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What is a Credit Crunch?

A credit crunch is when access to liquidity dries up dramatically in rapid fashion, or becomes less accessible due to a spike in borrowing rates. Central banks will often step-in to try and curb the lack of liquidity by offering the markets access to cash at lower than market rates, in the event of a crisis. Perhaps the most famous credit crunch in history occurred in late 2007 and early 2008, when bank balance sheets became highly leveraged overnight due to mark-to-market accounting rules that were applied to the mortgage backed security portfolios on their balance sheets. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Reserve Bank?

The Federal Reserve banking system was created in 1913, the same year that income taxes were added to the US Constitution. 12 regional Fed banks were established, each of which plays a role in monitoring and implementing interventions to the flow of money in the economy. The Federal Reserve Bank is a 12-bank system in the United States that plays the role of the country’s central bank. Central banks in other countries are typically part of the government and print the actual currency, but in this case the Fed is independent of the actual US government, and the Treasury Department technically prints the money. Continue reading...

What is Deflation?

Deflation is an economic term used to describe a trend of broad-based price declines for goods and services. Deflation is generally considered a big negative in the realm of economics. If a country is experiencing deflation, it is usually because demand for goods has fallen substantially, pushing prices down. It can also be tied to falling investment and government spending, both factors that signal weak demand in an economy. Continue reading...

What is foreign exchange intervention?

If a central bank takes actions that intentionally and artificially affect the value of a currency, particularly its own, it is engaging in what is known as a Foreign Exchange Intervention, or an interventionist policy. Central banks occasionally use interventions in foreign exchange markets to achieve a desirable end. The banks will intentionally make trades and hold certain amounts of currencies or derivatives with the sole purpose of manipulating the value of their domestic currency. The reasons for that manipulation might be to slow down inflation or to make their county’s exports look more attractive by pushing the value of their currency lower. Continue reading...

What is Stagflation?

Stagflation is the occurrence of both stagnation, which is slowing growth and production levels, and inflation, which is the increase of the average cost of goods. If production costs rise for some reason, such as higher oil prices, it can cause economic growth to slow down and the supply of goods in the market to drop. This is known as stagnation. The weakened supply of goods in the market and the higher production costs of the goods will cause the retail prices of the good in the market to go up. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Funds Rate?

The federal funds rate is the overnight rate at which commercial lenders lend excess reserves to other institutions, on an un-collateralized basis. This term is unique to the United States, though other central banks around the world also have an overnight rate. The federal funds rate is a closely watched and crucial rate for determining how easy capital is to access. The lower the fed funds rate, the more accessible the Federal Reserve is trying to make cash - to inspire banks to borrow and lend. The opposite is also true, where the Fed may raise the fed funds rate if an economy is overheating or lending needs to be curbed. Continue reading...

What is currency substitution?

Currency Substitution can be an official or ad hoc occurrence in a country whose commerce is partially, or fully, conducted using the currency of another country. Some currencies which are pegged to another currency at a fixed rate (especially at whole integers) are domestically exchanged in the same manner that the local currency is. Many countries have completely adopted the currency of another country, and do not have a central bank of their own. Continue reading...

What is Demand?

Demand is a measure of consumer’s desire to purchase goods and services. High demand for a product typically puts upward pressure on price, and vice versa. Demand is a key metric in reading price trends and a company’s ability to set price point. Weaker demand on a global macro level implies that countries are investing less, developing less, and therefore focused less on growth. Sustained downtrends in demand will generally lead to recessionary conditions. Often times, central banks will try to step-in and stoke demand by lowering the cost of money (interest rates). Continue reading...

What is Monetary Policy?

Monetary policy is the stance of the central bank at any given time regarding the tightening or loosening of rates, or the issuance of new currency denominations, that will affect the money supply in the country. Monetary policy is the prerogative of the central bank but may be influenced by congress as well as private banking institutions and the central banks of other countries. The goal of monetary policy is to keep the Federal Funds Rate or the LIBOR, or whatever it might be depending on the country, at just the right level to keep the economy going in the direction that will be most helpful. Continue reading...

What is the Interbank Rate?

The interbank rate is the average lending rate used between banks of comparable size and creditworthiness when they borrow money from each other. The Federal Funds Rate is the benchmark in America, while LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) is more prevalent elsewhere. These are indexes which are used to determine rates and terms for other financial instruments and swaps. The Prime Rate, or the rate banks will used for their most credit-worthy customers, is tied to the interbank rate but is slightly higher of course. In America the Federal Funds Rate is so called because the Central bank participates in the lending. This is sometimes called the overnight rate when it refers to money that is lent between banks overnight. Continue reading...

