Chapter 31 Money, Banking, and Financial Institutions
1. What are the three basic functions of money? Describe how rapid inflation can undermine money’s ability to perform each of the three functions. LO1
Answer: Money is used as a medium of exchange for goods and services, as a unit of account for expressing price, and as a store of value.
People will only accept money in exchange for goods and services and for the work they perform if they can be reasonably certain that the medium of exchange—money—will retain its value until they are ready to spend it. In runaway inflations of the thousands or tens of thousands of percent a year, people revert to barter.
Again, drastic inflation greatly reduces money’s use as a measure of value (unit of account), for it is impossible to adjust instantaneously all prices strictly in line with their relative values. Thus, opportunities are afforded to speculators to profit at the expense of the less sophisticated who, eventually, will learn to distrust money’s usefulness as a measure of value.
Finally, and most obviously, money’s usefulness as a store of value is destroyed in a drastic inflation. The “rule of 70” is instructive here. By dividing the absolute inflation rate into 70, one can estimate how long it takes one’s dollar savings to lose half their purchasing power. At 7 percent inflation, the dollar will be worth half as much in ten years.
2. Which two of the following financial institutions offer checkable deposits included within the M1 money supply: mutual fund companies; insurance companies; commercial banks; securities firms; thrift institutions? Which of the following items is not included in either M1 or M2: currency held by the public; checkable deposits; money market mutual fund balances; small-denominated (less than $100,000) time deposits; currency held by banks; savings deposits? LO1
Answer: Commercial banks and thrift institutions offer checkable deposits.
Currency held by banks is not counted in either M1 or M2.
3. What are the components of the M1 money supply? What is the largest component? Which of the components of M1 is legal tender? Why is the face value of a coin greater than its intrinsic value? What near-monies are included in the M2 money supply? LO1, LO2
Answer: M1 = currency (in circulation) + checkable deposits. The largest component of M1 is currency (51 percent), and it is the only part that is legal tender. If the face value of a coin were not greater than its intrinsic (metallic) value, people would remove coins from circulation and sell them for their metallic content. M2 = M1 + noncheckable savings deposits + money market deposit accounts + small time deposits + money market mutual fund balances.
4. Explain and evaluate the following statements: LO2
a. The invention of money is one of the great achievements of humankind, for without it the enrichment that comes from broadening trade would have been impossible.
b. Money is whatever society says it is.
c. In the United States, the debts of government and commercial banks are used as money.
d. People often say they would like to have more money, but what they usually mean is that they would like to have more goods and services.
e. When the price of everything goes up, it is not because everything is worth more but because the currency is worth less.
f. Any central bank can create money; the trick is to create enough, but not too much, of it.
Answer: (a) Without money, trade must occur through barter. Barter requires the “double coincidence of wants,” the requirement that a seller find a buyer who not only desires what the seller has to offer but also has to offer what the buyer desires. A wheat farmer desiring milk must find a dairy farmer desiring wheat or, at least, a merchant in the middle trading in both wheat and milk. Maybe one can imagine a merchant owning both a grain elevator and refrigerated milk holding tanks. But suppose the wheat farmer desires a new suit or a new combine?
So far all we have been talking about is local trade. Suppose the dairy farmer desires oriental spices, to use an example from the beginning of trade after the ending of the Dark Ages in Europe. The dairy farmer could hardly ship the milk to the Orient, so a buyer must be found in Europe who desires milk and who has something our dairy farmer can trade for oriental spices. And how are the terms of trade to be determined in the absence of money? Is a quart of milk worth an ounce of pepper? Or how much of what the dairy farmer got locally for milk is worth an ounce of pepper? As one can see, without a measure of value the complications are enormous.
(b) Money must be acceptable in exchange. That is its fundamental requirement. A person will accept payment in whatever is called money only if that person knows that the money can subsequently be used in exchange for something else. If the money is easily, cheaply predicable by a monetary authority, it will only be acceptable if the conviction exists that the authority will keep the rate of increase below the hyperinflationary level. If the money is a commodity such as cigarettes in a prisoner of war camp, the commodity will be acceptable as money not only because of its intrinsic value, but also, again, because there is no fear of the supply suddenly increasing to a hyperinflationary level. Note that checks are our primary medium of exchange, although they have not been deemed legal tender by government.
