DEFINITION of 'Monetary Reserve'

A nation's assets held in a foreign currency and/or commodities like gold and silver. Monetary reserves are used to back up the national currency and to provide a cushion for executing central banking functions like adding to the money supply and settling foreign exchange contracts in local currencies.

BREAKING DOWN 'Monetary Reserve'

When the United States was using the Bretton Woods inspired monetary system, only gold was used as a monetary reserve, a structural problem that most saw as a roadblock to future economic growth. The U.S. dollar is now a fiat currency (not pegged to gold reserves), and even though the Federal Reserve Banks keep a large amount of reserves, most of what is held today is used for settling short-term currency contracts and for liquidity activities for the domestic economy.

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