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Fed In Action

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  • What is the Fed? The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States and its purpose is to help ensure a stable economy for the nation. Established as a result of the Federal Reserve Act, signed in 1913. Receives no congressionally appropriated funds. Its operations are financed primarily from the interest earned on the U.S. government securities it acquires in the course of its monetary policy actions. Another major source of income is derived from the fees received for certain services provided to depository institutions. After payment of certain expenses, all the net earnings of the Federal Reserve Banks are transferred to the U.S. Treasury. In 2004, for example, the Fed paid approximately $18.1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.
  • The responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System as a whole fall into the following three general areas: Conducting the nation’s monetary policy Supervising and regulating banking institutions Operating a nationwide payment system.
  • The Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. oversees the activities of the twelve independently operated District Reserve Banks across the country. Each of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks is separately incorporated with a Board of Directors. The District Federal Reserve Banks, along with their 25 branches, are located in major cities across the country, giving the System a strong grass-roots foundation. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the chief policymaking body of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Seven members (governors) of the Federal Reserve Board are appointed by the President and subject to approval by the Senate. Structure provides for public accountability in the System, but because these governors serve staggered 14-year terms, the Board is insulated somewhat from short-term political pressure. Not one president can load the Board with candidates who will further a political agenda. The work of the Board includes: coordinating the activities of the regional Reserve Banks, analyzing domestic and international economic issues, exercising broad responsibility in the nation’s payments system, and administering laws regarding consumer credit protection.
  • Seven members (governors) of the Federal Reserve Board are appointed by the President and subject to approval by the Senate. Structure provides for public accountability in the System, but because these governors serve staggered 14-year terms, the Board is insulated somewhat from short-term political pressure. Not one president can load the Board with candidates who will further a political agenda. The work of the Board includes: coordinating the activities of the regional Reserve Banks, analyzing domestic and international economic issues, exercising broad responsibility in the nation’s payments system, and administering laws regarding consumer credit protection.
  • Reserve Banks are the decentralized components that carry out the Fed’s policies and activities at the regional level. Each bank is identified with a corresponding letter and number to identify Districts. There are several Divisions within the Fed that carry out its mandated responsibilities: Supervision & Regulation, Financial Services and Research.
  • The Supervision & Regulation Division exists to promote the safety and soundness of the banking system, foster stability in financial markets, and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. One of four federal regulatory agencies: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) Has oversight of bank holding companies and state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System; examines the health of banks; analyzes proposed mergers and acquisitions of banks; and monitors banks’ management, capital levels, and quality of assets. Plays a major role in international banking activities overseeing U.S. banking organizations that conduct operations abroad; authorizing the establishment of foreign bank branches in the U.S.; establishing supervisory policy and practices regarding foreign lending of member banks. Responsible for implementing consumer protection laws, which cover almost all financial transactions involving consumers, including ATMs, credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and loans.
  • The Supervision & Regulation Division exists to promote the safety and soundness of the banking system, foster stability in financial markets, and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. One of four federal regulatory agencies: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) Has oversight of bank holding companies and state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System; examines the health of banks; analyzes proposed mergers and acquisitions of banks; and monitors banks’ management, capital levels, and quality of assets. Plays a major role in international banking activities overseeing U.S. banking organizations that conduct operations abroad; authorizing the establishment of foreign bank branches in the U.S.; establishing supervisory policy and practices regarding foreign lending of member banks. Responsible for implementing consumer protection laws, which cover almost all financial transactions involving consumers, including ATMs, credit cards, checking and savings accounts, and loans.
  • The Financial Services Division is the operational area of the Bank. Responsible for supplying currency and coin to financial institutions. The Fed orders new currency from the Bureau of Engraving & Printing, and coin from the U.S. Mint, and is responsible for destroying unfit currency. As a provider of check clearing services, the Fed processes about 1/3 of all of the checks written in the U.S. The Automated Clearinghouse (or ACH) is an electronic form of payments processing, which you may be familiar with if you work and get your pay deposited directly into your account. Another example of electronic payments processing is FedWire, which is utilized primarily by financial institutions to transfer very large sums of money electronically. The Fed acts as the fiscal agent (bank) for the United States Treasury.