(c) All accounts (saving and checking) in the commercial banks are money owed by these banks to their customers, who own these deposits. Since checks drawn on checking accounts are accepted as money (since they demand payment out of these checking accounts), it follows that the debts of the commercial banks are used as moneys. Paper money is merely the circulating debt of the government.
(d) People often use the term “money” when they are referring to wealth or income. Wealth refers to accumulated assets, measured at a point in time. Money is an asset, and can be used as a store of value. However, holding wealth in the form of money provides no creature comforts, nor does it return much additional income (before interest was paid on checking balances, the return was zero). Money is also a unit of account, a means of measurement, literally a yardstick that is used for comparison purposes. When people say they want more money, they are saying they want to be richer—to have more things.
(e) The statement is accurate. If the price of one thing goes up relative to another, it is fair to claim that it has become more valuable, but if the price of everything rises, it means that the currency has less purchasing power (i.e. is worth less).
(f) The most important function of the Federal Reserve (or any central bank) is to manage the nation’s money supply and thus interest rates. This involves making an amount of money available that is consistent with high and rising levels of output and employment and a relatively constant price level.
5. What “backs” the money supply in the United States? What determines the value (domestic purchasing power) of money? How does the purchasing power of money relate to the price level? Who in the United States is responsible for maintaining money’s purchasing power? LO2
Answer: There is no concrete backing to the money supply in the United States. Paper money, which has no intrinsic value, has value only because people are willing to accept it in exchange for goods and services, including their labor services as employees. And people are willing to accept paper as money because they know that everyone else is also willing to do so. If the monetary authorities were issuing new banknotes at a rate far in excess of available output, the acceptability of paper money would diminish. People would start to worry about whether the banknotes would be worth much after they received them. Checks are part of the money supply and are not legal tender, but people accept them willingly from people believed trustworthy.
The purchasing power of money is inversely related to the price level.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Fed) is responsible for managing the United States’ money supply so that money retains its purchasing power.
6. How is the chairperson of the Federal Reserve System selected? Describe the relationship between the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. What is the purpose of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)? What is its makeup? LO3
Answer: The members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve are selected by the U.S. president and confirmed by the Senate. The seven board members have long terms—14 years—and staggered so that one member is replaced every 2 years. The president selects the chairperson and vice-chairperson of the board from among the members, and they serve 4 year terms. Several entities assist the Board of Governors in determining banking and monetary policy. The Federal Open Market Committee is the most important, voting on the Fed’s monetary policy and directing the purchase or sale of government securities. Five of the presidents of the Federal Reserve Banks have voting rights on the FOMC each year, rotating the membership among the 12 banks, except for the president of the NY Fed who has a permanent voting seat.
7. The following are two hypothetical ways in which the Federal Reserve Board might be appointed. Would you favor either of these two methods over the present method? Why or why not? LO3
a. Upon taking office, the U.S. president appoints seven people to the Federal Reserve Board, including a chair. Each appointee must be confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate, and each serves the same 4-year term as the president.
b. Congress selects seven members from its ranks (four from the House of Representatives and three from the Senate) to serve at Congressional pleasure as the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Answer: In the opinion of most economists, the Fed should be protected from political pressures so that it can effectively control the money supply and maintain price stability. Option (a) would create a Board of Governors that sat at the pleasure of the president, placing the monetary policy of the country in the hands of the executive branch.
Option (b) would place the BOG under the control of Congress. Neither of the options would maintain the independence needed for effective monetary policy.
8. What is meant when economists say that the Federal Reserve Banks are central banks, quasi-public banks, and bankers’ banks?
Answer: The 12 Federal Reserve Banks are “central” banks whose policies are coordinated by the Board of Governors. They are quasi-public banks, meaning that they are a blend of private ownership and public control. They are also bankers’ banks in that they perform essentially the same functions for banks and thrifts as those institutions perform for the public.
