Bond Fundamentals – Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy

It’s the Federal Reserve Bank that influences the money supply. Three tools are used to implement monetary policy:

1. Open Market Operations

2. Discount Rates

3. Reserve Requirements

Since open market operations is the tool used most, we will cover it. Here’s how it works: When the economy is growing too fast and the Fed is worried about the inflation rate, it will sell government securities from its portfolio to the open market. This decreases bank reserves, which means the money supply decreases. When there are less bank and businesses have to pay the bank more in order to borrow. This discourages consumers and businesses from borrowing. Less borrowing means less spending, which slows the economy and eventually can reduce price pressures.

When the economy is growing too slowly and the inflation rate is low the Fed will buy government securities, such as Treasury bills and notes. This increases bank reserves, which increases the money supply and causes short-term interest rates to decrease. Reduced rates induce consumers and businesses to borrow. Consumers will borrow money for items such as automobiles or home loans. Businesses borrow to build their inventories or finance a new factory. As a result, economic growth will accelerate.

The Fed will also leave rates unchanged if the economy is growing at a moderate pace with low inflation or if they feel the economy will slow down by itself. They will even take a wait-and-see approach with regard to how slowly the economy is growing and the rate of inflation, before determining monetary policy.

The bond market plays close attention to the activities of the Federal Reserve, which is why it’s important for us as well.

The Federal Reserve has three goals:

1. Moderate economic growth (not too fast, not too slow)

2. Low unemployment

3. Low inflation

How does the Fed determine whether they are reaching these goals? They watch the same economic indicators as we do. In other words, they monitor the reports that are released by the Labor Department, the segments of our economy.

For instance, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) consists of four major components: (1) consumption; (2) investment; (3) government; (4) exports. Most of the key economic indicators fall into one of the above categories. For example:

– Retail sales would fall under consumption.

– Business inventories and housing starts would fall under investment.

– Construction Spending would fall under government.

– Trade would fall under exports.

If the key economic indicators continue to come in strong, the GDP will increase. If the indicators come in weak, it will decrease. In other words, Gross Domestic Product measures economic growth.

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