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What is The Federal Reserve? How the Fed Controls USD Value

The Federal Reserve

In a world where economies ebb and flow like tides, a powerful institution holds the keys to the kingdom of money. Nestled in the heart of the United States, the Federal Reserve looms as a force to be reckoned with, shaping the very fabric of the global financial landscape. But what exactly is the Federal Reserve, and how does it exert its influence over the value of the almighty U.S. dollar and the broader global economy? Let’s explore it in great depth!

What is the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve, Fed, is the central bank of the United States. The Fed reinforces the stability of the financial system, sets monetary policy and supervises banks nationwide. Other responsibilities include stabilizing financial markets, regulating the banking system and conducting financial services to the government. The Federal reserve system shapes the financial system by influencing all financial aspects of the economy. 

The Federal Reserve works on promoting the health of the U.S. economy and the stability of the U.S. financial system. The central bank is a privileged authority to issue currency, function as the bank of the government, manage exchange reserves, regulate the credit system, oversee commercial banks and act as a lender of last resort. The Fed is considered to be the most influential and powerful financial institution worldwide. 

Who owns the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve is an entity that is neither owned by any individual nor under the control of the executive or legislative branches of the government. It is a quasi-governmental organization. 

The ownership of the Federal Reserve lies with the U.S. government and the member banks of the Federal Reserve System. However, the ownership of Federal Reserve stock differs significantly from owning stock in a private company. The Federal Reserve Banks do not operate for profit, and the ownership of a specific amount of stock is a requirement for membership in the System according to the law.

The Federal Reserve System consists of three primary components:

  1. The Board of Governors is located in Washington, D.C.
  2. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)
  3. The 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks

The Board of Governors serves as the policymaking body for the Federal Reserve System. The FOMC is responsible for establishing monetary policy. The 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks offer banking services to member banks and the general public.


The Federal Reserve System Explained 

The Federal Reserve System was established in 1913 after financial panics, like the one in 1907, highlighted the need for centralized monetary control to prevent crises. Over time, events like the Great Depression and the Great Recession expanded the Fed’s roles and responsibilities.

Initially, congress designed the Fed as an establishment of Federal Reserve banks and effective supervision of the banking system in the United States. Over the years, the Fed’s authority expanded to supervise and control all financial aspects. At present, the Fed conducts monetary policy to maintain price stability and maximum employment using monetary tools. In addition to supervising the banking system.

What does Federal Reserve do?

The primary responsibility of the Federal Reserve is to oversee and evaluate potential risks within the financial system, while actively participating both domestically and internationally to foster a robust economic environment that benefits American households, communities, and businesses.

The Fed is a complex institution with a wide range of responsibilities. Its mission is to promote the stability of the US financial system and to foster economic growth.

Interest Rate and Policy Mandates 

The central bank adopts an expansionary policy that includes lowering interest rates to make borrowing cheaper. This allows individuals and businesses to borrow and spend more. That usually happens in times of a slowing economy. With higher demand, employment increases, unemployment falls and prices rise. That’s when the policy shifts to a contractionary phase by raising interest rates. 

Rising interest rates are commonly known as hitting the brakes of the economy. It helps slow down the economy and keeps it from overheating. Higher rates make borrowing and spending cost more, so businesses and consumers borrow less and slow down the economy. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fed lowered interest rates twice to its current near zero levels to ease the impact on employment and the economy. 

What is the Federal Funds Rate?

The federal funds rate is the interest rate at which banks lend reserve balances to other banks overnight without collateral. The rate is set by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) eight times a year and is usually expressed as a range. The target federal funds rate is the rate established by the FOMC to implement U.S. monetary policies. The rate is achieved through open market operations at the Domestic Trading Desk of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, primarily involving domestic securities. Changes in the federal funds rate directly affect other rates and are referred to as “the Fed lowered rates today.”


The Structure of the Federal Reserve System 

There are three main entities that form the Federal Reserve System: The Board of Governors, the Federal Reserve Banks, and the Federal Open Market Committee. All Entities work together to promote the health of the economy and the stability of the financial system.

Source: Federal Reserve

Under the Federal Reserve System, the United States is divided geographically into twelve districts based on economic considerations. Each district operates independently but all falls under the supervision of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. 

Who is in charge of the Federal Reserve?

Jerome H. Powell currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He assumed this position on February 5, 2018, commencing a four-year term. On May 23, 2022, Powell was sworn in for a second term, which will conclude on May 15, 2026. In his capacity as Chair, Powell acts as the principal executive officer of the Federal Reserve System’s Board of Governors and leads its meetings. Also, the Chair provides semiannual reports to Congress on the Federal Reserve’s activities and monetary policy.


The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)

The FOMC is the body of the Federal Reserve System that sets national monetary policy by directing open market operations (OMOs). The FOMC committee consists of twelve voting members. The committee decides the appropriate stance of monetary policy to achieve policy mandates of price stability and maximum employment. The FOMC committee moves the federal funds rate to achieve the policy mandates. The committee typically meets eight times each year, and at other times as needed.