9. Why do economists nearly uniformly support an independent Fed rather than one beholden directly to either the President or Congress? LO3
Answer: The objective is to protect the Fed from political pressures so that it can effectively control the money supply and maintain price stability. Political pressures on Congress and the executive branch may at times result in inflationary fiscal policies, including tax cuts and special-interest spending if Congress and the executive branch also controlled the nation’s monetary policy. Also, citizens and lobbying groups undoubtedly would pressure elected officials to keep interest rates low even though at times high interest rates are necessary to reduce aggregate demand and thus control inflation.
10. Identify three functions of the Federal Reserve of your choice, other than its main role of controlling the supply of money. LO4
Answer: The Federal Reserve performs 7 basic functions:
1. The Fed issues Federal Reserve Notes, the paper currency used in the U.S. monetary system.
2. The Fed sets reserve requirements and holds the mandated reserves that are not held as vault cash.
3. The Fed lends money to banks and thrifts.
4. The Fed provides for check collection.
5. The Fed acts as fiscal agent for the Federal government.
6. The Fed supervises the operation of banks.
7. Finally, and most importantly, the Fed has responsibility for regulating the supply of money, and this in turn enables it to affect interest rates.
Any three of the first six are appropriate answers.
11. How do each of the following relate to the financial crisis of 2007-2008: declines in real estate values, subprime mortgage loans, mortgage backed securities, AIG. LO5
Answer: Prior to the 2007-2008 financial crisis the banking institutions issued a large number of loans to borrowers that were relatively more 'risky' in the sense that these borrowers were more likely to default on their loans. This was referred to as the sub-prime market. This resulted in a rapid increase in home prices (along with housing market speculation) that was unsustainable (sometimes referred to as a 'bubble'). This problem was also exacerbated by the issuance of mortgage backed securities, which bundled riskier mortgages together, and sold them to investors. In theory, this reduced the risk exposure that banks faced after issuing these loans. This apparent reduction in risk increased the amount of sub-prime loans made by the banks. However, this reduction in risk was an accounting illusion since the banks also made loans to the groups purchasing the mortgage backed securities.
When housing prices started to decline and individuals started to default on their mortgages (initially sub-prime borrowers) this reduced or completely eliminated the value of these mortgage backed securities. This caused the financial investors who held these securities to default on their loans to the banks that originally offered the mortgage backed securities (basically the banks issued loans to the individuals who were buying the assets they were selling). Thus, there was a major 'credit crunch' as banks wrote-off the bad loans.
12. What is TARP and how was it funded? What is meant by the term “lender of last resort” and how does it relate to the financial crisis of 2007-2008? How do government and Federal Reserve emergency loans relate to the concept of moral hazard? LO6
Answer: In late 2008 Congress passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which allocated $700 billion—yes, billion—to the U.S. Treasury to make emergency loans to critical financial and other U.S. firms. This was financed with general tax revenue and the issuance of government debt.
One of the roles of the Federal Reserve is to serve as the lender of last resort to financial institutions in times of financial emergencies. That is, the Federal Reserve stands ready to lend funds to the banking sector to keep credit flowing. The Fed performed this vital role during the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Under Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, the Fed designed and implemented several highly-creative new lender-of-last-resort facilities to pump liquidity into the financial system. These facilities, procedures, and capabilities were in addition to both the TARP efforts by the U.S. Treasury and the Fed’s use of standard tools of monetary policy (the subject of Chapter 33) designed to reduce interest rates.
TARP indeed saved several financial institutions whose bankruptcy would have caused a tsunami of secondary effects that probably would have brought down other financial firms and froze credit throughout the economy. But this very fact demonstrates the problem of moral hazard. As it relates to financial investment, moral hazard is the tendency for financial investors and financial services firms to take on greater risks because they assume they are at least partially insured against losses.
