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Monetary Policy: Definition, Types, Instruments, Decision Making          

Monetary Policy: Definition, Types, Instruments, Decision Making

Monetary Policy: Definition, Types, Instruments, Decision Making
By Arjun Arjun Remesh | Reviewed by Shivam Shivam Gaba | Updated on December 29, 2023

Monetary policy decisions made by central banks have widespread implications for stock market performance. As the entity responsible for controlling the money supply and setting interest rates, a central bank’s policy adjustments are aimed at maintaining price stability and full employment. However, these moves also directly influence the cost of borrowing and risk-taking in financial markets. Lower interest rates stimulate business activity and make equities relatively more attractive investments. Conversely, higher rates have the inverse effects. Beyond interest rates, looser monetary conditions support ample liquidity conditions that fuel asset price appreciation. A tighter monetary policy removes this tailwind.

Given their profound impact on capital availability and discount rates used for valuation, shifts in monetary policy provide early signals about changes in macroeconomic momentum and corporate profitability ahead. Rate cuts often accompany weakening economies and ease financing constraints to boost revenues. Conversely, hikes imply stronger growth but also curb speculative flows. Forward guidance on future policy adjustments also shapes market expectations and risk appetites. Simply put, easier monetary policy tends to underpin rising equity prices as access to funds encourages investment, whereas restrictive conditions act as a headwind.

Due to these direct and indirect effects, stock indices routinely respond to central bank policy surprises. Investors closely monitor policymaker rhetoric and economic projections for clues about upcoming actions. Incorporating this macroeconomic input complements fundamental analysis of individual companies. It helps market participants position portfolios to benefit from policy-driven trends in line with the economic cycle. Understanding this relationship between monetary policy, interest rates, and stock market dynamics remains essential for effective long-term investing.

What is monetary policy?

Monetary policy refers to the actions taken by a country’s central bank, which is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in India, to influence economic growth and stability through controlling the supply of money and credit. The main goals of RBI’s monetary policy are to maintain price stability, ensure adequate flow of credit to productive sectors to support growth, and promote financial stability. The RBI uses various monetary policy tools to steer the economy, such as repo rates, reverse repo rates, bank reserve requirements, open market operations, etc.

For example, when the economy is slowing down, the RBI will lower interest rates and inject liquidity to boost credit flow and investment. It will do the opposite when the economy is overheating. Monetary policy impacts various sectors differently. Rate cuts help rate-sensitive sectors like housing, auto, and infrastructure by making borrowing cheaper. Rate hikes negatively impact such sectors. The RBI also uses monetary policy to manage inflationary pressures and ensure financial stability. 

What is the history behind monetary policy?

The history of monetary policy dates back to the 17th century when the concept of central banks manipulating the money supply and interest rates emerged to stabilize currencies and economies. Monetary policy has evolved significantly over centuries, from the crude practices of coin debasement to the sophisticated inflation-targeting regimes of modern central banks. This evolution has impacted stock markets and investors in various ways. Understanding this historical development provides essential context on the origins of how monetary policy affects equities today.

In ancient and medieval times, rulers would often alter the gold and silver content of coins to stretch their spending power, known as debasement. Reducing a currency’s intrinsic value led to inflation, raising input costs, and uncertainty for merchants and businesses, which negatively impacted economic growth and stock valuations during those eras. The Chinese Song Dynasty (960-1279) was the first to issue paper money, creating the banknote in 1024. However, excessive printing without restraint led to rampant hyperinflation that caused their currency to collapse by the 1200s. This demonstrated the dangers of unrestrained money supply growth for economies and markets. In 1694, the Bank of England was founded as the first central bank.

By controlling money issuance and interest rates, the BoE increased monetary stability. This allowed England’s economy and primitive stock market to develop with more continuity compared to previous volatile centuries. Britain also pioneered the gold standard in the 1700s, tying the British Pound to a fixed amount of gold. This reduced inflation and currency fluctuations, promoting trade and economic growth, which benefited the stock market. However, the gold standard limited money supply and monetary policy flexibility, which exacerbated downturns. In the United States, centralized banking began with the First Bank of the United States, chartered in 1791, followed by the Second Bank of 1816. However, America had no central bank from 1836 to 1913 due to political disputes over centralized power. This fueled frequent banking panics and stock market crashes due to currency instability. 

