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Modern Money Mechanics

Modern Money Mechanics

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Published by Teleprison.com
Modern Money Mechanics is a booklet produced and distributed free by the Public Information Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Modern Money Mechanics is a booklet produced and distributed free by the Public Information Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

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Published by: Teleprison.com on Oct 28, 2008
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06/03/2014

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ModernMoney
Mechanics
A
Workbook on Bank Reserves and Deposit Expansion
Federal Reserve Bank
of
Chicago
 
Modern Money Mechanics
The purpose of this booklet is to desmmbehe basicprocess of money creation in a ~actionaleserve" bank-ing system. l7ze approach taken illustrates the changesin bank balance sheets that occur when deposits in bankschange as a result of monetary action
by
the FederalReserve System
-
he central bank of the United States.The relationships shown are based on simplil5ringassumptions. For the sake of simplicity, the relationshipsare shown as
if
they were mechanical, but they are not,as is described later in the booklet. Thus, they should notbe intwreted to imply a close and predictable relation-ship between a specific central bank transaction andthe quantity of money.The introductory pages contain a briefgeneraldesm'ption of the characte*ics of money and how the
US.
money system works. me illustrations in the fbl-lowing two sections describe two processes:
fijirst,
how
bank akposits expand or contract in response
to
changesin the amount of reserves supplied
by
the centml bank;and second, how those reserves are afected
by
bothFederal Reserve actions and otherjizctm.
A
final sec-tion deals with some of the elements that modifi, at least
i~
he short Tun, the simple mechanical relationshipbetween bank reserves and deposit money.
Money is such a routine part of everyday living thatits existence and acceptance ordinarily are taken for grant-ed.
A
user may sense that money must come into beingeither automatically as a result of economic activity or asan outgrowth of some government operation. But just
how
this happens all too often remains a mystery.
What
Is
Money?
If
money is viewed simply as a tool used to facilitatetransactions, only those media that are readily accepted inexchange for goods, services, and other assets need to beconsidered. Many
things
-
rom stones to baseball cards-have served this monetary function through the ages.Today, in the United States, money used in transactions ismainly of
three
kinds -currency (paper money and coinsin the pockets and purses of the public); demand deposits(non-interest-bearingchecking accounts in banks); andother checkable deposits, such as negotiable order of
withdrawal
(NOW)
ccounts, at all depository institutions,including commercial and savings banks, savings and loanassociations, and credit unions. Travelers checks
also
areincluded in the definition of transactions money. Since $1in currency and $1 in checkable deposits are freely con-vertible into each other and both
can
be used directly forexpenditures, they are money in equal degree. However,only the cash and balances held by the nonbank public arecounted in the money supply. Deposits of the U.S. Trea-sury, depository institutions, foreign banks and officialinstitutions, as well as vault cash in depository institutionsare excluded.This transactions concept of money is the one desig-nated as M1 in the Federal Reserve's money stock statis-tics. Broader concepts of money
(M2
and
M3)
include M1as well as certain other hancial assets (such as savingsand time deposits at depository institutions and shares inmoney market mutual funds) which are relatively liquidbut believed to represent principally investments to theirholders rather than media of exchange. While funds
can
be shifted fairly easily between transaction balances andthese other liquid assets, the moneycreation process takesplace principally through transaction accounts.
In
theremainder of this booklet, "money" means
MI.
The distribution between the currency and depositcomponents of money depends largely on the preferencesof the public. When a depositor cashes a check or makesa cash
withdrawal
through an automatic teller machine, heor she reduces the amount of deposits and increases theamount of currency held by the public. Conversely, whenpeople have more currency than is needed, some is re-turned to banks in exchange for deposits.While currency is used for a great variety of smalltransactions, most of the dollar amount of money pay-ments in our economy are made by check or by electronic
 
