Central Banks: what they are…
For decades, a debate among scholars and investors has been about the person who holds a lot of power in a country on economics. The cause for debate is whether the president of a country or the governor of the central bank is responsible for the health of the economy.
This is a good debate. In fact, it came up during the past election when Trump accused the Fed of rigging the system using low interest rates.
The reality is that the central bank and the presidency are very important in an economy. It is also difficult to separate the two about the status of the economy. The president of the country, through his executive leadership is usually responsible for the fiscal policy.
A good example of this was the recently passed tax reform package that slashed taxes for companies and individuals. In the Obama era, an example of the fiscal policy was on the Dodd Frank regulations which were meant to make the US economy safer to avoid another financial crisis.
On the other hand, central banks like European Central Bank (ECB), Fed, and Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) are responsible for the monetary policy. The president – or governor – of the central bank is usually nominated by the president and confirmed by the legislators.
Their role is to ensure the safety of the financial markets and protect the consumers.
On the latter, they protect the consumers from increased inflation. They do this using the various tools, with the main one being interest rates. The central banks are responsible for supplying money to the economy. This money is usually produced and lent to financial institutions at an interest rate.
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…and how they works
When the economy is doing terribly, the central banks can lower the interest rates to spur growth. This growth happens as more people borrow money to invest and consume. This is what happened during the financial crisis of 2008/9. The central banks from around the world brought interest rates to zero and started an experiment known as quantitative easing.
In this program, they printed money and bought financial assets like bonds and treasuries.
On the other hand, when the economy is doing very well, the central bank tends to hike interest rates. They do this to prevent the economy from overheating. The economy overheats when more people are employed and have more money, which leads to overconsumption.
This puts the economy at a tough place, especially when it starts to slow down.
A good example for this is to assume that you have a lemonade stand. In a normal month, you serve 10 customers. Then, in one month, the number increases to 15 and 20 in the following month. The number keeps on growing. To serve these new customers, you need to take a loan from the bank.
The problem will come when the number of customers start to slow to the normal number. If that happens and you have a loan, you could be in trouble paying the loan.
As a trader, everything that happens to the markets usually leads to the Fed. When the inflation rate is growing fast, it usually leads to tightening. You should always read the minutes of the Fed and listen to the minutes from their minutes.