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Banking 13: Open market operations

Tools of the Central Bank to increase the money supply. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user caleborp
    Instead of buying treasuries from people or countries around the world, why would the government just give the hundred dollars it printed directly to the bank? What is the differeance between doing that and buying treasury?
    (27 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user wcontrata
      This is from incomplete knowledge, so take it with several grains of salt.

      While the reserve bank could increase the money supply by just giving money to the banks, it would be grossly unfair. Bank owner Bob get's $100, and non-owner Alice just gets a chance to borrow $100. On the other hand, when the reserve bank buys something (a T-Bill) from Sal, but he doesn't get $100 for nothing. That is more fair. Furthermore, buying the T-Bill tends to increase the price of T-Bills, which means that the interest rate goes down. Reserve goals are often stated in terms of interest rates, but this is beyond my understanding today.
      (33 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user wcontrata
    Why does the reserve bank buy treasuries, as opposed to other assets? They can achieve their goal of increasing the money supply by buying anything.
    (11 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Iyam Nowon
      They in fact have bought different asset classes besides treasuries since the financial crisis. The fed purchased 1.2+ Trillion dollars of mortgage backed securities for 100 cents on the dollar. They also purchased the assets of AIG. When the fed purchases Treasuries to finance the U.S. governments debt, the interest the Treasury must pay to the Fed comes back to the Treasury less the expenses of the fed. With MBS the interest paid to the FED could be profit returned to the Treasury or if there are a bunch of defaults, the losses get passed to the Treasury, and the outstanding debt, and ultimately to us.
      (11 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user pkauber
    When the Fed seeks to increase the money supply by having Treasury print money, say $100, the amount is entered on the Assets side of the Fed's balance sheet. The corresponding Liability, according to the video, is Notes Outstanding (in the same amount, $100). To whom are these notes payable? To whom is the Fed in debt?
    (14 votes)
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    • mr pants teal style avatar for user Martin Christensen
      They are not payble to anybody. It's more a formal thing than anything else. However, if the FED starts buying back it's notes (as to lower the money supply and increase the interest rate) then they would cancel the notes out standing that they had printed earlier and so to speak delete the money.
      (2 votes)
  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user sam.cates
    I'm confused about where the treasuries come from in the first place. Sal said that in order to grow the money supply, the Fed will buy treasuries from random people. But didn't those random people have to buy the treasuries from the Fed in the first place? When the Fed first sold those treasuries, the money supply had to shrink. So, the Fed is limited by how much it can grow the money supply based on how much it has shrunk it in the past because there are only so many treasuries it can buy.
    (7 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Parthasarathi Chalawagali
    I wonder what happens if the market is not willing to sell the treasury securities when FED is looking to buy. And vice versa.
    (3 votes)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user csquires1
    When the Fed purchases treasuries to expand the money supply, are they just filling sell orders that were not being filled beforehand? Or, is it a forced buyback system, where owners of Tbills awake to find cash in their brokerage account where before, they had tbills? It has to be one or the other, right?
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Herman Yu
      In free markets, no one is forced to buy or sell anything. What the feds do is tell a bunch of banks "We want to buy some treasuries". So the banks call up all their clients trying to persuade them to sell their treasuries. If they clients are getting a good enough price, they'll sell it for money. The banks who persuade the most people get a commission, so they have an incentive to do as the feds says.
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user mrsupamoto
    Around sal says he has $100 to deposit in a commercial bank, which then expands the money supply through fractional reserve lending.........I am confused by Sal or an individual having the "$100" to deposit to a commercial bank??? i would have thought that if the government created the bond which the reserve bank then bought....the government would be the one with the $100 to deposit (not sal or any individual???
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Clif Brown
      Think of it as exchanging easy to use dollars for something harder to use (Treasury bills and bonds). By trading one for the other, the Federal Reserve can change the amount of easy to use dollars available to everyone.

