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How The Fed’s Interest Rates Affect Consumers
MONETARY POLICY FEDERAL RESERVE
Federal Reserve System (FRS)
By
JAMES CHEN
Reviewed by
ERIC ESTEVEZ Updated Jan 14, 2021
What Is the Federal Reserve System (FRS)?
The Federal Reserve System (FRS) is the central bank of the U.S. The Fed, as it is commonly known, regulates the U.S. monetary and financial system. The Federal Reserve System is composed of a central governmental agency in Washington, D.C., the Board of Governors, and 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks in major cities throughout the U.S.
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Federal Reserve System (FRS)
Understanding the Federal Reserve System (FRS)
The Federal Reserve performs five general functions—conducting the nation's monetary policy, regulating banking institutions, monitoring and protecting the credit rights of consumers, maintaining the stability of the financial system, and providing financial services to the U.S. government. The Fed also operates three wholesale payment systems—the Fedwire Funds Service, the Fedwire Securities Service, and the National Settlement Service. The Fed is a major force in the economy and banking. Their open mouth operations are known to publicly declare the current interest rate.
The Fed was established by the Federal Reserve Act, which was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on Dec. 23, 1913, in response to the financial panic of 1907. Before that, the U.S. was the only major financial power without a central bank. The Fed has broad power to act to ensure financial stability, and it is the primary regulator of banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System. It acts as the lender of last resort to member institutions who have no place else to borrow.
Banks in the U.S. are also subject to regulations established by the states, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (if they are members), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
Special Considerations
The Federal Reserve payments system, commonly known as the Fedwire, moves trillions of dollars daily between banks throughout the U.S. Transactions are for same-day settlement. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed has paid increased attention to the risk created by the time lag between when payments are made early in the day and when they are settled and reconciled. Large financial institutions are being pressured by the Fed to improve real-time monitoring of payments and credit risk, which has been available only on an end-of-day basis.
Federal Reserve System vs. Federal Open Market Committee
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is the Fed's monetary policy-making body and manages the country's money supply. It is made up of the seven members of the Fed's board of governors, the president of the New York Fed, and four of the remaining 11 regional Fed presidents, who serve one-year terms on a rotating basis. The FOMC meets eight times a year on a regular basis and additionally on an as-needed basis to discuss the outlook for the national economy and review options for its monetary policy. 
The FOMC adjusts the target for the overnight federal funds rate, which controls short-term interest rates, at its meetings based on its view of the strength of the economy. When it wants to stimulate the economy, it reduces the target rate. Conversely, it raises the federal funds rate to slow the economy.
The target rate was lowered to 0.25% in response to the recession in 2008 and stayed there for seven years. On Dec. 15, 2015, the Fed raised the target rate to a range of 0.25% to 0.5%—the first rate hike in almost 10 years. The FOMC increased the rate all the way to 2.25% to 2.5% during the first half of 2019. The rate fell drastically during the first part of 2020, all the way back to the 0% to 0.25% range, where it remains as of April 2020.
Related Terms
Federal Funds Rate
Federal funds rate is the target interest rate set by the Fed at which commercial banks borrow and lend their excess reserves to each other overnight. more
Open Mouth Operations
Open mouth operations are speculative statements made by the Federal Reserve to influence interest rates and inflation. more
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Definition
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco oversees banks in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. more
Federal Discount Rate Definition
The federal discount rate is the reference interest rate set by the Federal Reserve for lending to banks and other institutions. more
Open Market Operations (OMO) Definition
The Federal Reserve uses open market operations (OMO) to achieve the target federal funds rate it has set by buying or selling U.S. Treasuries. more
Term Federal Funds Definition
Term federal funds, obtained via transactions between banks via their Federal Reserve accounts for more than a single day, but usually less than 90 days. more
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