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2 The Central Banks

Here is a summary of what Wikipedia has to say about central banks.

This is a detailed look at central banks and does not need to be read in order to understand the rest of the text.

Interest rates

The mechanism to move the market towards a 'target rate' (whichever specific rate is used) is generally to lend money or borrow money in theoretically unlimited quantities, until the targeted market rate is sufficiently close to the target. Central banks may do so by lending money to and borrowing money from (taking deposits from) a limited number of qualified banks, or by purchasing and selling bonds.

It is also notable that the target rates are generally short-term rates. The actual rate that borrowers and lenders receive on the market will depend on (perceived) credit risk, maturity and other factors. For example, a central bank might set a target rate for overnight lending of 4.5%, but rates for (equivalent risk) five-year bonds might be 5%, 4.75%, or, in cases of inverted yield curves, even below the short-term rate. Many central banks have one primary "headline" rate that is quoted as the "central bank rate." In practice, they will have other tools and rates that are used, but only one that is rigorously targeted and enforced.

A typical central bank has several interest rates or monetary policy tools it can set to influence markets.

  • Marginal lending rate (currently 1.75% in the Eurozone) – a fixed rate for institutions to borrow money from the central bank. (In the USA this is called the discount rate).
  • Main refinancing rate (1.00% in the Eurozone) – the publicly visible interest rate the central bank announces. It is also known as minimum bid rate and serves as a bidding floor for refinancing loans. (In the USA this is called the federal funds rate).
  • Deposit rate (0.25% in the Eurozone) – the rate parties receive for deposits at the central bank.

These rates directly affect the rates in the money market, the market for short term loans.

Open market operations

Through open market operations, a central bank influences the money supply in an economy directly. Each time it buys securities, exchanging money for the security, it raises the money supply. Conversely, selling of securities lowers the money supply. Buying of securities thus amounts to printing new money while lowering supply of the specific security.

The main open market operations are:

All of these interventions can also influence the foreign exchange market and thus the exchange rate. For example the People's Bank of China and the Bank of Japan have on occasion bought several hundred billions of U.S. Treasuries, presumably in order to stop the decline of the U.S. dollar versus the renminbi and the yen.

Capital requirements

All banks are required to hold a certain percentage of their assets as capital, a rate which may be established by the central bank or the banking supervisor. For international banks, including the 55 member central banks of the Bank for International Settlements, the threshold is 8% (see the Basel Capital Accords) of risk-adjusted assets, whereby certain assets (such as government bonds) are considered to have lower risk and are either partially or fully excluded from total assets for the purposes of calculating capital adequacy. Partly due to concerns about asset inflation and repurchase agreements, capital requirements may be considered more effective than deposit/reserve requirements in preventing indefinite lending: when at the threshold, a bank cannot extend another loan without acquiring further capital on its balance sheet.

Reserve requirements

In practice, many banks are required to hold a percentage of their deposits as reserves. Such legal reserve requirements were introduced in the nineteenth century to reduce the risk of banks overextending themselves and suffering from bank runs, as this could lead to knock-on effects on other banks. See also money multiplier. As the early 20th century gold standard and late 20th century dollar hegemony evolved, and as banks proliferated and engaged in more complex transactions and were able to profit from dealings globally on a moment's notice, these practices became mandatory, if only to ensure that there was some limit on the ballooning of money supply. Such limits have become harder to enforce. The People's Bank of China retains (and uses) more powers over reserves because the yuan that it manages is a non-convertible currency.

Even if reserves were not a legal requirement, prudence would ensure that banks would hold a certain percentage of their assets in the form of cash reserves. It is common to think of commercial banks as passive receivers of deposits from their customers and, for many purposes, this is still an accurate view.

This passive view of bank activity is misleading when it comes to considering what determines the nation's money supply and credit. Loan activity by banks plays a fundamental role in determining the money supply. The central-bank money after aggregate settlement - final money - can take only one of two forms:

  • physical cash, which is rarely used in wholesale financial markets,
  • central-bank money.

The currency component of the money supply is far smaller than the deposit component. Currency and bank reserves together make up the monetary base, called M1 and M2.

Exchange requirements

To influence the money supply, some central banks may require that some or all foreign exchange receipts (generally from exports) be exchanged for the local currency. The rate that is used to purchase local currency may be market-based or arbitrarily set by the bank. This tool is generally used in countries with non-convertible currencies or partially-convertible currencies. The recipient of the local currency may be allowed to freely dispose of the funds, required to hold the funds with the central bank for some period of time, or allowed to use the funds subject to certain restrictions. In other cases, the ability to hold or use the foreign exchange may be otherwise limited.

In this method, money supply is increased by the central bank when it purchases the foreign currency by issuing (selling) the local currency. The central bank may subsequently reduce the money supply by various means, including selling bonds or foreign exchange interventions.

Margin requirements and other tools

In some countries, central banks may have other tools that work indirectly to limit lending practices and otherwise restrict or regulate capital markets. For example, a central bank may regulate margin lending, whereby individuals or companies may borrow against pledged securities. The margin requirement establishes a minimum ratio of the value of the securities to the amount borrowed.

Central banks often have requirements for the quality of assets that may be held by financial institutions; these requirements may act as a limit on the amount of risk and leverage created by the financial system. These requirements may be direct, such as requiring certain assets to bear certain minimum credit ratings, or indirect, by the central bank lending to counterparties only when security of a certain quality is pledged as collateral.

Examples of use

The People's Bank of China has been forced into particularly aggressive and differentiating tactics by the extreme complexity and rapid expansion of the economy it manages. It imposed some absolute restrictions on lending to specific industries in 2003, and continues to require 1% more (7%) reserves from urban banks (typically focusing on export) than rural ones. This is not by any means an unusual situation. The USA historically had very wide ranges of reserve requirements between its dozen branches. Domestic development is thought to be optimized mostly by reserve requirements rather than by capital adequacy methods, since they can be more finely tuned and regionally varied.

Investopedia - Get To Know The Major Central Banks

(c) The information under this section is originally from Wikipedia and is used under the following licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/