How a Central Bank Executes Monetary Policy

Changing Reserve Requirements

A second method of conducting monetary policy is for the central bank to raise or lower the reserve requirement, which, as we noted earlier, is the percentage of each bank’s deposits that it is legally required to hold either as cash in their vault or on deposit with the central bank. If banks are required to hold a greater amount in reserves, they have less money available to lend out. If banks are allowed to hold a smaller amount in reserves, they will have a greater amount of money available to lend out.

In early 2015, the Federal Reserve required banks to hold reserves equal to 0% of the first $14.5 million in deposits, then to hold reserves equal to 3% of the deposits up to $103.6 million, and 10% of any amount above $103.6 million. The Fed makes small changes in the reserve requirements almost every year. For example, the $103.6 million dividing line is sometimes bumped up or down by a few million dollars. In practice, the Fed rarely uses large changes in reserve requirements to execute monetary policy. A sudden demand that all banks increase their reserves would be extremely disruptive and difficult for them to comply, while loosening requirements too much would create a danger of banks inability to meet withdrawal demands.

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