January 22, 2018 

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Values of specific economic variables that the monetary authority seeks achieve with monetary policy. The three most noted monetary policy targets are interest rates, monetary aggregates, and exchange rates. These targets are usually intermediate targets that can be quickly achieved and easily measured, but then move the economy toward the ultimate macroeconomic goals of full employment, stability, and economic growth.
Monetary policy targets are specific values of macroeconomic variables, including interest rates, monetary aggregates, and exchange rates, that a monetary authority pursues in the course of conducting monetary policy. The presumption, based on extensive economic theory, is that attaining a monetary policy target subsequently results in achieving one or more of the macroeconomic goals.

For example, achieving a particular Federal funds interest rate value might be presumed to induce the level of investment expenditures and aggregate production that results in a business-cycle expansion with low rates of both unemployment and inflation. Alternatively, the monetary authority might deem that targeting a specific growth rate of the M1 monetary aggregate attains this state of the economy.

In a perfect world, the monetary authority could target a variable like M1 or the Federal funds rate to simultaneously achieve full employment, stability, and economic growth. However, in the real world, targeting one variable over others invariably means the pursuit of one goal over others.

Interest Rates

Interest rates are charges for borrowing or returns from lending through financial markets. A complex economy like that in the United States has a large slate of interest rates, from credit cards to corporate bonds, from savings accounts to government securities. One of the most important interest rates is the Federal funds rate, the interest rate commercial banks charge each other for lending bank reserves.

This rate is commonly targeted by the U.S. monetary authority (Federal Reserve System) because:

  • It is directly affected by Federal Reserve System monetary policy, specifically open market operations.

  • It is a benchmark interest rate that influences the values of most other interest rates in the economy.
Federal Reserve System monetary policy is observed almost immediately as a change in the Federal funds rate. Because open market operations affect the amount of reserves, banks are willing to extend loans to other banks at a higher or lower Federal funds rate.

However, changes in the Federal funds rate filter throughout the economy, inducing corresponding changes in other interest rates, which then affect macroeconomic activity and the pursuit of full employment, stability, and economic growth.

Monetary Aggregates

Monetary aggregates, labeled M1, M2, and M3, are measures of money and highly liquid assets, especially accounts maintained by banks. M1 is the basic money supply, the financial assets used for actual payments, including currency and checkable deposits. M2 is a broader measure of the money supply and includes highly liquid near monies (savings deposits) in addition to currency and checkable deposits. M3 is a broader measure that includes M2 plus slightly less liquid assets.

A monetary authority like the Federal Reserve System might be inclined to target one of these monetary aggregates. Over the years, the U.S. Federal Reserve System has targeted both M1 and M2 at different times. Targeting is typically implemented by identifying a desired growth rate of the monetary aggregate, which is then translated as a specific value of the aggregate at the end of a period.

If, for example, the current level of M1 is $1 trillion and a 5 percent annual growth rate in M1 is deemed appropriate to achieve the desired macroeconomic goals, then the Federal Reserve System targets a value of M1 at $1.05 trillion by the end of the year.

Although M1, which contains the actual assets used for transactions, would seem to be the logical monetary aggregate target, the Federal Reserve System has preferred to target M2 in recent years. Focus has shifted because M2 has a more stable connection to overall macroeconomic activity. The Federal Reserve System has concluded that achieve a specific M2 value is more likely to generate the desired macroeconomic goals.

Exchange Rates

Exchange rates are the prices one nation's currency in terms of the currencies of other nations. For example, the exchange rate between U.S. dollars and Japanese yen might be something like 100 yen per dollar. One dollar can buy 100 yen or 100 yen can buy one dollar.

Exchange rates depend, in part, on the quantity of money an economy has. If an economy with more money in circulation, then like any commodity that is relatively abudandant, the price declines. This means that the exchange rates for a country fall. That is, one dollar might be purchased with 90 yen rather than 100 yen.

Exchange rates are commonly targeted by a monetary authority with an eye toward foreign trade. Lower exchange rates induce exports and limit imports, which stimulate economic activity. Higher exchange rates have the opposite effect.

Some modern nations, especially smaller countries, take this a step further by fixing exchanges rates. In particular, a smaller country implements monetary policy that ensures the exchange rate between their domestic currency and that of another country, usually a larger country like United States, is essentially fixed.

A fixed exchange rate provides a direct link between the two countries, meaning any monetary policy by the larger country affects the smaller one, as well. The smaller country has thus relinquished all monetary policy control to the larger country.

A Mix

While monetary authorities can and do pursue one target to the exclusive of others, most monetary policy generally works with a mix of targets, keeping an eye on interest rates, monetary aggregates, and exchange rates at the same time.


Recommended Citation:

MONETARY POLICY TARGETS, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2018. [Accessed: January 22, 2018].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | monetary policy | monetary policy channels | monetary economics | open market operations | discount rate | reserve requirements | central bank | expansionary monetary policy | contractionary monetary policy | Federal Reserve System |

Or For A Little Background...

     | fractional-reserve banking | banks | money | bank reserves | business cycles | check clearing | money creation | macroeconomics | monetary base | monetary aggregates | unemployment | inflation | investment expenditures | consumption expenditures | net exports | aggregate expenditures | gross domestic product | macroeconomic goals | bank balance sheet |

And For Further Study...

     | Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation | Comptroller of the Currency | barter | aggregate market | inflation | circular flow | goldsmith money creation | fiscal policy | Federal Reserve pyramid | Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System | Chairman of the Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System | Federal Reserve Banks | Federal Open Market Committee | advisory councils, Federal Reserve System |

Related Websites (Will Open in New Window)...

     | Federal Reserve System |

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