What Is a Tight Monetary Policy?

Tight monetary policy is a course of action undertaken by a central bank such as the Federal Reserve to slow down overheated economic growth, to constrict spending in an economy that is seen to be accelerating too quickly, or to curb inflation when it is rising too fast.

The central bank tightens policy or makes money tight by raising short-term interest rates through policy changes to the discount rate, also known as the federal funds rate. Boosting interest rates increases the cost of borrowing and effectively reduces its attractiveness. Tight monetary policy can also be implemented via selling assets on the central bank's balance sheet to the market through open market operations.

Tight monetary policy is different from—but can be coordinated with—a tight fiscal policy, which is enacted by legislative bodies and includes raising taxes or decreasing government spending. When the Fed lowers rates and makes the environment easier to borrow, it is called quantitative easing, or QE.

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Tight Monetary Policy

Understanding Tight Monetary Policy

Central banks around the world use monetary policy to regulate specific factors within the economy. Central banks most often use the federal funds rate as a leading tool for regulating market factors.

The federal funds rate is used as a base rate throughout global economies. It refers to the rate at which federal banks lend to each other and is also known as the discount rate. An increase in the federal funds rate is followed by increases to the borrowing rates throughout the economy.

Tightening policy occurs when central banks raise the federal funds rate, and easing occurs when central banks lower the federal funds rate.

Rate increases make borrowing less attractive as interest payments increase. It affects all types of borrowing including personal loans, mortgages and interest rates on credit cards. An increase in rates also makes saving more attractive, as savings rates also increase in an environment with tightening policy.

A Benefit of Tight Monetary Policy: Open Market Treasury Sales

In a tightening policy environment, the Fed can also sell Treasuries on the open market in order to absorb some extra capital during a tightened monetary policy environment. This effectively takes capital out of the open markets as the Fed takes in funds from the sale with the promise of paying the amount back with interest.

In a tightening monetary policy environment, a reduction in the money supply is a factor that can significantly help to slow or keep the domestic currency from inflation. The Fed often looks at tightening monetary policy during times of strong economic growth.

An easing monetary policy environment serves the opposite purpose when tightening monetary policy. In an easing policy environment, the central bank lowers rates to stimulate growth in the economy. Lower rates lead consumers to borrow more, also effectively increasing the money supply.

Many global economies have lowered their federal funds rates to zero, and some global economies are in negative rate environments. Both zero and negative rate environments benefit the economy through easier borrowing. In an extreme negative rate environment, borrowers even receive interest payments, which can create significant demand for credit.