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Changing the discount rate

The Federal Reserve was founded in the aftermath of the Financial Panic of 1907 when many banks failed as a result of bank runs. As mentioned earlier, since banks make profits by lending out their deposits, no bank, even those that are not bankrupt, can withstand a bank run. As a result of the Panic, the Federal Reserve was founded to be the “lender of last resort.” In the event of a bank run, sound banks, (banks that were not bankrupt) could borrow as much cash as they needed from the Fed’s discount “window” to quell the bank run. The interest rate banks pay for such loans is called the discount rate    . (They are so named because loans are made against the bank’s outstanding loans “at a discount” of their face value.) Once depositors became convinced that the bank would be able to honor their withdrawals, they no longer had a reason to make a run on the bank. In short, the Federal Reserve was originally intended to provide credit passively, but in the years since its founding, the Fed has taken on a more active role with monetary policy.

So, the third traditional method for conducting monetary policy is to raise or lower the discount rate. If the central bank raises the discount rate, then commercial banks will reduce their borrowing of reserves from the Fed, and instead call in loans to replace those reserves. Since fewer loans are available, the money supply falls and market interest rates rise. If the central bank lowers the discount rate it charges to banks, the process works in reverse.

In recent decades, the Federal Reserve has made relatively few discount loans. Before a bank borrows from the Federal Reserve to fill out its required reserves, the bank is expected to first borrow from other available sources, like other banks. This is encouraged by Fed’s charging a higher discount rate, than the federal funds rate. Given that most banks borrow little at the discount rate, changing the discount rate up or down has little impact on their behavior. More importantly, the Fed has found from experience that open market operations are a more precise and powerful means of executing any desired monetary policy.

In the Federal Reserve Act, the phrase “...to afford means of rediscounting commercial paper” is contained in its long title. This tool was seen as the main tool for monetary policy when the Fed was initially created. This illustrates how monetary policy has evolved and how it continues to do so.

Key concepts and summary

A central bank has three traditional tools to conduct monetary policy: open market operations, which involves buying and selling government bonds with banks; reserve requirements, which determine what level of reserves a bank is legally required to hold; and discount rates, which is the interest rate charged by the central bank on the loans that it gives to other commercial banks. The most commonly used tool is open market operations.


Suppose the Fed conducts an open market purchase by buying $10 million in Treasury bonds from Acme Bank. Sketch out the balance sheet changes that will occur as Acme converts the bond sale proceeds to new loans. The initial Acme bank balance sheet contains the following information: Assets – reserves 30, bonds 50, and loans 50; Liabilities – deposits 300 and equity 30.

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Suppose the Fed conducts an open market sale by selling $10 million in Treasury bonds to Acme Bank. Sketch out the balance sheet changes that will occur as Acme restores its required reserves (10% of deposits) by reducing its loans. The initial balance sheet for Acme Bank contains the following information: Assets – reserves 30, bonds 50, and loans 250; Liabilities – deposits 300 and equity 30.

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Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “Federal Open Market Committee.” Accessed September 3, 2013. http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomc.htm.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “Reserve Requirements.” Accessed November 5, 2013. http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/reservereq.htm.

Cox, Jeff. 2014. "Fed Completes the Taper." Accessed March 31, 2015. http://www.cnbc.com/id/102132961.

Jahan, Sarwat. n.d. "Inflation Targeting: Holding the Line." International Monetary Fund. Accessed March 31, 2015. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/basics/target.htm.

Questions & Answers

Which of the following are assets of the Federal Reserve? a. Treasury bills held by the Federal Reserve b. cash in circulation c. Loans made by commercial banks d. the reserves of commercial banks at the Federal Reserve
Julya Reply
what are the four functions served by money
Michele Reply
It serves as a medium of exchange
It serves as a store of value
It serves as a unit of account
It also serves as a standard for Differed Payment.
Acts as a measure of value.
Hey, I am a new member.
can anyone tell me that why in the income and consumption curve the income is on x axis?
bechar Reply
why inflation in double digit is not good for economy
Obaid Reply
what is mean by zero inflation
some time it is good but some time it is not...
the condition of that economy tell you. is it good are bad?
the definition of the law of demand
Aley Reply
law of damand states all else remains constant or what we can say is ceteris peribus,quantity demanded for a commodity extends with fall in price and vice versa. law of demand explains inverse relationship between price and qua ntity demanded
What is demand and supply
Antwi Reply
what is gdp per capital and why it is used for?
Era Reply
gross domestic product
gdp per capita is the gross domestic product per person (GDP/population) and is a better indicator of economic health and living standards than GDP alone.
thank you so much 😘
please explain shift in production possibility curve
advances in technology can cause a shift in the ppf because output can increase with use of the same amount of resources (laborers can produce more efficiently, and suppliers are willing to sell more)
but equally natural shocks ie earthquakes or war can move the ppf inward so reducing production capicity
what is crowding out effect?
Sera Reply
What to read the introduction
prince Reply
Keynesian theory of employment
sainlangki Reply
it's about use of Fiscal policy.
yar what actually means of APc. averge means?. can someone give a best example plz
Asrar Reply
APC is average propensity to consume n this refers to ratio of consumption expenditure to corresponding level of income
then it means both MPC and ApC are same ?
No..... APC is average propensity to consume whereas MPC is marginal propensity to consume
which model predicted a global collapse in the world's social and economic system before the year 2010
Francis Reply
trade deficit
is trade deficit the correct answer?
what is the formula of mixed income ?
Sanjum Reply
labor force in.Nigeria is seen as .......?
Aisha Reply
Is demand the same as being in need of a product?
Aphiwe Reply
Demand is defer from only need of products
need is the primary and main root of demand. but demand is the result of combination of need; income capacity and desire to expend of money for that product.
products or services

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