October 19, 2021 

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BARTER: A method of trading goods, commodities, or services, directly for one another without the use of money. In a barter exchange one good is traded directly for another. This sort of exchange ultimately requires a double coincidence of wants, meaning that each trader has what the other trader wants and wants what the other has. Without a double coincidence of wants the exchange process can become exceedingly complex, requiring a great deal of resources to complete transactions, resources that can not be used for production. In fact, inefficient barter trading was the primary reason that money was invented. With money, more resources can be used for production and fewer are needed for trading.

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A financial market used by commercial banks and other depository institutions regulated by the Federal Reserve System to lend and borrow Federal funds (Federal Reserve deposits). The interest rate charged for lending through the Federal funds market is the Federal funds rate.
The Federal funds market is the organized mechanism used to facilitate the lending of Federal funds between commercial banks. While traditional banks are the most noted participants in the Federal funds market, other entities with Federal Reserve deposits are also involved. The list includes traditional banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, mutual savings banks, branches of foreign banks operating in the United States, federal agencies, and dealers who trade in government securities.

The first Federal funds loan between banks took place in 1921, less than a decade after the Federal Reserve System was created. The Federal funds market became quite active in the 1920s, but its use ebbed and flowed over the ensuing decades. It became increasingly active in the 1960s as it proceeded to assume its current position as a key component of the modern commercial banking system.

Federal Funds

Federal funds are the deposits that commercial banks hold with the Federal Reserve System, that is, Federal Reserve deposits. These deposits are an important component of the reserves that banks keep to back up deposits (the other component is vault cash). The term Federal funds is commonly used when these deposits are loaned from one bank to another. The lending of Federal funds is a common practice among modern commercial banks.

Motivation for Federal funds lending arises from reserve requirements imposed on commercial banks by the Federal Reserve System (the Fed). Reserve requirements are rules imposed by the Fed to ensure that all bank depository institutions (traditional banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, mutual savings banks, and even U.S. branches of foreign banks) keep enough reserves to back up customer deposits. The bank depository institutions have a two-week period to satisfy the requirements.

Due to the normal fluctuation of banking activity, some banks have more reserves than needed to satisfy requirements and some have fewer. On a given day, one bank might have a large number of withdrawals that temporarily reduce reserves while another bank has a large number of deposits that temporarily expand reserves. The temporary lending of reserves is a logical response to such imbalances among banks. Banks that borrow reserves are able to satisfy reserve requirements and banks that lend reserves generate extra revenue for their trouble. This is a win-win exchange for both sides.

The Lending Process

While the Federal funds market is extremely active, day in and day out, the market is somewhat informal. Written contracts are occasionally used, but most loans are only based on verbal agreements.
  • Bank to Bank: Most Federal funds lending is between banks with established working relationships. A short telephone call between banks is often enough to reach agreement on the terms of the loan. The lending bank then contacts the Federal Reserve System with instructions to transfer Federal Reserve deposits to the account of the borrowing bank. The process is quick, easy, and efficient.

  • Federal Funds Brokers: Some loans, however, are arranged by third party Federal funds brokers, who specialize in matching up banks in need of reserves with banks who have extra reserves to lend. The brokers, of course, charge a commission for their effort, but they expand the market, providing greater access of lenders to potential borrowers and borrowers to potential lenders. The borrowing bank need not have an established relationship with the lending bank.
The Federal Reserve System is NOT directly involved in the Federal funds market. The role it plays is merely that of a record keeper. The Fed maintains the computer system that keeps track of Federal Reserve deposits for all depository institutions. Should one bank borrow Federal Reserve deposits from another, then the Fed makes the necessary adjustments in the accounts of both banks. The Fed does not instigate, authorize, or otherwise exert control over any Federal funds lending. It merely keeps the accounts up to day.

The Federal Funds Rate

The interest rate charged for Federal funds lending is termed the Federal funds rate. This interest rate is one of the more important in the macroeconomy. It is watched by policy makers, business leaders, financial investors, astute consumers, and others with an interest in financial markets, banking, and the macroeconomy.

Contrary to popular misperception, the Federal funds rate is NOT set by the Federal Reserve System, but rather determined by the interaction among borrowers and lenders in the Federal funds market. The Fed can influence the Federal funds rate through monetary policy, but it does not actually set the rate.

The Federal funds rate is a key benchmark rate for the banking system. In one sense, it represents the basic cost of obtaining funds, funds that can then be used for consumer and business loans. As such, other bank interest rates are invariably linked to the Federal funds rate. Should the Federal funds rate increase, then interest rates on car loans, construction loans, mortgage loans, and others will also increase.

And Monetary Policy

The Federal funds market is critical to the conduct of modern monetary policy. The Federal Reserve System manipulates the total quantity of Federal funds (that is, Federal Reserve deposits) in the course of monetary policy. If the Fed seeks expansionary monetary policy, then it adds Federal funds. If it pursues contractionary monetary policy, then it reduces Federal funds.

This manipulation of Federal funds results in a change in the Federal funds rate. Expansionary monetary policy results in a lower Federal funds rate and contractionary monetary policy causes a higher rate. The connection between monetary policy and the Federal funds rate is so close than many people erroneously assume that the Fed is in direct control of the Federal funds rate. This is not true. The Fed does not directly control the Federal funds rate. It merely manipulates the rate by influencing the Federal funds market through open market operations.


Recommended Citation:

FEDERAL FUNDS MARKET, AmosWEB Encyclonomic WEB*pedia,, AmosWEB LLC, 2000-2021. [Accessed: October 19, 2021].

Check Out These Related Terms...

     | Federal funds | Federal funds rate | Federal Reserve System | reserve requirements | monetary policy | Federal Open Market Committee | Federal Reserve Banks | monetary economics | open market operations | discount rate | tight money | easy money | expansionary monetary policy | contractionary monetary policy | bank balance sheet |

Or For A Little Background...

     | Federal Reserve deposits | bank reserves | vault cash | fractional-reserve banking | banks | money | bank panic | check clearing | money creation | macroeconomics | monetary base | monetary aggregates | macroeconomic goals | market | financial markets |

And For Further Study...

     | central bank | Federal Reserve pyramid | Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System | Chairman of the Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System | Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation | Comptroller of the Currency | business cycles | unemployment | inflation | barter | aggregate market | gross domestic product | circular flow | goldsmith money creation |

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

     | Federal Reserve System |

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