was not picking up. This is critical as a rise in demand for commercial space shows greater confidence in economic conditions that prompt new businesses to be set up.

These mixed data were the motivation for the decision to continue with purchases of securities. Since the signs of recovery are there the pace of purchases has been reduced. There was a consensus that govt support in terms of pumping money in the economy is still needed to strengthen the initial signs of recovery

III. Consequences of FOMC actions:

The estimates and expectations have come true in some respects. Most recent data show a fall in unemployment in USA. However we must understand that OMO have a short, medium and long term effects. Some effects are there to be seen but most of such effects take time to show in concrete data terms. The collection, compilation of data is time consuming. It is clear that USA is recovering from the recession- things are improving . the FOMC’s actions have been helpful as witnessed in the EU support o Greece. The govt’s monetary support has been instrumental in the recovery. This support translates into the actions of the FOMC and provide a signal that the govt is ready to take any action to force an economic recovery.

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