13. What are the major categories of firms that make up the U.S. financial services industry? Are there more or fewer banks today than before the start of the financial crisis of 2007-2008? Why are the lines between the categories of financial firms even more blurred than they were before the crisis? How did the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 try to address some of the problems that helped cause the crisis? LO7
Answer: The major categories of firms that make up the U.S. financial services industry include: commercial banks, thrifts, insurance companies, mutual fund companies, pension funds, and securities related firms. Commercial banks and thrifts have declined in numbers following financial crisis of 2007-2008. In response they have offered a variety of new services and purchased or merged with other institutions.
The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 eliminated the Office of Thrift Supervision and gave broader authority to the Federal Reserve to regulate all large financial institutions, created a Financial Stability Oversight, established a process for the Federal government to liquidate the assets of large failing financial institutions, provided Federal regulatory oversight of mortgage-backed securities and other derivatives and required that they be traded on public exchanges, required companies selling asset-backed securities to retain a portion of those securities so the sellers share part of the risk, and established a stronger consumer financial protection role for the Fed through creation of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
14. LAST WORD How does a debit card differ from a credit card? How does a stored-value card differ from both? Suppose that a person has a credit card, debit card, and stored-value card. Create a fictional scenario in which the person uses all three cards in the same day. Explain the person’s logic for using one card rather than one of the others for each transaction. How do Fedwire and ACH transactions differ from credit card, debit card, and stored-value card transactions?
Answer: Debit cards access a financial asset – a checkable deposit; credit cards incur a liability – credit card holders take out a loan whenever they use the credit card for purchases. A stored-value card keeps the money on the card, stored in a memory chip, rather than providing access to an account or a loan sited elsewhere.
Fictional scenario: Alex pays for airplane tickets with a credit card, preferring the short-term loan for the large purchase, perhaps waiting until the next pay period to pay his balance. Alex then buys groceries using a debit card; there is enough in his checking account to cover the transaction and he doesn’t like to take out loans (i.e. use a credit card) to fund current consumption. Alex pays for his soy hot chocolate at Starbucks using a stored-value card. The card, a gift from his grandparents, is only usable at Starbucks. If he loses his stored-value card he only loses the balance on the card; losing a debit or credit card can be more costly if whomever finds (or took) the card spends until the account is drained or the spending limit is reached.
Fedwire transfers are used to transfer funds between banks. Individuals, businesses, and banks can arrange transfers between financial institutions. ACH transactions are used frequently to make recurring payments (automatic bill payments – mortgages, utilities, insurance premiums, etc.). Returning to our fictional scenario, Alex might pay his mortgage using an ACH, and may use a Fedwire transfer to move money from a mutual fund to his checking account in order to pay off his credit card bill.
1. Assume that the following asset values (in millions of dollars) exist in Ironmania: Federal Reserve Notes in circulation = $700; Money market mutual funds (MMMFs) held by individuals = $400; Corporate bonds = $300; Iron ore deposits = $50; Currency in commercial banks = $100; Savings deposits, including money market deposit accounts (MMDAs) = $140; Checkable deposits = $1500 ; Small-denominated (less than $100,000) time deposits = $100; Coins in circulation = $40. LO1
a. What is M1 in Ironmania?
b. What is M2 in Ironmania?
Answers: (a) $2,240 million; (b) $2,880 million.
Feedback: Consider the following example. Assume that the following asset values (in millions of dollars) exist in Ironmania: Federal Reserve Notes in circulation = $700; Money Market Mutual Funds (MMMFs) held by individuals = $400; Corporate bonds = $300; Iron ore deposits = $50; Currency in commercial banks = $100; Savings deposits, including Money market deposit accounts (MMDAs) = $140; Checkable deposits = $1500 ; Small-denominated (less than $100,000) time deposits = $100; Coins in circulation = $40.
What is M1 in Ironmania?
M1 equals Federal Reserve Notes in circulation plus checkable deposits plus Coins in circulation.
M1 = $700 + $1500 +$40 = $2240
What is M2 in Ironmania?
M2 equals M1 plus Savings deposits, including Money market deposit accounts (MMDAs) plus Small-denominated (less than $100,000) time deposits plus Money Market Mutual Funds (MMMFs) held by individuals.