Finally, in 1913, the Federal Reserve System was created to regulate money and lending. However, the Fed’s policies aimed at defending the gold standard rather than managing the economy led to grave policy errors. Tightening rates to protect gold reserves exacerbated the early 1930s Great Depression and an 89% plunge in the Dow Jones. In 1944, at Bretton Woods, the global financial system was organized around pegged exchange rates to the dollar, which was pegged to gold. This system enabled stable growth in the postwar era but also forced countries to adjust policies to maintain their pegs, creating volatility frequently.

President Nixon ended the convertibility of dollars into gold in 1971, which transitioned major economies to floating exchange rates. This gave central banks more autonomy over domestic monetary policy and reduced a key source of instability for stock markets. In the 1970s, inflation surged due to oil shocks and unsound fiscal/monetary policies. This ravaged corporate profitability and stocks. In response, central banks like the Fed experimented with directly controlling money supply growth to reduce inflation.

However, this led to high interest rate volatility, which roiled equity markets. In the 1990s, central banks moved to inflation targeting, adjusting interest rates to meet explicit inflation goals like 2%. This provided much greater transparency and policy consistency for investors compared to previous regimes. It firmly established price stability as the priority for monetary policy. The 2001 dot-com crash and the 2007-2009 Great Financial Crisis prompted unusually aggressive rate cuts and quantitative easing by the Fed and other major central banks to support growth. While this buoyed stock markets, it also inflated new bubbles and distorted valuations.

What are the types of monetary policy?

The main types of monetary policy are expansionary and contractionary. Expansionary policy involves lower interest rates and increased money supply, which provides more liquidity and tends to push stock prices higher. The contractionary policy involves higher interest rates and reduced money supply, which makes borrowing more expensive, reduces liquidity, and leads to falling stock prices. 

What are the types of monetary policy
Monetary Policy: Definition, Types, Instruments, Decision Making 10


Contractionary monetary policy refers to steps taken by a central bank to constrict the overall money supply and availability of credit in an economy. The main tools for enacting contractionary policy are raising interest rates, selling government securities, and increasing reserve requirements for commercial banks. The primary goals are to slow economic growth and control inflation.

Contractionary monetary policy significantly impacts stock markets and share prices. Higher interest rates increase the cost of borrowed capital for companies. This reduces business investment spending on things like new facilities, equipment, hiring, and mergers and acquisitions. Since capital expenditures are a major driver of revenue and earnings growth, this tends to depress corporate profitability. With weaker earnings, valuations and share prices stagnate or decline.

Higher interest rates also deter individual investors from taking out margin loans to buy stocks, which reduces speculative demand. For consumers, increased interest rates raise the cost of borrowing for mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. This decreases the quantity and growth rate of consumer credit in the economy. Lower consumer spending power subsequently reduces revenues, earnings, and stock valuations across consumer discretionary and staples companies. It cascades through the economy as manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and service providers all experience slower demand when consumers pull back spending.

2. Expansionary

Expansionary monetary policy refers to actions taken by a central bank to boost the overall money supply and expand the availability of credit in an economy. The main tools for enacting expansionary policy are lowering interest rates, purchasing government securities, and reducing reserve requirements for commercial banks. The goals are to stimulate economic growth and spending. Expansionary policies have significant effects on stock markets and share prices. Lower interest rates reduce the cost of capital for companies.

This encourages business investment in equipment, factories, hiring, research and development, and mergers and acquisitions. Since capital expenditures are a key driver of revenue and earnings growth, increased business investment boosts corporate profitability. Rising profits support higher stock valuations and share prices. Lower rates also enable individual investors to more easily access margin loans to buy stocks, increasing speculative demand.

