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This glossary provides basic definitions of terms. Readers looking for more comprehensive explanations may want to consult other resources, including economics, banking, and finance textbooks. The source for some of these definitions is The Federal Reserve System Purposes & Functions, which is available at www.federalreserve.gov/pf/pdf/pf_complete.pdfPDF External Link.

  • Agreement Corporation
    Corporation chartered by a state to engage in international banking; so named because the corporation enters into an "agreement" with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to limit its activities to those permitted an Edge Act corporation. Typically organized as a subsidiary of a bank, an agreement corporation may conduct activities abroad that are permissible to foreign banks abroad but that may not otherwise be permissible for U.S. banks. (Compare Edge Act Corporation.)
  • Automated Clearinghouse (ACH)
    Electronic clearing and settlement system for exchanging electronic credit and debit transactions among participating depository institutions. The Federal Reserve Banks operate an automated clearinghouse, as do private organizations.
  • Bank for International Settlements (BIS)
    International organization established in 1930 and based in Basel, Switzerland, that serves as a forum for central banks for collecting information, developing analyses, and cooperating on a wide range of policy-related matters; also provides certain financial services to central banks.
  • Bank Holding Company
    Company that owns, or has controlling interest in, one or more banks. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is responsible for regulating and supervising bank holding companies, even if the bank owned by the holding company is under the primary supervision of a different federal agency (i.e., the Comptroller of the Currency or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).
  • Bank Holding Company Act of 1956
    Federal legislation that establishes the legal framework under which bank holding companies operate and places the formation of bank holding companies and their acquisition of banking and nonbanking interests under the supervision of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Banking Organization
    A bank holding company (consolidated to include all of its subsidiary banks and nonbank subsidiaries) or an independent bank (a bank that is not owned or controlled by a bank holding company).
  • Bank Regulation
    Actions to make and issue rules and regulations and enforce those rules and other laws governing the structure and conduct of banking.
  • Bank Supervision
    Oversight of individual banks to ensure that they are operating prudently and in accordance with applicable statutes and regulations.
  • Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
    An international committee of bank supervisors, associated with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), that is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, and is composed of bank supervisors from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. See Bank for International Settlements (BIS).
  • Basel I
    Informal name for the 1988 agreement — the International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards — under which national bank supervisors for the first time agreed on an international framework for capital adequacy guidelines. Also known as the Basel Accord.
  • Basel II
    Informal name for the 2004 agreement updating the Basel Accord. Also known as the New Basel Accord, Basel II has three pillars: minimum capital requirements, supervisory oversight, and market discipline.
  • Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
    Central governmental agency of the Federal Reserve System, located in Washington, D.C., and composed of seven members who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Board, with other components of the System, has responsibilities associated with the conduct of monetary policy, the supervision and regulation of certain banking organizations, the operation of much of the nation’s payments system, and the administration of many federal laws that protect consumers in credit transactions. The Board also supervises the Federal Reserve Banks.
  • Book-Entry Securities
    Securities that are recorded in electronic records, called book entries, rather than as paper certificates. (Compare Definitive Securities.)
  • Call Report
    Informal name for the quarterly Consolidated Report of Condition and Income.
  • Capital
    In banking, the funds invested in a bank that are available to absorb loan losses or other problems and therefore protect depositors. Capital includes all equity and some types of debt. Bank regulators have developed two definitions of capital for supervisory purposes: tier 1 capital, which can absorb losses while a bank continues operating, and tier 2 capital, which may be of limited life and may carry an interest obligation or other characteristics of a debt obligation, and therefore provides less protection to depositors than tier 1 capital.
  • Capital Market
    The market in which corporate equity and longer-term debt securities (those maturing in more than one year) are issued and traded. (Compare Money Market.)
  • Central Bank
    Principal monetary authority of a nation that performs several key functions, including conducting monetary policy to stabilize the economy and level of prices. The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States.
  • Check Clearing
    The movement of a check from the depository institution at which it was deposited back to the institution on which it was written, the movement of funds in the opposite direction, and the corresponding credit and debit to the accounts involved. Check clearing also encompasses the return of a check (for insufficient funds, for example) from the bank on which it was written to the bank at which it was deposited, and the corresponding movement of funds. The Federal Reserve Banks operate a nationwide check-clearing system.
  • Check Truncation
    The practice of removing an original paper check from the check-clearing process and sending in its place an alternative paper or electronic version of the essential information about the check.