  • The Research Division is comprised of economists at the Reserve Banks and the Board of Governors. The primary responsibility of the research economists is to prepare the Reserve Bank presidents for his or her participation in FOMC meetings. Members of the research staff gather, analyze and disseminate information about the economy. Focus on every aspect of the economy, from the regional level to the international level, and studies range from analyzing regional banking markets to designing and testing econometric forecasting models to predict the outcome of various economic scenarios. The economists are looking for key pieces of information that will contribute to better monetary policymaking.
  • What is monetary policy? The Fed manages the nation’s money supply to keep inflation low and the economy growing at a sustainable rate. The actions that the Fed takes today influence the economy and the inflation rate for some time to come. Consequently, policymakers must be forward-looking and must take pre-emptive action to head off inflation before it gathers momentum
  • The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the primary group responsible for formulating and implementing monetary policy. Seven Fed governors and the twelve Bank Presidents participate in the economic discussions at each meeting, with the Reserve Bank Presidents bringing to the table regional economic news gleaned from their local boards of directors and staff economists. Every president and each of the governors are given an opportunity to present their opinions. Twelve of the 19 members vote at the meetings—all seven governors and five of the Reserve Bank Presidents, with the president of the New York Fed always a voting member, because Open Market Operations are carried out at the trading desk of the New York Fed. The other four voting positions rotate yearly among the remaining eleven Reserve Bank presidents. Policy changes are decided by consensus and are announced immediately following each meeting.
  • Monetary policy is designed to effectively promote the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and sustainable economic growth. The Fed is consistently striving for a balance between oftentimes conflicting goals of monetary policy For example, if the economy is growing at too rapid a pace, the Fed may dampen that growth by influencing interest rates to rise, which may have the effect of putting some people out of work—a direct challenge to the goal of maximum employment.
  • The tools the Fed utilizes to influence the economy (or affect the amount of funds in the banking system) are: Discount Rate: Rate of interest charged to banks that need to borrow from the Fed to cover temporary deposit drains (short-term “discount window” loans). Reserve Requirements: Portions of deposits that banks must hold in reserve, either in their vaults or on deposit at a Reserve bank. Federal Open Market Operations: The most frequently used and most flexible tool is that of Open Market Operations, which involves the buying and selling of U.S. government securities. This tool is directed by the FOMC and carried out at the domestic trading desk at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  • Discount Rate Applies to loans made directly to commercial banks from the Federal Reserve System Typically set at one percentage point above the Federal Funds Rate – incentive not to borrow from the Lender of Last Resort Federal Funds Rate The lowest of short-term market interest rates which banks charge each other on overnight loans. The Fed achieves this rate through Open Market Operations.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank Boards of Directors have 9 members, and each Branch’s Board consists of 7 members. Directors are chosen because of their contributions as a member of their industry and because they provide a diverse economic and cultural picture of the region. Various sectors of business are represented such as agriculture, commerce, labor, and banking. Directors also make a recommendation on the Discount (the rate that the Fed charges banks that borrow money to cover individual bank reserves). The minutes of the meeting and their votes are sent to the Bank’s president and is combined with key economic information collected by the District economists for the Federal Open Market committee meeting. Directors provide grassroots intelligence for policy decisions made at the national level.
  • Impact of Lowering Rates: The cost of borrowing money goes down. Induced consumer spending increases economic activity. Low interest rates cut the cost of capital for businesses and improve profit margins and encourages expansion.
  • The Fed generally raises rates as an effective way to quell inflation (a sustained rise in the general price level). Inflation means that your money is worth less Impact of Raising Rates: Businesses have difficulty in obtaining loans for expansion; unemployment rises Consumers will pay higher interest rates on credit cards and mortgages, which can cool spending.
  • Answers: Conducting the nation’s monetary policy, Supervising and regulating banking institutions, and operating a nationwide payment system. Results will vary Maximum employment, price stability, sustainable economic growth Lower rates induce economic activity; higher rates calm inflation, slows down spending Inflation is a sustained increase in the general price level; inflation is a concern because it means your money is worth less over time. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Discount Rate – the rate of interest charged to banks who borrow money from the Federal Reserve; Fed Funds Rate – the rate of interest banks charge each other to borrow money.
