What Is a Central Bank and Is There One in the United States?

What Is a Central Bank and Is There One in the United States?


What Is a Central Bank?

Central bank is a financial organization that has been granted exclusive authority over the creation and Bank International disbursement of credit and money for a country or collection of countries. The central bank is typically in charge of monetary policy formulation and member bank regulation in modern economies.


Because of their very nature, central banks are anti-competitive or at least not based on the market. Many central banks are regarded as politically autonomous since they are not government organizations, even though some have been nationalized. Even yet, a central bank’s privileges are set forth and safeguarded by law, even though it is not the government’s legal owner.

A central bank’s ability to issue currency and banknotes due to its legal monopoly status sets it apart from other banks and is an essential characteristic. The only liabilities that private commercial banks are allowed to issue are demand obligations like checking deposits.

Main responsibilities central banks

Defining monetary policy – Central banks establish macroeconomic goals such as price stability and economic growth. To accomplish this, financial authorities have tools such as setting official interest rates, which affect the cost of money. Depending on the economic environment, central banks will either raise official interest rates (for example, to control inflation) or lower them (to encourage consumption and boost economic growth).

Regulating money in circulation – They are in charge of issuing coins and notes, managing the money supply, and regulating the amount of money in circulation. Central banks use this to inject liquidity into the system, allowing various economic players (families, businesses, and governments) to use it in their transactions. In terms of currencies, central banks are also responsible for carrying out operations to maintain stable exchange rates, as well as owning and controlling their official reserves.

Overseeing the inter-bank market – They guarantee that relevant financial rules are followed, and they oversee national payment systems to ensure that they are operationally sound.


Loaning liquidity to commercial banks if necessary for solvency issues – Aside from inter-bank loans, as noted in the preceding bullet point, commercial banks can also get liquidity from central banks in exchange for collateral, such as guaranteed public bonds. This means that, if necessary, commercial banking institutions can satisfy their short-term needs, while central banks aim to maintain price stability by mediating credit variations.

Taking on an advisory role – They produce studies and reports on a regular basis that are beneficial to governments or private entities, for example.



Knowing Central Banks

The functions of central banks (as well as the rationale behind their establishment) often fall into three categories, however, the specifics vary greatly based on the nation.

First, the nation’s money supply is regulated and controlled by central banks. As they issue money and determine interest rates for bonds and loans, they have an impact on the market mood. Central banks often cut interest rates to promote growth, industrial activity, and consumer spending while raising them to impede growth and prevent inflation. They control monetary policy in this way to direct the national economy and accomplish financial objectives, such as full employment.

Second, they use a variety of instruments to control member banks, including capital requirements, reserve requirements (which specify the maximum amount of money banks can lend to clients and the minimum amount of cash they must maintain on hand), and deposit guarantees. They also handle foreign exchange reserves and offer loans and other services to a country’s banks and government.

Lastly, a central bank can also provide emergency credit to failing commercial banks, other organizations, and occasionally even the government. For instance, when a government wants to raise money, the central bank offers a politically appealing substitute for taxation: buying government debt obligations.

For instance, the Federal Reserve

Central banks can take other actions in addition to the ones listed above. The Federal Reserve System, also known as “the Fed,” is the central bank in the United States, for instance. By altering reserve requirements, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), the Fed’s governing body, can have an impact on the amount of money in circulation in the country. Banks can lend more money when requirement minimums decrease, which increases the amount of money in the economy. On the other hand, if reserve requirements are increased, the money supply is reduced. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 founded the Federal Reserve.

Liquidity is also increased when the Fed reduces the discount rate that banks pay on short-term loans. Reduced interest rates expand the money supply, which stimulates the economy. However, the Fed has to exercise caution because falling interest rates can encourage inflation.

Additionally, the federal funds rate may be altered by the Fed through open market operations.
By purchasing government assets from securities dealers and paying them with cash, the Fed expands the amount of money in circulation. To shift money out of the economy and into its coffers, the Fed sells securities.

Brief History Of Central Bank

The Bank of England and the Swedish Riksbank, which were established in the seventeenth century, served as the initial models for contemporary central banks. The first institution to recognize the function of lender of last resort was the Bank of England. Other early central banks were founded to pay for costly government military activities, such as the Bank of France under Napoleon and the Reichsbank in Germany.

Many of the founding fathers of the United States, most vehemently Thomas Jefferson among them, opposed the establishment of such an entity in their new nation primarily because European central banks made it easier for federal governments to expand, wage war, and benefit special interests. Notwithstanding these criticisms, the nascent nation did, for the first few decades of its existence, have both official national banks and a large number of state-chartered banks, until a “free-banking period” was instituted between 1837 and 1863.

With New York serving as the principal reserve city, the National Banking Act of 1863 established a network of national banks and a single American currency. After that, there were many bank panics in the US in 1873, 1884, 1893, and 1907. In response, the United States Congress created the Federal Reserve System and 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks around the nation in 1913 to stabilize the banking industry and financial markets.