  • Clearing
    General term that may refer to check clearing or to the process of matching trades between the sellers and buyers of securities and other financial instruments and contracts.
  • Commercial Bank
    Bank that offers a variety of deposit accounts, including checking, savings, and time deposits, and extends loans to individuals and businesses. Commercial banks can be contrasted with investment banking firms, which generally are involved in arranging for the sale of corporate or municipal securities, and broker–dealer firms, which buy and sell securities for themselves and others. (Compare Savings Bank.)
  • Commercial Paper
    Short-term, unsecured promissory note issued by an industrial or commercial firm, a financial company, or a foreign government.
  • Consolidated Report of Condition and Income
    Quarterly financial report that all banks, savings and loan associations, Edge and agreement corporations, and certain other types of organizations must file with a federal regulatory agency; informally called a Call Report.
  • Contractual Clearing Balance
    An amount a depository institution may contract to maintain in its account at a Federal Reserve Bank in addition to any reserve balance requirement. This amount helps to ensure that the institution can meet its daily transaction obligations without overdrawing its account. Balances maintained to satisfy the contractual clearing balance earn credits that can be used to pay for services provided by the Federal Reserve Banks.
  • Corporate Bond
    Interest-bearing or discounted debt obligation issued by a private corporation.
  • Correspondent Bank
    Bank that accepts the deposits of, and performs services for, another bank (called a respondent bank).
  • Credit Risk
    The risk that economic loss will result from the failure of an obligor to repay financial institutions according to the terms and conditions of a contract or agreement.
  • Credit Union
    Financial cooperative organization whose membership consists of individuals who have a common bond, such as place of employment or residence or membership in a labor union. Credit unions accept deposits from members, pay interest (in the form of dividends) on the deposits out of earnings, and use their funds mainly to provide consumer installment loans to members.
  • Currency
    Paper money that consists mainly of Federal Reserve notes. Other types of currency that were once issued by the United States include silver certificates, United States notes, and national banknotes.
  • Daylight Overdraft
    A negative balance in an institution's Federal Reserve Bank account at any time during the operating hours of the Fedwire Funds Service.
  • Daylight-Overdraft Posting Rules
    A schedule used to determine the timing of debits and credits to an institution's Federal Reserve Bank account for various transactions processed by the Reserve Banks.
  • Definitive Securities
    Securities that are recorded on engraved paper certificates and payable to the bearers or to specific, registered owners. (Compare Book-Entry Securities.)
  • Demand Deposit
    A deposit that the depositor has a right to withdraw at any time without prior notice to the depository institution. By law, no interest can be paid on such deposits. Demand deposits are commonly offered in the form of checking accounts.
  • Depository Institution
    Financial institution that makes loans and obtains its funds mainly through accepting deposits from the public; includes commercial banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions.
  • Derivative
    A financial instrument whose value depends upon the characteristics and value of an underlying commodity, currency, or security.
  • Discounting
    Practice of extending credit in which the borrower endorses a negotiable instrument or other commercial paper in the borrower's portfolio over to the lender in exchange for funds from the lender in the amount of the instrument's face value less the interest due over the term of the loan, that is, the "discounted" value.
  • Discount Rate
    Officially the primary credit rate, it is the interest rate at which an eligible depository institution may borrow funds, typically for a short period, directly from a Federal Reserve Bank. The law requires that the board of directors of each Reserve Bank establish the discount rate every 14 days, subject to review and determination by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Discount Window (The Window)
    Figurative expression for the Federal Reserve facility that extends credit directly to eligible depository institutions (those subject to reserve requirements); so named because, in the early days of the Federal Reserve System, bankers would come to a Reserve Bank teller window to obtain credit.
  • Discount Window Credit
    Credit extended by a Federal Reserve Bank to an eligible depository institution. All discount window borrowing must be secured by collateral. Three types of discount window credit are available to eligible depository institutions:
    • Primary Credit
      Credit extended to generally sound depository institutions at a rate above the target federal funds rate on a very short-term basis as a backup source of funding.
    • Secondary Credit
      Credit extended to depository institutions ineligible for primary credit, at a rate above the primary credit rate, either on a very short-term basis (when consistent with a timely return to market sources of funds) or for a longer term (to facilitate the orderly resolution of serious financial difficulties).