What is Accommodative Monetary Policy?

Accommodative monetary policy is when a central bank makes it easier for banks and consumers to borrow money by lowering the interbank exchange rate. A central bank, such as the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States, can influence the economy by loosening or tightening the money supply. Loosening the money supply is known as accommodative policy, because it give the businesses and individuals in the country access to a higher degree of liquidity. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Reserve System?

The Federal Reserve System was established by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which created a network of reserve banks that could help to prevent economic meltdowns by serving as a regulator and a source of funds. There are 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks which monitor banks in their jurisdiction and make loans when necessary. The Federal Reserve System is sometimes referred to as one bank, but it is in fact a network of 12 banks with 24 branches, overseen by a Board with members nominated by the US Government. Continue reading...

What is an Investment Bank?

An investment bank is a financial institution that typically specializes in large, complex transactions, such as underwriting an Initial Public Offering (IPO), mergers and acquisitions, direct investment into start-up firms, or advising large institutional clients on investments/transactions. In short, investment banks help create the bridge between large enterprises and the investor. In that sense, IPOs are one way to accomplish this, but they also help businesses secure financing in other ways, such as through bond issues or derivative products. Continue reading...

What is a Bank Guarantee?

When a lending institution offers a Bank Guarantee, they are reducing the risk involved in a transaction by guaranteeing payment to the seller. Bank Guarantees often come into play with deals made internationally, where the participants in the deal prefer to have some assurances before they do business. The guarantee acts as insurance to protect the parties involved in transactions where they are not fully able to assess the strength and reliability of the other, such as when small companies bid for projects or when bids for a job come-in from around the world. Continue reading...

What is Investment Banking?

Investment banking activity is different than traditional banking. Investment banks often serve as intermediaries that underwrite a new issue of stock and help to distribute it. They also trade in their own accounts, run hedge funds, and generally invest and speculate in ways that most institutions can’t. Investment banks can assist with new issues of stocks and bonds, purchasing large blocks of them to distribute at a premium. Continue reading...

What are Bank Deposits?

Deposits are cash, checks, and electronic transfers that banking customers put into their personal or corporate bank accounts. Deposits will increase the balance, or pay off a debt, within a bank account. Deposits may not show up on an account balance until they have cleared from the institution or account from which the check is written or the electronic transfer was requested. The types of accounts that can receive bank deposits include but are not limited to checking, savings, and money market accounts. Bank Certificates of Deposit (CDs) can be purchased with an initial deposit that satisfied minimum amount. Deposits are considered liabilities on the balance sheet of the bank, since they are obligated to pay that money out when a customer requests it. Continue reading...

What is a Bank Draft?

The truest definition of a Bank Draft is a check written with the certification of a customer’s bank. Bank Drafts are checks also known as Bank Checks and Cashier’s Checks. They have already been cleared at the writing institution and they provide an extra endorsement that the payment is good. Regular personal checks do not need to be co-signed or verified before they are used as payment, whether or not there is enough money in an account to cover it. Continue reading...

What is Bank Credit?

Bank Credit is the amount of loaned capital that an individual or business is capable of getting from a bank at a given time. This amount will be based on a series of evaluative metrics such as the total amount of assets an individual has, home equity, income, liquid net worth, work history, credit rating, and so forth. An individual can only borrow so much at a time, and, using these variables, a banker can essentially estimate how much credit could be extended that a given individual at that time. Continue reading...

What is a market neutral fund?

Market neutral funds might be hedge funds or mutual funds or ETFs whose strategy is not based on bullish or bearish market predictions but instead seeks to be in a position to profit whether the market goes up or down. Most mutual funds and ETFs out there are inherently bullish — you invest in those funds because you believe or hope that the industry or geographic region or cap-size that they invest in will grow in the future. Some funds offer bears a place to hole-up when the bubble inevitably bursts (or so they think). Continue reading...

What are Accounting Controls?

Internal control systems and procedures can ensure the accuracy and reliability of financial accounts at a business. Accounting controls are meant to ensure that the numbers being put onto the books are accurate. Internal controls are the practices that employees are trained to do, and may be audited on, which general involve some oversight or double-checking to filter out mistakes. This not only prevents mistakes, but also malfeasance, embezzlement and fraud. Accounting done wrong can result in criminal penalties, bankruptcy, and tax problems. Continue reading...