U.S. Monetary Policy: An Introduction

This site provides an introduction to U.S. monetary policy as it is currently conducted by answering a series of questions.

U.S. monetary policy affects all kinds of economic and financial decisions people make in this country—whether to get a loan to buy a new house or car or to start up a company, whether to expand a business by investing in a new plant or equipment, and whether to put savings in a bank, in bonds, or in the stock market, for example. Furthermore, because the U.S. is the largest economy in the world, its monetary policy also has significant economic and financial effects on other countries.

The object of monetary policy is to influence the performance of the economy as reflected in such factors as inflation, economic output, and employment. It works by affecting demand across the economy—that is, people’s and firms’ willingness to spend on goods and services.

While most people are familiar with the fiscal policy tools that affect demand—such as taxes and government spending—many are less familiar with monetary policy and its tools. Monetary policy is conducted by the Federal Reserve System, the nation’s central bank, and it influences demand mainly by raising and lowering short-term interest rates.

Last updated February 6, 2004