    • Seasonal Credit
      Credit extended by a Federal Reserve Bank to depository institutions that have difficulty raising funds in national money markets to help meet temporary needs for funds resulting from regular, seasonal fluctuations in loans and deposits. The interest rate charged is based on market rates.
  • Easing
    Federal Reserve action to lower the federal funds rate. The action is undertaken when economic activity needs to be stimulated. (Compare Tightening.)
  • Edge Act Corporation (or Edge Corporation)
    Corporation chartered by the Federal Reserve to engage in international banking. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System acts on applications to establish Edge Act corporations and also examines the corporations and their subsidiaries. Typically organized as a subsidiary of a bank, an Edge Act corporation may conduct activities abroad that are permissible to foreign banks abroad but that may not otherwise be permissible to U.S. banks. Named after Senator Walter Edge of New Jersey, who sponsored the original legislation to permit formation of such organizations. (Compare Agreement Corporation.)
  • Elastic Currency
    Currency that can, by the actions of the central monetary authority, expand or contract in amount when warranted by economic conditions.
  • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
    Transfer of funds electronically rather than by check or cash. The Federal Reserve's Fedwire Funds Service and automated clearinghouse service are EFT systems. (EFTs subject to the Electronic Funds Transfer Act are more narrowly defined.)
  • Eurocurrency Liabilities
    A generic term referring to liabilities in a bank located in a country other than the one that issues the currency in which the liability is denominated. Despite its name, eurocurrency need not be a liability of a European banking office nor denominated in European currency. Not to be confused with the euro, the name of the common currency of 17 (as of 2013) European Union countries.
  • Eurodollar Deposits
    Dollar-denominated deposits in banks and other financial institutions outside of the United States; includes deposits at banks not only in Europe but in all parts of the world.
  • Excess Reserves
    Amount of funds held by an institution in its account at a Federal Reserve Bank in excess of its required reserve balance and its contractual clearing balance.
  • Federal Advisory Council
    Advisory group made up of one representative (in most cases a banker) from each of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts. Established by the Federal Reserve Act, the council meets periodically with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to discuss business and financial conditions and to make recommendations.
  • Federal Agency Securities
    Interest-bearing obligations issued by federal agencies and government-sponsored entities, such as the Federal Home Loan Banks, the Federal Farm Credit Banks, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Some federal agency securities are backed by the U.S. government, while others are not.
  • Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC)
    Group of representatives of the federal banking regulatory agencies — the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the National Credit Union Administration — established to help maintain uniform standards for examining and supervising federally insured depository institutions.
  • Federal Funds Rate
    Rate charged by a depository institution on an overnight loan of federal funds to another depository institution; rate may vary from day to day and from bank to bank.
  • Federal Funds Transaction
    Short-term transaction in immediately available funds — between a depository institution and another institution that maintains an account with the Federal Reserve — that involves lending balances at the Federal Reserve; usually not collateralized.
  • Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC, or the Committee)
    Twelve-voting-member committee made up of the seven members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and, on a rotating basis, the presidents of four other Reserve Banks. Nonvoting Reserve Bank presidents also participate in Committee deliberations and discussions. The FOMC generally meets eight times a year in Washington, D.C., to set the nation's monetary policy. It also establishes policy relating to System operations in the foreign exchange markets.
  • Federal Reserve Act
    Federal legislation, enacted in 1913, that established the Federal Reserve System.
  • Federal Reserve Balance
    The amount of funds held by a depository institution in its account at its Federal Reserve Bank.
  • Federal Reserve Bank
    One of the 12 operating arms of the Federal Reserve System, located throughout the nation, that together with their Branches carry out various System functions, including providing payment services to depository institutions, distributing the nation's currency and coin, supervising and regulating member banks and bank holding companies, and serving as a fiscal agent for the U.S. government.
  • Federal Reserve District (Reserve District, or District)
    One of the 12 geographic regions served by a Federal Reserve Bank.
  • Federal Reserve Float
    Float is credit that appears on the books of the depository institution of both the check writer (the payer) and the check receiver (the payee) while a check is being processed. Federal Reserve float is float that is present during the Federal Reserve Banks' check-clearing process. To promote efficiency in the payments system and provide certainty about the date that deposited funds will become available to the receiving depository institution (and the payee), the Federal Reserve Banks credit the accounts of banks that deposit checks according to a fixed schedule. However, processing certain checks and collecting funds from the banks on which these checks are written may take more time than the schedule allows. Therefore, the accounts of some banks may be credited before the Federal Reserve Banks are able to collect payment from other banks, resulting in Federal Reserve float.