      Specifically - only the Fed Reserve can expand or contract the money (dollar) supply. All other banks only work within that money supply. Remember that dollars can only be issued by the U.S. Treasury through the Federal Reserve and it does this by buying U.S. debt (in the form of Treasury bills and bonds) with dollars.

      U.S. Treasury bills and bonds are IOU's from the government just like dollars are, but they are NOT "legal tender" which can be used for ordinary everyday transactions like buying groceries or paying a bill. The money supply (M1) is what is available in dollars to be used by everyone.

      The Federal Reserve changes the money (dollars) supply by EXCHANGING dollars for Treasury bills or bonds. If the Fed BUYS bills or bonds it is passing out dollars to buy them - that means more dollars out in the world for everyone to use. If the Fed SELLS bills or bonds it is TAKING IN dollars for them and removing those dollars from circulation.
      (4 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Nikki
    Q#3 What about the interest on securities. If central bank pump 100$ into economy by buying securities it necessarily means that after maturity of that bond 100$ plus interest (let’s assume 5%) leave the economy. So central bank will have to actually buy now bond for 105$ in order to just maintain current level of money supply. And after maturity it gets even more one interest...an again, an again. It seems to me that this is not stable situation.Am I missing another way how get this money from interest back to economy permanently or at least without another interest?
    Thank you for reading. It was longer than I expected :) Also sorry for any mistakes. I’m not a native speaker.
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user mrsupamoto
      i am not exactly sure how it works, but yes. when money is created it does have debt attatched and in order to pay that debt more money must be created with more debt attatched........it is a never ending cycle. i am not sure if it sustainable or not though.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user yelve.yakut
    At : Why would the government buy treasuries with its printed money bills instead of buying something useful for it. I think the government should build a school with the printed money instead.
    (1 vote)
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    • mr pants teal style avatar for user gkniffen
      The Treasury "prints" the money, then the freshly printed money is credited to the Government's account at the Federal Reserve (increasing M0, the base money supply). The Fed then goes out and purchases the Treasury Bonds (i.e. Government debt) from individuals on the secondary market. Those individuals give their T-Bonds to the Fed and the Fed gives those individuals cash money. When those individuals deposit that money into their neighborhood bank account, it increases that bank's reserve amount and by extension the amount of leverage the bank can loan out against their reserves (M1, or "bank money"). It's a little messy, but this is how the money supply is expanded.

      Now the local bank can loan out more money to fund new projects...hopefully useful projects! Basically, the government purchases Treasuries with the printed money as an indirect way to fund "useful" projects.
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user akl
    At about why is there a "N.O" liability in the central bank after it prints 100 dollars? Who is the bank liable to give the money to?
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