2023 FOMC Meeting Calendar 

January 31-February 1
March 21-22
May 2-3
June 13-14
July 25-26
September 19-20
October 31-November 1
December 12-13
The FOMC’s meeting schedule is subject to change if necessary and is not set in stone. Prior notice of the meeting dates and times is given through the Federal Reserve’s website.

Following each FOMC meeting, the Committee issues a statement summarizing the outcomes of the meeting. This statement typically encompasses the Committee’s evaluation of the economy and its monetary policy plans. Additionally, the Committee discloses a set of economic projections that offer insights into its anticipations for the future.

The FOMC’s meetings hold significant importance as they greatly influence the U.S. economy. Investors and economists pay close attention to the Committee’s decisions and statements, as they provide indications about the future path of monetary policy.


How does the Federal Reserve affect the U.S. Dollar?

The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, uses various tools to influence the value of the U.S. dollar.

These tools include:

  1. Open market operations: The Fed can buy or sell U.S. Treasury securities, injecting or removing money from the economy, which affects the dollar’s strength.
  2. The discount rate: This is the interest rate charged by the Fed to banks for borrowing money. Raising the rate makes borrowing more expensive, strengthening the dollar, while lowering it makes borrowing cheaper, weakening the dollar.
  3. Reserve requirements: The Fed can set the amount of money banks must hold in reserve. Raising requirements limits lending capacity, strengthening the dollar, while lowering requirements increases lending capacity, weakening the dollar.

The Fed’s decisions regarding these tools significantly impact the U.S. dollar’s value. For instance, raising interest rates makes the dollar more attractive to investors, strengthening it, while lowering interest rates makes the dollar less attractive, weakening it.


How does the Federal Reserve impact the global economy?

The Federal Reserve has a significant impact on the global economy, as its decisions can influence financial conditions, economic activity, and inflation in the US economy, which in turn can affect other countries. Here are some ways in which the Federal Reserve impacts the global economy:

  1. Interest rates: Fed decisions impact borrowing costs, affecting businesses and consumers globally. Raising rates increases borrowing expenses, slowing economic growth, while lowering rates reduces costs, boosting growth.
  2. Money supply: Fed decisions impact the economy by increasing or decreasing money availability. Expanding the money supply boosts spending by businesses and consumers, stimulating growth. Contracting the money supply restricts spending, slowing growth.
  3. Exchange rates: Fed decisions on rates and money supply influence exchange rates. Raising rates attracts investors, appreciating the U.S. dollar. Lowering rates makes the dollar less attractive, depreciating its value. Exchange rate fluctuations affect global trade costs.
  4. Stock markets: Fed decisions on rates and money supply impact stock markets globally. Raising rates prompts sell-offs due to concerns about higher rates impacting corporate profits. Lowering rates fuels optimism, leading to stock market rallies.
  5. Commodity prices: Fed decisions on rates and money supply affect commodity prices. Raising rates can cause a decline in commodity prices as higher rates dampen demand. Lowering rates can increase commodity prices as optimism about demand grows.

Overall, the Federal Reserve’s decisions have far-reaching implications for the global economy, and its policies are closely watched by investors, policymakers, and economists around the world.


Federal Reserve vs U.S. Treasury: What’s the Difference?

The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury are two separate entities with different roles in the U.S. economy.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between the two entities:

Federal ReserveU.S. Treasury
Central bank
Cabinet-level department of the U.S. government
Responsible for setting monetary policyResponsible for collecting taxes, managing the federal budget, and issuing U.S. debt
Regulates banks and other financial institutionsDoes not regulate banks or other financial institutions
The two entities work together to ensure that the U.S. economy is stable and growing.

How to Trade Fed’s Decisions?

The Fed is known for being data dependent. It means that the policy path is adjustable based on economic activity, achieving policy mandates and financial conditions. Short-term forecasts tend to be more valuable for investors, as longer-term views are more vulnerable to change. 

Changes in interest rates directly impact the US Dollar Index. Typically, intending to hike interest rates or maintain neutral levels is good for the currency. In contrast to when the central bank intends to cut interest rates or maintain high levels. Investors are attracted to higher yields. When the interest rate rises, foreign investors tend to switch from their local currency investments to USD denominated investments which supports the value of the US dollar. 

Monetary policy decisions not only affect the economy but the financial markets as well. The policies of the Fed also influence monetary policies for many other countries. 

The Fed is an independent institution with broad authority over monetary and financial conditions. Its independence is critical and ensures setting the proper policies and decisions to achieve long-term economic goals, depending solely on economic situation and indicators. 

Can you forecast the Fed’s decisions?

Yes, the Fed keeps highly transparent communication with the publisher regarding its policy path. The dot plot is one of the most influential communication tools used by the FOMC. Know more about how to interpret the dot plot and forecast changes in interest rates. 


Trade Fed Decisions

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