  • Federal Reserve Note
    Paper currency issued by the Federal Reserve Banks. Most of the nation's circulating currency is in the form of Federal Reserve notes, which are printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Federal Reserve notes are obligations of the Federal Reserve Banks and legal tender for all debts.
  • Federal Reserve Regulatory Service
    Monthly subscription service that includes all statutes and regulations for which the Federal Reserve has responsibility, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System interpretations and rulings, official staff commentaries, significant staff opinions, and procedural rules under which the Board operates.
  • Federal Reserve System
    Created by the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States. It is made up of a seven-member Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., and the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks and their Branches.
  • Fedwire Funds Service
    Electronic funds transfer network operated by the Federal Reserve Banks. It is usually used to transfer large amounts of funds from one institution's account at the Federal Reserve to another institution's account. It is also used by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, other federal agencies, and government-sponsored enterprises to collect and disburse funds.
  • Fedwire Securities Service
    Electronic vault that stores records of book-entry securities holdings and a transfer and settlement mechanism used by depository institutions to transfer custody of book-entry securities from one depository institution to another. The securities on the Fedwire Securities Service include U.S. Treasury securities, U.S. agency securities, mortgage-backed securities issued by government-sponsored enterprises, and securities of certain international organizations.
  • Financial Holding Company
    A bank holding company that has met the capital, managerial, and other requirements to take advantage of the expanded affiliations allowed under the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act.
  • Financial Institution
    Institution that uses its funds chiefly to purchase financial assets, such as loans or securities (as opposed to tangible assets, such as real estate). Financial institutions can be separated into two major groups according to the nature of the principal claims they issue: (1) depository institutions (also called depository intermediaries), such as commercial banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions, which obtain funds largely by accepting deposits from the public and (2) nondepositories (sometimes called nondepository intermediaries), such as life insurance and property-casualty insurance companies and pension funds, whose claims are the policies they sell or their promise to provide income after retirement.
  • Fiscal Agency Services
    Services performed by the Federal Reserve Banks for the U.S. government and other organizations, including maintaining accounts for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, paying checks and making electronic payments on behalf of the Treasury, and selling and redeeming marketable Treasury securities and savings bonds.
  • Fiscal Policy
    Federal government policy regarding taxation and spending, set by Congress and the President.
  • Flexible Exchange Rate
    Arrangements in which the rate of exchange between countries' currencies (the foreign exchange rate) is allowed to fluctuate in response to market forces of supply and demand.
  • Foreign Currency Operation
    Transaction in the foreign exchange markets involving the purchase of the currency of one nation with that of another. Also called a foreign exchange transaction.
  • Foreign Exchange Intervention
    A foreign currency operation (see above) designed to influence the value of the dollar against foreign currencies, typically with the aim of stabilizing disorderly markets.
  • Foreign Exchange Markets
    Markets in which foreign currencies are purchased and sold.
  • Foreign Exchange Rate
    Price of the currency of one nation in terms of the currency of another nation.
  • Government Securities
    Securities issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury or federal agencies.
  • Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act
    Federal legislation that allowed affiliations among banks, securities firms, and insurance companies under a financial holding company structure. The act reaffirmed the Federal Reserve's role as the "umbrella supervisor" over organizations that control banks while also requiring that bank regulators and functional regulators supervise subsidiaries within a financial holding company.
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
    Total value of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States during a specific period.
  • Group of Seven (G-7)
    International group made up of seven leading industrial nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — whose finance ministers and central bank governors meet occasionally to discuss economic policy.
  • Interest Rate Risk
    Risk of gain or loss in the value of a portfolio as a result of changes in market interest rates.
  • International Banking Facility
    A bank located in the United States that has specially designated activities that are treated similar to those of an offshore bank by U.S. regulatory authorities. Dollar deposits in such a facility are considered to be Eurodollars.
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF)
    International organization established for lending funds to member nations to promote international monetary cooperation among nations, to facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade, and to finance temporary balance-of-payments deficits, usually in conjunction with macroeconomic adjustment programs.
  • Liquidity
    Quality that makes an asset easily convertible into cash with relatively little loss of value in the conversion process. Sometimes used more broadly to encompass cash and credit in hand and promises of credit to meet needs for cash.