M2 = $2240 + $140 + $100 + $400 = $2880
2. Assume that Jimmy Cash has $2000 in his checking account at Folsom Bank and uses his checking account card to withdraw $200 of cash from the bank’s ATM machine. By what dollar amount did the M1 money supply change as a result of this single, isolated transaction? LO1
Answer: $0 (zero)
Feedback: Consider the following example. Assume that Jimmy Cash has $2000 in his checking account at Folsom Bank and uses his checking account card to withdraw $200 of cash from the bank’s ATM machine. By what dollar amount did the M1 money supply change as a result of this single, isolated transaction?
The answer is zero. Jimmy withdrew $200 from his checking account, so his checkable deposits are now $1800. This results in a decrease in M1 by an equal amount. However Jimmy now has $200 in cash, which increases M1 by $200.
3. Suppose the price level and value of the U.S. dollar in year 1 are 1 and $1, respectively. If the price level rises to 1.25 in year 2, what is the new value of the dollar? If, instead, the price level falls to .50, what is the value of the dollar? LO2
Answers: $0.8; $2
Feedback: Consider the following example. Suppose the price level and value of the U.S. dollar in year 1 are 1 and $1, respectively. If the price level rises to 1.25 in year 2, what is the new value of the dollar? If, instead, the price level falls to .50, what is the value of the dollar?
The amount a dollar will buy varies inversely with the price level; that is, a reciprocal relationship exists between the general price level and the purchasing power of the dollar. That is, to find the value of the dollar $V, divide 1 by the price level P expressed as an index number (in hundredths).
In equation form, the relationship looks like this: $V = 1/P
This implies that when the price level rises to 1.25 in year 2, the new value of the dollar is ($V) = 1/1.25 =$0.8.
This also implies that when the price level falls to 0.5, the new value of the dollar is ($V) = 1/0.5 = $2.
4. Suppose that Lady Gaga goes to Las Vegas to play poker and at the last minute her record company says it will reimburse her for 50 percent of any gambling losses that she incurs. Will Lady Gaga wager more or less as a result of the reimbursement offer? What economic concept does your answer illustrate? LO5
Answer: More; moral hazard.
Feedback: Consider the following example. Suppose that Lady Gaga goes to Las Vegas to play poker and at the last minute her record company says it will reimburse her for 50 percent of any gambling losses that she incurs. Will Lady Gaga wager more or less as a result of the reimbursement offer? What economic concept does your answer illustrate?
Since Lady Gaga will get reimbursed for part of her losses she will gamble more. This is referred to as moral hazard.
5. Assume that securitization combined with borrowing and irrational exuberance in Hyperville have driven up the value of existing financial securities at a geometric rate, specifically from $2 to $4 to $8 to $16 to $32 to $64 over a 6-year time period. Over the same period, the value of the assets underlying the securities rose at an arithmetic rate from $2 to $3 to $4 to $5 to $6 to $7. If these patterns hold for decreases as well as for increases, by how much would the value of the financial securities decline if the value of the underlying asset suddenly and unexpectedly fell by $5? LO5
Feedback: Consider the following example. Assume that securitization combined with borrowing and irrational exuberance in Hyperville have driven up the value of existing financial securities at a geometric rate, specifically from $2 to $4 to $8 to $16 to $32 to $64 over a 6-year time period. Over the same period, the value of the assets underlying the securities rose at an arithmetic rate from $2 to $3 to $4 to $5 to $6 to $7. Assuming existing ratios, by how much would the value of the financial securities decline if the value of the underlying asset suddenly and unexpectedly fell by $5?
Since we are assuming the same ratios (or structure of the growth rates remain the same), a decline in underlying asset value by $5 results in a new value of $2 (falls from $7, the current value, to the new value of $2).
This implies that value of existing financial securities, which grew at a geometric rate, falls back to $2. This was the existing asset value associated with the underlying asset value 5 years ago (the underlying asset value was $2 five years ago).
Thus, the value of the financial securities would fall by $62.