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Monetary Base


The monetary base, also known as high-powered money, base money, or the money supply’s reserve base, refers to the total volume of a country’s currency that is either circulated within the public or stored in the banks’ vaults. It consists of coins, paper money, and bank reserves with the central bank. Managed by the nation’s central bank, it serves as the foundation for the banking system to create loans and make investments.


The phonetics for the keyword “Monetary Base” is: /mɒ’nɪˈtɛri beɪs/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: The Monetary Base, also known as central bank money or base money, represents the total amount of currency available to central banks for monetary operations. It includes physical money—both that which is easily accessible, held by the public and in the banks—as well as the money that’s exclusively held in the vaults of central banks.
  2. Significance: The Monetary Base is a key indicator of a country’s economic health and monetary policy. Its comparison over time gives a clear picture of how a country’s banking system is growing, whether it’s stable, and what kind of measures the central bank is employing to control or stimulate the economy.
  3. Central Bank’s control: Central bank has control over the Monetary Base, primarily through operations like buying or selling government bonds (open market operations), altering bank reserve requirements, or changing the interest rate paid on reserves. These practices influence overall money supply in the economy, demonstrating the significant connection between Monetary Base and economic policy.


The business/finance term ‘Monetary Base’ is of crucial importance as it represents the total amount of a currency that is either in general circulation in the hands of the public or in the commercial bank deposits held in the central bank’s reserves. This measure allows central banks to monitor and control the size of a country’s money supply, which is essentially the first element in monetary policies. The monetary base can influence economic conditions, including inflation rates, unemployment, and the growth performance of a nation’s economy, and can be expanded or contracted to stimulate or slow down economic activities. Central banks manage this figure to maintain a safe, functioning economic environment.


The Monetary Base, also known as the money base or base money, is an integral economic measure that is used as a benchmark to predict and maintain appropriate economic performance. It is essentially the sum of currency in circulation and the reserves of banks with the central bank. The primary purpose of monitoring and controlling the monetary base is to manage the economy’s liquidity, stabilize inflation, conduct macroeconomic policy, and influence lending and borrowing rates. Central banks use the monetary base as a tool for implementing monetary policy.The expansion or contraction of the monetary base can influence the overall economy. For instance, if a central bank wants to stimulate economic growth, it can increase the monetary base, providing banks with more reserves, which in turn they can use to make loans, propagating business activity. On the contrary, if there is much inflation, the central bank may choose to contract the monetary base, reducing the reserves of banks, which can then reduce the amount of loans banks can give out, thereby slowing down the economy. So, the monetary base plays a pivotal role in facilitating the central bank to influence the nation’s economic conditions.


1. Federal Reserve Operations: The Federal Reserve, US’s central bank, has direct control over the monetary base. It may decide to increase the money supply to stimulate the economy in a period of recession. This can happen through a process called open market operations, where the Federal Reserve purchases government bonds from financial institutions, increasing the reserves that banks have available to lend, which effectively increases the size of the monetary base.2. Quantitative Easing: Following the 2008 Financial crisis, many central banks around the world, like the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, engaged in a process known as Quantitative Easing (QE). This is a form of unconventional monetary policy where a central bank purchases longer-term securities from the open market in order to increase the money supply and encourage lending and investment. This directly expanded their respective monetary bases as a way to jump-start economies severely affected by the crisis.3. Cash in Circulation: During festive seasons, such as Christmas or Chinese New Year, the demand for physical cash often rises as people tend to withdraw more money for shopping and gift-giving. Central Banks will cater to this demand by releasing more cash in circulation, which also temporarily increases the monetary base. Conversely, when plastic money (credit/debit cards) and digital transactions become more popular, the need for physical cash reduces, influencing the decrease in the monetary base.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Monetary Base?

The monetary base, also known as the money base, is the total amount of a currency that is either in general circulation in the hands of the public or in the commercial banks’ reserves held in the central bank’s reserves.

How is the Monetary Base measured?

The monetary base is typically measured as the sum of currency notes, coins in circulation, and the amount of commercial banks’ reserves held with the central bank.

Who controls the size of the Monetary Base?

The size of the monetary base in a country is controlled by the central bank of that country.

What is the relationship between the Monetary Base and inflation?

If the monetary base is increased by the central bank, it can potentially lead to inflation. This is because more money in circulation can decrease the overall value of the currency.

How does the Monetary Base differ from M1, M2, and M3 money supply?

The monetary base is significantly narrower than M1, M2, and M3. These are measures of the money supply that include other forms of money like checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts.

How does the Monetary Base affect the economy?

Alterations in the monetary base can have a significant effect on the economy. If a central bank increases the monetary base, it can stimulate economic growth. However, if the monetary base is increased excessively or too quickly, it might result in inflation.

Can the Monetary Base be decreased?

Yes, the central bank has the ability to decrease the monetary base, usually by selling government securities, in an event it wants to reduce the amount of money in circulation.

How is the Monetary Base used as a monetary policy tool?

Central banks can use the monetary base as a tool for implementing monetary policy. By adjusting the monetary base, a central bank can influence liquidity, interest rates, and hence, overall economic activity.

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