  • Liquidity Risk
    In banking, the risk that a depository institution will not have sufficient cash or liquid assets to meet the claims of depositors and other creditors.
  • M1
    Measure of the U.S. money stock that consists of currency held by the public, traveler's checks, demand deposits, and other checkable deposits.
  • M2
    Measure of the U.S. money stock that consists of M1, savings deposits (including money market deposit accounts), time deposits in amounts of less than $100,000, and balances in retail money market mutual funds. Excludes individual retirement account (IRA) and Keough balances at depository institutions and retail money funds.
  • M3
    Measure of the U.S. money stock that consists of M2, time deposits of $100,000 or more at all depository institutions, repurchase agreements in amounts of $100,000 or more, Eurodollars, and balances held in institutional money market mutual funds.
  • Margin Requirement
    Buying on margin refers to buying stocks or securities with borrowed money (usually borrowed from a brokerage firm or bank). The margin requirement is the minimum amount (expressed as a percentage) the buyer must put up (rather than borrow). The Federal Reserve Board sets margin requirements.
  • Market Interest Rates
    Rates of interest determined by the interaction of the supply of and demand for funds in freely functioning markets.
  • Market Risk
    The risk that a banking organization may incur losses due to the change in market value of an asset or liability on its balance sheet.
  • Member Bank
    Depository institution that is a member of the Federal Reserve System. All national banks are automatically members of the System; state-chartered banks may choose to apply to join the System.
  • Monetary Aggregates
    Aggregate measures through which the Federal Reserve monitors the nation's monetary assets: M1, M2, and M3.
  • Monetary Policy
    A central bank's actions to influence the availability and cost of money and credit, as a means of helping to promote national economic goals. Tools of monetary policy include open market operations, direct lending to depository institutions, and reserve requirements.
  • Monetize
    Action in which a central bank purchases an object that is not money (for example, gold) and pays for it by creating balances at the central bank. The action permits an increase in the money stock.
  • Money
    Anything that serves as a generally accepted medium of exchange, a standard of value, and a means of saving or storing purchasing power. In the United States, currency (the bulk of which is Federal Reserve notes) and coin as well as funds in deposit accounts at depository institutions are examples of money.
  • Money Market
    Figurative expression for the informal network of dealers and investors over which short-term debt securities are purchased and sold. Money market securities generally are highly liquid securities that mature in less than one year, often in less than 90 days. (Compare Capital Market.)
  • Money Stock
    Total quantity of money available for transactions and investment; measures of the U.S. money stock include M1, M2, and M3. (Also referred to as the money supply or, simply, money.)
  • Mutual Savings Bank
    Savings bank owned by its depositors (as contrasted with a stock savings bank, which issues common stock to the public).
  • National Bank
    A commercial bank that is chartered by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury; by law, national banks are members of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Net Debit Cap
    The maximum uncollateralized daylight-overdraft position that a depository institution is permitted to incur in its Federal Reserve Bank account at any point in the day or on average over a two-week period.
  • Nominal Interest Rate
    Current stated rate of interest paid or earned. (Compare Real Interest Rate.)
  • Nonmember Bank
    State-chartered commercial bank that is not a member of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Nonpersonal Time Deposit
    Time deposit held by a depositor other than an individual (for example, a corporation).
  • Official Foreign Exchange Reserves
    Assets denominated in foreign currencies held by a country's monetary authorities (in the United States, held by the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Treasury Department).
  • Open Market
    Freely competitive market.
  • Open Market Operations
    Purchases and sales of securities, typically U.S. Treasury securities, in the open market, by the Open Market Trading Desk at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as directed by the Federal Open Market Committee, to influence interest rates. Purchases increase the supply of Federal Reserve balances to depository institutions; sales do the opposite.
  • Outright Transaction
    "Permanent" purchase or sale of securities in the open market, or the redemption of securities, by the Federal Reserve to adjust the supply of balances at the Federal Reserve Banks over the long term. (Contrasts with a transaction intended to adjust the supply of balances only temporarily. See Repurchase Agreement and Reverse Repurchase Agreement.)
  • Over the Counter
    Figurative term for the means of trading securities that are not listed on an organized stock exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange. Over-the-counter trading is done by broker–dealers who communicate by telephone and computer networks.
