What is Money Supply?

The money supply is the entire stock of currency and other liquid instruments circulating in a country's economy as of a particular time. The money supply can include cash, coins, and balances held in checking and savings accounts, and other near money substitutes. Economists analyze the money supply as a key variable to understanding the macroeconomy and guiding macroeconomic policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Money Supply is the total quantity of money in circulation at a point in time.
  • Changes in the money supply are closely watched because of the relationship between money and macro economic variables such as inflation.
  • The money supply can be measured in a various ways using narrower or broader definitions of which classes of financial assets are considered to be money.
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Money Supply

Understanding Money Supply

Economists analyze the money supply and develop policies revolving around it through controlling interest rates and increasing or decreasing the amount of money flowing in the economy. Public and private sector analysis is performed because of the money supply's possible impacts on price level, inflation, and the business cycle. In the United States, the Federal Reserve policy is the most important deciding factor in the money supply. The money supply is also known as the money stock.

Effect of Money Supply on the Economy

An increase in the supply of money typically lowers interest rates, which in turn, generates more investment and puts more money in the hands of consumers, thereby stimulating spending. Businesses respond by ordering more raw materials and increasing production. The increased business activity raises the demand for labor. The opposite can occur if the money supply falls or when its growth rate declines.

Change in the money supply has long been considered to be a key factor in driving macroeconomic performance and business cycles. Macroeconomic schools of thought that focus heavily on the role of money supply include Irving Fisher's Quantity Theory of Money, Monetarism, and Austrian Business Cycle Theory.

Historically, measuring the money supply has shown that relationships exist between it and inflation and price levels. However, since 2000, these relationships have become unstable, reducing their reliability as a guide for monetary policy. Although money supply measures are still widely used, they are one of a wide array of economic data that economists and the Federal Reserve collects and reviews.

How Money Supply is Measured

The various types of money in the money supply are generally classified as Ms, such as M0, M1, M2 and M3, according to the type and size of the account in which the instrument is kept. Not all of the classifications are widely used, and each country may use different classifications. The money supply reflects the different types of liquidity each type of money has in the economy. It is broken up into different categories of liquidity or spendability.

M0 and M1, for example, are also called narrow money and include coins and notes that are in circulation and other money equivalents that can be converted easily to cash. M2 includes M1 and, in addition, short-term time deposits in banks and certain money market funds. M3 includes M2 in addition to long-term deposits. However, M3 is no longer included in the reporting by the Federal Reserve. MZM, or money zero maturity, is a measure that includes financial assets with zero maturity and that are immediately redeemable at par. The Federal Reserve relies heavily on MZM data because its velocity is a proven indicator of inflation.

Money supply data is collected, recorded and published periodically, typically by the country's government or central bank. The Federal Reserve in the United States measures and publishes the total amount of M1 and M2 money supplies on a weekly and monthly basis. They can be found online and are also published in newspapers. According to data from the Federal Reserve, as of March 2019 a little over $3.7 trillion in M1 money was in circulation, while almost $14.5 trillion in M2 money was circulating in the United States.