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The Fed can use three tools to achieve its monetary policy goals: the discount rate, reserve requirements, and open market operations. All three affect the amount of funds in the banking system.
• The discount rate is the interest rate Reserve Banks charge commercial banks for short-term loans. Federal Reserve lending at the discount rate complements open market operations in achieving the target federal funds rate and serves as a backup source of liquidity for commercial banks. Lowering the discount rate is expansionary because the discount rate influences other interest rates. Lower rates encourage lending and spending by consumers and businesses. Likewise, raising the discount rate is contractionary because the discount rate influences other interest rates. Higher rates discourage lending and spending by consumers and businesses. Discount rate changes are made by Reserve Banks and the Board of Governors.
• Reserve requirements are the portions of deposits that banks must hold in cash, either in their vaults or on deposit at a Reserve Bank. A decrease in reserve requirements is expansionary because it increases the funds available in the banking system to lend to consumers and businesses. An increase in reserve requirements is contractionary because it reduces the funds available in the banking system to lend to consumers and businesses. The Board of Governors has sole authority over changes to reserve requirements. The Fed rarely changes reserve requirements.
• By far, the most frequently used tool is open market operations, the buying and selling of U.S. government securities. As we learned earlier, this tool is directed by the FOMC and carried out by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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