  • Paper
    General term for short-term debt instruments such as commercial paper.
  • Payments System
    Collective term for mechanisms (both paper-based and electronic) for moving funds, payments, and money among financial institutions throughout the nation. The Federal Reserve plays a major role in the nation's payments system through the distribution of currency and coin, the processing of checks, and the electronic transfer of funds; various private organizations also perform payments system functions.
  • Portfolio
    Collection of loans or assets, classified by type of borrower or asset. For example, a bank's portfolio might include loans, investment securities, and assets managed in trust; the loan portfolio might include commercial, mortgage, and consumer installment loans.
  • Presentment Fee
    Fee that a bank receiving a check imposes on the bank collecting payment.
  • Prompt Corrective Action
    Supervisory framework, created under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991, that links enforcement actions closely to the level of capital held by banks.
  • Real Interest Rate
    Interest rate adjusted for the expected erosion of purchasing power resulting from inflation. Technically defined as the nominal interest rate minus the expected rate of inflation. (Compare Nominal Interest Rate.)
  • Reciprocal Currency (Swap) Arrangement
    Short-term reciprocal arrangement between a Federal Reserve Bank and an individual foreign central bank. By drawing on a swap the foreign central bank obtains dollars that can be used to conduct foreign exchange intervention in support of its currency or to lend to its domestic banking system to satisfy temporary liquidity demands. For the duration of the swap, the Federal Reserve Bank obtains an equivalent amount of foreign currency along with a commitment from the foreign central bank to repurchase the foreign currency at a preset exchange rate.
  • Repurchase Agreement (RP or Repo)
    A transaction in which the Federal Reserve enters into an agreement with a primary dealer to acquire securities from the dealer for a specified principal amount at an agreed-upon interest rate and to return the securities on a specified future date. The maturity date may be the next day or many days later, with the maximum length set by the FOMC. This transaction permits the Federal Reserve to increase the supply of Federal Reserve balances for the length of the agreement.
  • Required Reserve Balance
    That portion of its required reserves that a depository institution must hold in an account at a Federal Reserve Bank. This portion is the difference between the institution's reserve requirement and its vault cash.
  • Required Reserve Ratio
    The percentage of reservable liabilities that depository institutions must set aside in the form of reserves.
  • Required Reserves
    Funds that a depository institution is required to maintain in the form of vault cash or, if vault cash is insufficient to meet the requirement, in the form of a balance maintained directly with a Reserve Bank or indirectly with a pass-through correspondent bank. The required amount varies according to the required reserve ratios set by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the amount of reservable liabilities held by the institution.
  • Reservable Liabilities
    Those obligations on a depository institution's balance sheet that are subject to reserve requirements. Transaction deposits, nonpersonal time deposits, and Eurocurrency liabilities are all subject to reserve requirements; however, the required reserve ratios for nonpersonal time deposits and Eurocurrency liabilities are zero.
  • Reserve Requirements
    Requirements set by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for the amounts of certain liabilities that depository institutions must set aside in the form of reserves.
  • Reverse Repurchase Agreement
    A transaction — the opposite of a repurchase agreement — in which the Federal Reserve enters into an agreement with a primary dealer to sell securities from the System portfolio for a specified principal amount at an agreed-upon interest rate and to receive the securities back from the dealer on a specified future date. The maturity date may be the next day or many days later, with the maximum length set by the FOMC. This transaction permits the Federal Reserve to decrease the supply of Federal Reserve balances for the length of the agreement.
  • Savings and Loan Association (S&L)
    Historically, an S&L was a depository institution that accepted deposits mainly from individuals and invested heavily in residential mortgage loans; although still primarily residential lenders, S&Ls now have many of the powers of commercial banks.
  • Savings Bank
    Depository institution historically engaged primarily in accepting consumer savings deposits and in originating and investing in residential mortgage loans; now may offer checking-type deposits and make a wider range of loans. (Compare Commercial Bank.)
  • Savings Bond
    A nonmarketable debt obligation of the U.S. government. Savings bonds are available in both paper and book-entry form and can be purchased with an initial investment of as little as $25. Investors can purchase paper savings bonds in person from many depository institutions, by mail from a Reserve Bank or the U.S. Department of the Treasury, or online. Book-entry bonds are available from the U.S. Treasury online.
  • Securities
    Paper certificates (definitive securities) or electronic records (book-entry securities) evidencing ownership of equity (stocks) or debt obligations (bonds).