transfer between deposit accounts. Moreover, currencyis a relatively small part of the money stock. About
69
percent, or
$623
biion, of the
$898
biion total moneystock in December
1991,
was in the form of transactiondeposits, of which
$290
billion were demand and
$333
billion were other checkable deposits.
What
Makes Money Valuable?
In
the United States neither paper currency nordeposits have value as commodities. Intrinsically, a dollarbii is just a piece of paper, deposits merely book entries.Coins do have some intrinsic value as metal, but generally
far
less than their face value.What, then, makes these instruments
-
hecks,paper money, and coins
-
cceptable at face value inpayment of
all
debts and for other monetary uses? Mainly,it is the confidence people have that they
will
be
able toexchange such money for other financial assets and forreal goods and services whenever they choose to do
so.
Money, like anything else, derives its value from its
scarcity
in relation to its usefulness. Commodities or ser-vices are more or less valuable because there are more orless of them relative to the amounts people want. Money'susefulness is its unique ability to command other goodsand services and to permit a holder to
be
constantly readyto do
so.
How much money is demanded depends onseveral factors, such as the total volume of transactionsin the economy at any given time, the payments habits ofthe society, the amount of money that individuals andbusinesses want to keep on hand to take
care
of unexpect-ed transactions, and the foregone earnings of holdingtinancial assets in the form of money rather
than
someother asset.Control of the
quantity
of money is essential
if
itsvalue is to be kept stable. Money's real value
can
be mea-sured only in terms of what it
will
buy. Therefore, its valuevaries inversely
with
the general level of prices.
Assuming
a constant
rate
of use,
if
the volume of money grows morerapidly
than
the
rate
at which the output of real goods andservices increases, prices
will
rise. This
will
happen
be
cause there
will
be more money than there
will
be
goodsand servicestospend it on at prevailing prices. But
if,
onthe other hand, growth in the supply of money does notkeep pace with the economy's current production, thenprices
will
fall,the nation's labor force, factories, and otherproduction facilities
will
not be
fully
employed, or both.Just how large the stock of money needs to
be
inorder to handle the transactions of the economy withoutexerting undue iduence on the price level depends onhow intensively money is
beii
sed. Every transactiondeposit balance and every dollar bill is a part of some-body's spendable funds at any given time, ready to moveto other owners
as
ransactions take place. Some holdersspend money quickly after they get it, making these fundsavailable for other uses. Others, however, hold money forlonger periods. Obviously, when some money remainsidle, a larger total is needed to accomplish any givenvolume of transactions.Who
Creates
Money?Changes in the quantity of money may originatewithactions of the Federal Reserve System (the central bank),depository institutions (principally commercial banks), orthe public. The major control, however, rests with thecentral bank.The actual process of money creation takes placeprimarily in banks.' As noted earlier, checkable liabilitiesof banks are money. These liabilities are customers' ac-counts. They increase when customers deposit currencyand checks and when the proceeds of loans made by thebanks
are
credited to borrowers' accounts.In the absence of legal reserve requirements, banks
can
build up deposits by increasing loans and investmentsso long as they keep enough currency on hand to redeemwhatever amounts the holders of deposits want to convertintocurrency. This unique attribute of the banking busi-ness was discovered many centuries ago.It started
with
goldsmiths.
As
early bankers, theyinitially provided safekeeping services,
making
a profit fromvault storage fees for gold and coins deposited with them.People would redeem their "deposit receipts" wheneverthey needed gold or coins to purchase something, andphysically take the gold or coins to the seller who, in
turn,
would deposit them for safekeeping, often
with
the samebanker. Everyone soon found that it was a lot easier simplyto use the deposit receipts directly as a means of payment.These receipts, which became known as notes, were ac-ceptable
as
money since whoever held them could go tothe banker and exchange them for metallic money.Then, bankers discovered that they could make loansmerely by giving their promises to pay, or bank notes,
to
borrowers.
In
this way, banks began to create money.More notes could
be
issued
than
the gold and coin on handbecause only a portion of the notes outstanding would
be
presented for payment at any one time. Enough metallicmoney had to be kept on hand, of course, to redeem what-ever volume of notes was presented for payment.Transaction deposits are the modem counterpart ofbank notes.
It
was
a
small step from printing notes to mak-
ing
book entries crediting deposits of borrowers, which theborrowers in
turn
could "spend" by
writing
checks, thereby"printing" their own money.
In
order to describe the moneycreationprocess as simply as possible, theterm Bank" used in this booklet should be understood to encompass alldepository nstitutions. Since the Depository InstitutionsDeregulation andMonetary Control Act of
1980,
ll depository institutions have been permit-ted to offer interest-bearing transaction accounts to certain customers.Transaction accounts (interest-bearing
as
well as demand deposits onwhich payment of interest is still legally prohibited) at all depositoryinstitutions are subject
to
the reserve requirements set by the FederalReserve. Thus
an
such institutions, not just commercial banks, have thepotential for creating money.

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