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Central banks

A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is a public institution that usually issues the currency, regulates the money supply, and controls the interest rates in a country. Central banks often also oversee the commercial banking system within its country’s borders. A central bank is distinguished from a normal commercial bank because it has a monopoly on creating the currency of that nation, which is usually that nation’s legal tender.

The primary function of a central bank is to provide the nation’s money supply, but more active duties include controlling interest rates, and acting as a lender of last resort to the banking sector during times of financial crisis. It may also have supervisory powers, to ensure that banks and other financial institutions do not behave recklessly or fraudulently.

Most developed nations today have an "independent" central bank, that is one which operates under rules designed to prevent political interference. Examples include the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Federal Reserve System in the United States

In Europe prior to the 17th century most money was commodity money, typically gold or silver. However, promises to pay were widely circulated and accepted as value at least five hundred years earlier in both Europe and Asia. The Song Dynasty was the first to issue generally circulating paper currency, while the Yuan Dynasty was the first to use notes as the predominant circulating medium. In 1455, in an effort to control inflation, the succeeding Ming Dynasty ended the use of paper money and closed much of Chinese trade. The medieval European Knights Templar ran an early prototype of a central banking system, as their promises to pay were widely respected, and many regard their activities as having laid the basis for the modern banking system.

As the first public bank to "offer accounts not directly convertible to coin", the Bank of Amsterdam established in 1609 is considered to be a precursor to a central bank. In 1664, the central bank of Sweden—"Sveriges Riksbank" or simply "Riksbanken"—was founded in Stockholm and is by that the world’s oldest central bank (still operating today). This was followed in 1694 by the Bank of England, created by Scottish businessman William Paterson in the City of London at the request of the English government to help pay for a war.

Although central banks today are generally associated with fiat money, the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries central banks in most of Europe and Japan developed under the international gold standard, elsewhere free banking or currency boards were more usual at this time. Problems with collapses of banks during downturns, however, was leading to wider support for central banks in those nations which did not as yet possess them, most notably in Australia.

With the collapse of the gold standard after World War I, central banks became much more widespread. The US Federal Reserve was created by the U.S. Congress through the passing of the Glass-Owen Bill, signed by President Woodrow Wilson on December 23, 1913, whilst Australia established its first central bank in 1920, Colombia in 1923, Mexico and Chile in 1925 and Canada and New Zealand in the aftermath of the Great Depression in 1934. By 1935, the only significant independent nation that did not possess a central bank was Brazil, which developed a precursor thereto in 1945 and created its present central bank twenty years later. When African and Asian countries gained independence, all of them rapidly established central banks or monetary unions.

The People’s Bank of China evolved its role as a central bank starting in about 1979 with the introduction of market reforms in that country, and this accelerated in 1989 when the country took a generally capitalist approach to developing at least its export economy. By 2000 the People’s Bank of China was in all senses a modern central bank, and emerged as such partly in response to the European Central Bank. This is the most modern bank model and was introduced with the euro to coordinate the European national banks, which continue to separately manage their respective economies other than currency exchange and base interest rates

Central banks implement a country’s chosen monetary policy. At the most basic level, this involves establishing what form of currency the country may have, whether a fiat currency, gold-backed currency (disallowed for countries with membership of the IMF), currency board or a currency union. When a country has its own national currency, this involves the issue of some form of standardized currency, which is essentially a form of promissory note: a promise to exchange the note for "money" under certain circumstances. Historically, this was often a promise to exchange the money for precious metals in some fixed amount. Now, when many currencies are fiat money, the "promise to pay" consists of nothing more than a promise to pay the same sum in the same currency.

In many countries, the central bank may use another country’s currency either directly (in a currency union), or indirectly, by using a currency board. In the latter case, local currency is directly backed by the central bank’s holdings of a foreign currency in a fixed-ratio; this mechanism is used, notably, in Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Estonia.

In countries with fiat money, monetary policy may be used as a shorthand form for the interest rate targets and other active measures undertaken by the monetary authority

The Bank of England, central bank of the United Kingdom

Goals of monetary policy

Price Stability
Unanticipated inflation leads to lender losses. Nominal contracts attempt to account for inflation. Effort successful if monetary policy able to maintain steady rate of inflation.
High Employment
The movement of workers between jobs is referred to as frictional unemployment. All unemployment beyond frictional unemployment is classified as unintended unemployment. Reduction in this area is the target of macroeconomic policy.
Economic Growth
Economic growth is enhanced by investment in technological advances in production. Encouragement of savings supplies funds that can be drawn upon for investment.
Interest Rate Stability
Volatile interest and exchange rates generate costs to lenders and borrowers. Unexpected changes that cause damage, making policy formulation difficult.
Financial Market Stability
Foreign Exchange Market Stability
Conflicts Among Goals
Goals frequently cannot be separated from each other and often conflict. Costs must therefore be carefully weighed before policy implementation.

Naming of central banks

There is no standard terminology for the name of a central bank, but many countries use the "Bank of Country" form (e.g., Bank of England, Bank of Canada, Bank of Russia). Some are styled "national" banks, such as the National Bank of Ukraine; but the term "national bank" is more often used by privately-owned commercial banks, especially in the United States. In other cases, central banks may incorporate the word "Central" (e.g. European Central Bank, Central Bank of Ireland). The word "Reserve" is also often included, such as the Reserve Bank of India, Reserve Bank of Australia, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the South African Reserve Bank, and U.S. Federal Reserve System. Many countries have state-owned banks or other quasi-government entities that have entirely separate functions, such as financing imports and exports.

In some countries, particularly in some Communist countries, the term national bank may be used to indicate both the monetary authority and the leading banking entity, such as the USSR’s Gosbank (state bank). In other countries, the term national bank may be used to indicate that the central bank’s goals are broader than monetary stability, such as full employment, industrial development, or other goals.

rate interventions

Typically a central bank controls certain types of short-term interest rates. These influence the stock- and bond markets as well as mortgage and other interest rates. The European Central Bank for example announces its interest rate at the meeting of its Governing Council; in the case of the Federal Reserve, the Board of Governors.

Both the Federal Reserve and the ECB are composed of one or more central bodies that are responsible for the main decisions about interest rates and the size and type of open market operations, and several branches to execute its policies. In the case of the Fed, they are the local Federal Reserve Banks; for the ECB they are the national central banks.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : Central banks
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