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Question of the Day What is a Central Bank?

A central bank, reserve bank, or monetary authority is a public institution that usually issues the currency, regulates the money supply, and controls the interest rates in a country. Central banks often also oversee the commercial banking system of their respective countries. In contrast to a commercial bank, a central bank possesses a monopoly on printing the national currency, which usually serves as the nation’s legal tender. Examples include the European Central Bank (ECB), the Federal Reserve of the United States, and the People’s Bank of China.

The primary function of a central bank is to provide the nation’s money supply, but more active duties include controlling interest rates (ie. price fixing), and acting as a lender of last resort to the banking sector during times of financial crisis (eg. bailouts). It may also have supervisory powers, intended to prevent banks and other financial institutions from reckless or fraudulent behaviour. Central banks in most developed nations are independent (ie. private) in that they operate under rules designed to render them free from political (ie. democratic) interference.

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