System of Federal Reserves. “Federal Reserve Act.”

The new Federal Reserve issued Treasury bonds to aid in the financing of both World Wars I and II.

Because there was a finite supply of gold, it was much easier to maintain price stability during the period between 1870 and 1914, when global currencies were fixed to the gold standard. As a result, inflation was simpler to manage because monetary growth could not result from a political decision to print more money. At the time, the central bank’s major duty was to ensure that gold could always be converted into money by issuing notes that were determined by the amount of gold reserves in each nation.

Central Banks Deflation

Concerns of deflation have increased during the previous 25 years following significant financial crises. Japan has provided a sobering illustration. Deflation solidified after its property and stock bubbles burst in 1989–1990, resulting in the Nikkei index losing thirty percent of its value in less than a year.

After being among the world’s fastest-growing in the 1960s and 1980s, the Japanese economy experienced a sharp slowdown. Japan dubbed the 1990s “the Lost Decade.”

A comparable era of sustained deflation in the United States and abroad was feared during the Great Recession of 2008–2009 due to the catastrophic decline in the prices of a wide variety of assets. The bankruptcy of several significant banks and financial institutions in the US and Europe, most notably Lehman Brothers in September 2008, also caused havoc in the global financial system.

The Method Used by the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy committee, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), responded by using two primary unconventional monetary policy measures in December 2008: (1) forward policy guidance and (2) large-scale asset purchases, also known as quantitative easing (QE).

In the former case, the target federal funds rate was effectively lowered to zero and remained there at least until the middle of 2013.

However, quantitative easing—the other tool—has captured more attention and come to represent the Fed’s easy-money policy. QE entails the central bank printing fresh money and using it to purchase securities from the country’s banks to lower long-term interest rates and inject liquidity into the economy.

In this instance, it made it possible for the Fed to buy riskier assets, such as non-government debt and mortgage-backed securities.

This has an impact on various interest rates throughout the economy, and the general drop in interest rates encourages both consumer and business loan demand. Because they have funds from the central bank in exchange for their securities holdings, banks can meet this increased demand for loans.

Other Deflation-Fighting Measures

The European Central Bank (ECB) launched its version of quantitative easing (QE) in January 2015, promising to purchase bonds valued at least 1.1 trillion euros at a rate of 60 billion euros per month until September 2016.

In an attempt to sustain the shaky European economy and prevent deflation, the ECB initiated its quantitative easing (QE) program six years after the Federal Reserve did. This came after the Federal Reserve’s historic decision to lower the benchmark lending rate below 0% in late 2014 was met with only patchy results.

Although the European Central Bank (ECB) was the first significant central bank to test negative interest rates,

Several European central banks have lowered their benchmark interest rates below the zero bound, including those of Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Outcomes of the Deflation-Fighting Campaign

It’s too early to tell if central banks have won the war against deflation, but their actions appear to be winning. Concurrently, coordinated efforts to prevent deflation worldwide have resulted in some peculiar outcomes:

QE could lead to a covert currency war:

Major currencies have fallen dramatically in value relative to the US dollar as a result of QE programs. Currency depreciation may be the last weapon left to support economic growth, as most countries have nearly exhausted all other choices. This could result in a covert currency war.

European bond yields have turned negative:

Approximately $1.5 trillion, or more than 25%, of the debt issued by European governments presently has negative rates.

Bloomberg. “‘Why Am I Holding This?’ Saying Bye to Europe’s Negative Yields.”

This might be the outcome of the ECB’s bond-buying program, but it might also be a sign of an impending severe economic downturn.

Central bank balance sheets are bloating:

Balance sheets are at all-time highs as a result of massive asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, and European Central Bank. These central banks’ declining balance sheets could have unfavorable effects later on.

The central banks in Europe and Japan bought more than several kinds of non-government debt assets. To support the equity markets, these two banks actively bought corporate stock, making the BoJ the largest equity holder of several businesses, including Kikkoman, 10 the nation’s largest producer of soy sauce, indirectly through sizable holdings in exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Issues with Contemporary Central Banks

The European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, and other major central banks are currently facing pressure to shrink the massive balance sheets they created during their recessionary buying binge.

As a surge of supply is likely to keep demand at bay, unwinding or reducing these massive positions is likely to frighten the market. Furthermore, central banks started to take the lead as the only buyers in some less liquid sectors, like the MBS market. For instance, it is uncertain if there will be enough purchasers in the US at reasonable prices to take these assets off the Fed’s hands now that the Fed is under pressure to sell and is no longer buying.

It is feared that this may lead to a collapse in prices in these markets, which would spread panic even further. The other consequence of mortgage bond depreciation is that the interest rates attached to these assets will increase, pushing up mortgage rates overall and impeding the protracted and sluggish housing recovery.

Instead of selling all of their bonds, central banks could choose to let some mature and abstain from purchasing any new ones. This would help allay anxieties. The market’s resiliency, however, is questionable even with the purchases being phased out because central banks have been such big and steady purchasers for almost ten years.


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