  • Transcript

    • 1. The Federal Reserve In Action
    • 2. What is the Fed?  Central bank of the United States  Established in 1913  Purpose is to ensure a stable economy for the nation
    • 3. Roles & Responsibilities Conduct the nation’s monetary policy Supervise and regulate banking institutions Operate a nationwide payments system
    • 4. Federal Reserve System Structure Board of Governors 12 Reserve Banks Federal Open Market Committee
    • 5. Board of Governors Seven members  Appointed by the president  Confirmed by the Senate  Serve staggered 14-year terms Work includes:  Analyzing economic developments  Supervising and regulating the operations of Federal Reserve Banks  Exercising responsibility in the nation’s payments system
    • 6. Board of Governors (cont’d) Work includes (cont’d):  Administering consumer credit protection laws  Authorizing changes in banks’ reserve requirements  Supervising Fed member banks and other financial entities  Authorizing changes in the Fed’s discount rate
    • 7. Where is my Fed?
    • 8. Federal Reserve Banks Operate a nationwide payments system Distribute the nation’s currency and coin Supervise and regulate member banks and bank holding companies Serve as banker for the U.S. Treasury Contribute to monetary policymaking through Bank presidents’ participation in the FOMC
    • 9. Supervision & Regulation Promote safety and soundness of banking system along with other regulatory bodies  FDIC, OCC, OTS, state banking regulators Ensure compliance with laws and regulations Oversee international banking interests Administer consumer credit protection laws
    • 10. Financial Services Supply currency and coin to banking institutions Clear more than one-third of nation’s checks Transfer funds electronically (ACH, Fedwire) Serve as bank for the U.S. Treasury
    • 11. Research  Gather, analyze and disseminate economic data  Focus on all aspects of the economy (regional to international levels)  Analyze regional and national markets and economic data  Design and test econometric models used to produce hard data that factor into policymaking decisions
    • 12. Monetary Policy Policy changes affect the nation’s supply of money and credit. Actions have real short- and long-term effects on the economy.
    • 13. Federal Open Market Committee  Sets and directs U.S. monetary policy  Seven governors  Five presidents (New York and four others on a rotating basis)  Nonvoting presidents participate fully  Final interest rate decision is made by the 12-member Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)
    • 14. Goals of Monetary Policy Full Employment Stable Prices Sustainable Economic Growth
    • 15. Key Tools of Monetary Policy Discount Rate  The interest rate charged by the Federal Reserve to banks that borrow on a short-term (usually overnight) basis Reserve Requirements  The amount of money banks must keep on reserve at the Fed Open Market Operations  Buying and selling Treasury securities between the Fed and selected financial institutions in the open market  Most important tool; directed by the FOMC
    • 16. Key Federal Reserve Interest Rates Federal Funds Rate  The market-based interest rate which banks charge each other on overnight loans of their reserve balances held at the Fed. The Fed achieves this rate through Open Market Operations.  A target rate Discount Rate  Applies to short-term loans made directly to commercial banks from the Federal Reserve System.  Typically set at 1 percentage point above the Federal Funds Rate.
    • 17. Monetary Policy at the Grassroots Each head office and branch of the Federal Reserve System has a local Board of Directors.  7–9 individuals Board members provide various perspectives and economic data from different regions and industries. Boards of directors vote on the discount rate. Boards of directors influence policymaking at the national level through “real-world” input.
    • 18. Effects of Low Interest Rates  Generally, low interest rates stimulate the economy because there is more money available to lend.  Consumers buy cars and houses.  Businesses expand, buy equipment, etc.  Why does the Fed lower interest rates?  If inflation is in check, lower rates stimulate economic activity, thus boosting economic growth.
    • 19. Effects of High Interest Rates The Fed raises interest rates as an effective way to fight inflation.  Inflation—a sustained rise in the general price level; that is, all prices are rising together. Consumers pay more to borrow money, dampening spending. Businesses have difficulty borrowing; unemployment rises.
    • 20. Review What are the three main roles of the Federal Reserve System? Where is your Fed? What are the goals of monetary policy? What happens when the Fed lowers interest rates? Raises interest rates? What is inflation? Why should it concern you? What is the name of the Fed’s monetary policymaking body? What is the discount rate? Federal funds rate?

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