In the last video, I hinted that this was leading to a discussion of an elastic money supply-- or a supply of money that can change depending on the needs for the money. So before we go there-- and I took a little hiatus and told you a little bit about treasuries because that's a critical component-- let's review what the money supply even is. So there were two definitions. When we had originally talked about kind of an M0, I talked about just the gold reserves, but now we're going to expand that definition a little bit and I think you can tell-- I've got a lot of questions about this-- eventually getting off the gold reserve system and we will get there and we're kind of already there, but now I'll consider the base money supply as Federal Reserve deposits and notes. So in this reality that I just created, all of the Federal Reserve deposits have essentially been turned into notes, but if this bank didn't want all cash, it could have had some of this as just a checking account with the Federal Reserve bank. So a Federal Reserve note and a Federal Reserve deposit account is essentially the same thing. A note is just a little bit more fungible. You can hand it to someone and then they can hand it to someone else, while a checking account or demand account with the Federal Reserve bank, you have to kind of do a wire transfer or write a check, et cetera, but that is the base money supply. You could call that base money. And that's essentially the size of the liabilities of the Federal Reserve, in very broad terms. We'll go into detail on the actual Federal Reserve's balance sheet in the near future. So in this example right now, our base money supply is 200-- let's call it dollars now. Let's move away from gold pieces. Let's just say a dollar equals a gold piece for the sake of our instruction right now. So our base money supply-- and I'll call that M0. And that's the cash out there, which are the Federal Reserve notes plus the Federal Reserve demand deposits. So for example, this could have been just 100, like a checking account at the reserve bank and then this over here would have been a checking account instead. But it would still be considered part of the base money supply because if this bank, who had a checking account, says, I just want that in terms of notes, then the Federal Reserve bank will just issue notes and cancel out this checking account and it would turn back into notes. So they're equivalent. They're just a different way of keeping track of it. So that's the base money supply. Now, a slightly broader definition of the money supply. We could call this bank money. It's sometimes referred to as that and the formal definition is M1-- and that's essentially that notion that I went over I think almost 10 videos ago-- how much money do people think they have? And that's the amount of money in demand deposit accounts. So that in this case, that's this. So all the people in this bank, they think they have $100 there, right? That's $100 that they think that they have that they can write checks against. And then this bank also has another $100. And so the base money supply-- no, that's not right. No, no, sorry. They don't have $100. Why am I saying $100? Let's see. This bank had $100 in gold and it could lend out up to $200 in-- or it could put out up to $200 in checking deposit accounts. So it has $200. Right, that's what I was-- because we talked about earlier in the last video that we have a 50% reserve ratio, which tells us that if this bank has $100 in reserves, that it can essentially manage-- or it can issue $200 in demand deposit accounts. And we went over that many times on how that happens. And then this bank can do the same. It'll have $200 in demand deposit accounts. And so the total amount of money that people think they have, either in demand deposit accounts-- in this situation, I'm assuming that all of the cash is sitting in the reserve bank, although we do know that some of this is going to be sitting around circulating. But let's just say we live in a world where everyone uses debit cards all the time and no-one uses cash. And I think we're heading to that world very quickly. And as we'll see soon, that actually increases the money supply when you do that. But anyway, I don't want to go too technical just yet. But the M1, which is the total amount of demand deposit accounts in our universe, is $400. And this relationship makes a lot of sense because our reserve requirements are 50%. So we can kind of assume that banks tend to get as close to their reserve requirement as they can because they don't get interest on reserves. They make interest on the loans that they make against demand accounts. So if the reserve requirement were 10% and our base money was $200, we would probably see $2,000 in the M1 supply. So my question to you is-- and maybe you want to pause and think about this is-- how can the government or the central bank or, how can the economy, increase or decrease the money supply? And I guess the first question is, why would you want to increase or decrease the money supply? Well, let's say we're in this world already and we only have these two banks. And we have an M1 supply of $400. But let's say the economy expands. We have more goods and services that we're able to produce. Maybe we have immigrants come in so we have more labor. Maybe we have some innovative technology. Or maybe it's just seasonal. Maybe it's the crop planting season so a lot of farmers need their cash in order to hire people to plant the crops. So that's another time where you'd want more money. If you don't increase the money supply at those times when you have economic expansion or there's just more demand because of some type of seasonal fluctuaction-- if you don't increase the money, then what you're going to do is money's going to become more expensive. And I'll do a whole video on that so don't get too confused, but money getting more expensive means that interest rates will go up. And if money becomes too expensive, then some good projects, maybe some farmers