Federal Reserve System

Federal Reserve System
• Americans long resisted a central bank
Fear of centralized power
Distrust of moneyed interests
• First U.S. experiments with a central bank
• terminated in 1811 and in 1836
• Without lender of last resort …
Nationwide bank panics on a regular basis
 Panic of 1907 … JP Morgan to the rescue?
 a central bank needed
• Federal Reserve Act of 1913
Elaborate system of checks and balances
District banks: Quasi-public institutions owned by private
member commercial banks in the district
Goals of Central Banks
•Price stability
•High employment
•Steady growth
•Financial market stability
•Stable interest rates
•Stable exchange rate
} dual mandate of Fed
Price stability has long-run
precedence, consistent with
high employment
Time – Inconsistency Problem: temptation to go beyond stated target
•Hype the economy/lose credibility
•Worker and firm altered expectations and responses undo policy intent
“Rules not discretion”
Taylor Rule: Violate it at your risk!
But… Governor Mishkin’s pragmatism
Bagehot’s rule: Lend and lend freely
Keynes: In the long-run we’re all dead
An Example
The Functions of a Modern Central Bank
The Government's Bank:
– Manages government transactions.
– Controls availability of money and credit.
The Banker’s Bank:
Lender of last resort in crises
Operates clearing system for
Oversees financial intermediaries
- ensure their soundness.
- ensure public confidence
Functions of Federal Reserve District Banks
• Clear checks
• Issue new currency/withdraw damaged currency
• Make discount loans to banks in district
• Evaluate mergers/expansions of bank activities
• Liaison between business community and the Fed
• Examine bank holding companies and state-chartered member
• Collect data on local business conditions
• Research Money, Banking and the Financial System
FRBNY’s special roles
• Bond and currency open market operations
• Supervise bank holding companies in NY district
• Member of Bank for International Settlements
Board of Governors
• Seven members headquartered in D.C.
• Appointed by president/confirmed by Senate
14-year non-renewable term
Chairman serves 4-year renewable term
Chairman speaks for Fed/“Runs the Show”
• Set reserve requirements
• Control the discount rate
• Direct open market operations
• Approve bank mergers
• Regulate bank holding companies/foreign banks in
the US
Federal Open Market Committee(FOMC)
• Meets eight times a year … more often if needed
Reports on domestic and currency open market operations
“Green book” forecast
“Blue book” forecasts … responses to alternative policies
• 12 Voting members: 7 Fed Governors; president of
FRBNY; and presidents of 4 other district banks in
• BoG Chairman chairs FOMC
• End of meeting announcements:
Directive to the trading desk at FRBNY
Balance of risks statement
…small events at times have large consequences. A
liquidity crisis in a fractional reserve banking system is
precisely the kind of event that can trigger – and often has
triggered – a chain reaction. And economic collapse often
has the character of a cumulative process. Let it go
beyond a certain point, and it will tend for a time to gain
strength from its own development as its effects spread
and return to intensify the process of collapse. Because no
great strength would be required to hold back the rock
that starts a landslide, it does not follow that the landslide
will not be of major proportions.
Friedman and Schwartz
A Monetary History of the United States
How Independent is the Fed?
• Instrument independent
• Goal independent … undemocratic?
Political pressure would impart inflationary bias to monetary policy
Political business cycle?
Could facilitate Treasury financing of large budget deficits—
• Independent revenue
• Structured by Congress/accountable to Congress
• Presidential influence
Influence on Congress
Appoints members
Appoints chairman
European Central Bank
• Patterned after the Federal Reserve
• Central banks from each country play similar role
as Fed district banks
Monetary operations are not centralized
ECB does not supervise and regulate financial
More independent than Fed
• Maastricht Treaty would have to be revised to
change ECB charge
But less goal independent than Fed
Price Stability Rules