  • Securitization
    The process of packaging and selling similar financial instruments, such as loans and other receivables, in the form of asset-backed securities that can be traded on secondary markets. Securitization allows financial institutions to transfer some of the risks of ownership to parties more willing or able to manage them.
  • Self-Regulatory Organizations
    Associations of broker-dealers or others that have responsibility, under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to regulate their own members through the adoption and enforcement of rules of conduct for fair, ethical, and efficient practices. Examples include the National Association of Securities Dealers and the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Settlement
    In banking, the process of recording the debit and credit positions of two parties in a transfer of funds. Also, the delivery of securities by a seller and the payment by the buyer.
  • Shock
    Unanticipated or unusual event that has a noticeable impact on the economy or a financial system.
  • Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)
    Type of international reserve asset created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and allocated, on occasion, to the nations that are members of the IMF.
  • State Bank
    Bank that is chartered by a state; may or may not be a member of the Federal Reserve System.
  • Subsidiary
    Company that is controlled by another corporation (called the parent corporation), typically through stock ownership or voting control.
  • Substitute Check
    A paper reproduction of an original check that contains an image of the front and back of the original check and is suitable for automated processing, just as the original check is. The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, commonly known as Check 21, allows depository institutions to truncate original checks, process check information electronically, and deliver substitute checks to depository institutions if they require paper checks.
  • Swap
    An agreement between two parties to exchange cash flows of underlying securities. For example, in an interest rate swap, the most common type of swap, one party agrees to pay a fixed interest rate in return for receiving a variable rate from the other party.
  • Swap Arrangement
    See Reciprocal Currency (Swap) Arrangement.
  • System Open Market Account
    The Federal Reserve's portfolio of U.S. Treasury securities. Purchases and sales in this account — open market operations — are under the overall supervision of the manager of the System Open Market Account, subject to the policies and rules of the Federal Open Market Committee.
  • Systemic Risk
    Risk that a disruption at a firm, in a market segment, to a settlement system, or in a similar setting will cause widespread difficulties at other firms, in other market segments, or in the financial system as a whole.
  • Thrift Institution
    A general term encompassing savings banks, savings and loan associations, and credit unions.
  • Tightening
    Federal Reserve action to raise interest rates. Undertaken when inflation is a concern. (Compare Easing.)
  • Time Deposit
    Funds deposited in an account that has a fixed term to maturity and technically cannot be withdrawn before maturity without advance notice (for example, a certificate of deposit). Time deposits may earn interest.
  • Trading Desk (the Desk)
    The group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that conducts open market operations for the Federal Reserve System and intervenes in foreign currency markets for the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
  • Transaction Account
    A checking account or similar deposit account from which transfers of funds can be made. Demand deposit accounts, negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts, and credit union share draft accounts are examples of transaction accounts.
  • U.S. Treasury Securities
    Obligations of the U.S. government issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a means of borrowing money to meet government expenditures not covered by tax revenues. All marketable Treasury securities have a minimum purchase amount of $1,000 and are issued in $1,000 increments. There are three types of marketable Treasury securities: bills, notes, and bonds.
    • Treasury Bill (T-Bill)
      Short-term U.S. Treasury security having a maturity of up to one year. T-bills are sold at a discount. Investors purchase a bill at a price lower than the face value (for example, the investor might buy a $10,000 bill for $9,700); the return is the difference between the price paid and the amount received when the bill is sold or it matures (if held to maturity, the return on the T-bill in the example would be $300).
    • Treasury Note
      Intermediate-term security having a maturity of one to 10 years. Notes pay interest semiannually, and the principal is payable at maturity.
    • Treasury Bond
      Long-term security having a maturity of more than 10 years. Bonds pay interest semiannually, and the principal is payable at maturity. The U.S. Department of the Treasury also issues several types of nonmarketable securities, including savings bonds.
  • Vault Cash
    Cash on hand at a depository institution to meet day-to-day business needs, such as cashing checks for customers; can be used to satisfy the institution's reserve requirement.
  • Wire Transfer
    Electronic transfer of funds; usually involves large-dollar payments.
Footnote: This glossary gives basic definitions of terms. Readers who are looking for more comprehensive explanations may want to consult textbooks in economics, banking, and finance. The source for some of these definitions is The Federal Reserve Purposes & Functions.

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