who might have planted seeds, wouldn't be able to-- and so you would kind of restrict economic expansion. But we'll have a whole other discussion on when does it make sense to expand or contract money. Let's just talk now about how you would actually do it. So there's two ways. I just said if this reserve requirement were 10%, then these banks could create more checking accounts, right? They could lend out more money and create more checking accounts if the reserve requirement were 10%. If it was 10%, then you would have an M1 of $2,000, right? It would be 10 times this instead of two times this. And that is considered one of the tools of the Federal Reserve bank. Because we've said in the past that the Federal Reserve bank actually sets these reserve requirements. But the problem with that tool, if you think about it, is, if we made a reserve requirement 10%, right? And all of a sudden all of these banks started lending a lot more money and they only had 10%. The ratio of reserves to checking accounts were 10%. Think about what would happen if we wanted to raise the reserve requirement back to 50%. Then all of the banks-- they'd only have 10% reserves. How would they get back to 50%? All of these banks would have to either start selling assets or unwinding loans. It would be a very messy situation. If you were to lower the reserve requirement and then wanted to actually increase it again, you would actually make a lot of banks become undercapitalized, because most banks just operate right at where they need to. So you really don't want to mess around with this reserve requirement much. So the question is, if you're not going to change the reserve requirement, which is the ratio of the reserves to checking accounts, if you're not going to mess with that, the only other way that you can actually increase the number of checking accounts is if somehow you can increase the reserves. If you can somehow add some actual reserves over here. So my question is, how can you do that? Well, let's just say that-- we're hopefully already reasonably familiar with fractional reserve banking. So you might have seen it coming, that that also applies to the central bank. So the central bank right now, all of its deposits were directly backed by gold, 1:1. But there's nothing to stop this bank from also doing fractional reserve lending. And actually, the central bank has no reserve requirement. And that's because to some degree, it can always provide the liquidity because its notes are obligations of the government. So it can always tax more people to back up its loans. So what essentially the Federal Reserve can do is-- and this is the printing press of the base money supply that people talk about. But there's two printing presses. There's the base money printing press and then there's the leverage printing press. So if this increases-- well, I'll do a whole video on that another-- I don't want to get too technical because I realize I'm running out of time. So what the Federal Reserve could do in this situation is it can print some notes. So let's say it prints 100 of the notes, right, and those are just-- it literally just prints those dollars. It pays the treasury to print it for them, but it creates these notes and then of course, offsetting that is a liability, right? Notes outstanding, 100 liability. And then what it does is, it takes these $100-- I mean, these are literally dollar bills although it could be some type of demand account or whatever, but take these $100 bills that it printed and then it can buy treasury securities. So what happens if it takes these $100 bills and buys treasuries? And the treasuries don't have to be issued by the government anymore. Because whenever the government does issue treasuries, it's bought by just a bunch of people in the world. There's always a bunch of treasuries sitting out there as long as the treasury has some debt. So I was holding the treasuries and let's say that this is the central bank. I was holding some some of these government IOUs, right, that I had bought from the government. And the Federal Reserve, they have this $100. Let me draw that in green. So they just buy the treasury from me. Maybe I don't want to sell it at the current price so they have to pay me a little bit more than the current price in order for me to part with it-- and I'll do a whole other video on what that means and how that changes the yield curve and all of that, but I just want to get you to that base notion that the treasury essentially creates a notes outstanding liability and has an offsetting $100 of dollar bills that it just created or prints-- and then it can use those $100 bills to buy treasuries, or government IOUs, in the open market. And now what happens here? Well, these $100 bills, these are now treasuries. And my question to you is, what am I-- I was holding a treasury. It was sitting in my mattress. What am I now going-- now I don't have a treasury. I have $100. What am I going to do with that $100? Well, I'm going to deposit it in the bank. I'm going to deposit it in the bank. So this is me depositing my $100. Maybe I deposited it up here, but-- and my checking account grows a little bit, but what's the net effect? Now all of a sudden the banking system, the national banking system, has more currency, more dollar reserves, that apply to its reserve ratio. So now it got my $100 deposit. Now it can also do another $100 of lending. So I would have essentially increased the base-- so now the M0 goes from $200 to $300 right, because I have $300 in notes outstanding. And now my M1-- I took that $100 bill that the treasury gave me, deposited it in a bank account. Now I have a bank account that says $100 and then because of a 50% reserve requirement, the bank can issue another loan. I know it's getting messy. $400-- so essentially our M1 is now $600. So just like that, just by printing money and issuing treasuries, the central bank was able to increase the M1 by $200. I'll do more videos on this. I don't want to confuse you too much. See you soon.