For consumers, decreased interest rates lower the cost of borrowing for mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. This increases the quantity and growth rate of consumer debt. Higher consumer spending power subsequently increases revenues, earnings, and valuations across consumer discretionary and staples companies. More consumer spending has trickle-down effects, as manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and service providers all experience rising demand. 

What are the objectives of monetary policy?

The objectives of monetary policy are to maintain price stability, control inflation, promote economic prosperity, manage unemployment, target nominal income, control interest rates, and manage exchange rates.

What are the objectives of monetary policy
Monetary Policy: Definition, Types, Instruments, Decision Making 11

Price stability

A key aim of monetary policy is maintaining price stability, meaning low and steady inflation. This provides a favorable backdrop for stock markets. High or volatile inflation creates uncertainty, distorts valuations, pushes up interest rates, and dampens corporate earnings growth. With inflation anchored, the stock market focuses on real corporate fundamentals rather than inflation noise. Price stability lays the groundwork for healthy long-term equity returns.

Economic prosperity

Monetary policy, an important Economic indicator, aims to foster steady economic prosperity and growth. This supports stock markets, as equities tend to perform well when corporate earnings are rising in a growing economy, influenced by changes in this key Economic indicator. However, policy cannot be too stimulatory as that risks overheating, excessive speculation, and unstable asset valuations. The goal is to smooth business cycles to provide a favourable backdrop for reasonable stock returns rooted in fundamentals.

Inflation control

A primary aim of monetary policy is keeping inflation low and stable. Runaway inflation hampers corporate earnings, spur rate hikes, and distorts prices and valuations – undermining stocks. The goal is to anchor inflation expectations through interest rate adjustments and other tools. Modest, controlled inflation supports growth and keeps equities tied to fundamentals. But policy cannot be too tight either. Striking the right inflation balance provides stability for healthy long-term stock returns.

Interest rate maintain

A key aim of monetary policy is to maintain appropriate Interest rate levels and movements. This balances stimulating investment and growth versus keeping bonds competitive with Interest rate considerations. Extremely high or low rates distort stock valuations. The goal is a stable rate environment that incentivizes business activity but prevents excessive risk-taking. Prudent Interest rate changes support healthy markets grounded in fundamentals rather than overheated speculation.

Nominal income target

Nominal income targeting involves the central bank stabilising overall spending in the economy. In theory, this could smooth business cycles and support more stable stock market returns. However, nominal targeting is complex and could heighten uncertainty if implemented poorly. While possibly strengthening links between policy and corporate fundamentals, imprecise nominal targeting increases equity volatility and asset price distortions. The feasibility and costs versus benefits for stock markets remain debated.

Unemployment management

Monetary policy aims to promote maximum sustainable employment, which supports stronger economic growth and corporate earnings. Lower unemployment filters through to better stock market performance. However, the policy cannot let labor markets overheat. The goal is to smooth cycles between strength and weakness, stimulating job creation without excessive inflation. Prudent policy crafted with employment in mind helps to sustain conditions where business success lifts equities.

Exchange rates control

Monetary policymakers often consider exchange rates when setting policy, as currency values affect exports, corporate profits, and capital flows. The goal is typically to smooth excessive currency volatility that disrupts trade and earnings. Cautious exchange rate management aims for stable cross-border transactions to support international business activity and steady multinational stock returns. However, exchange rates involve trade-offs requiring prudent central bank balancing.

Currency stability

Excessive exchange rate volatility introduces uncertainty that undermines earnings and growth. Therefore, monetary policy utilizes tools like interest rates and currency intervention to smooth disruptive swings and prevent prolonged over/undervaluation. The aim is to foster general currency stability, which supports international commerce and steady earnings projections. This allows equity investors to focus on fundamentals rather than fluctuating currency impacts. Prudent management lays the groundwork for healthy global stock investing.

The objectives of monetary policy aim to promote stable and optimal economic conditions through prudent management of key variables like inflation, interest rates, money supply, and exchange rates. This provides a favourable backdrop for stock market investment based on underlying corporate fundamentals rather than policy-driven distortions.

What are the tools used for controlling monetary policy?

The main tools used for controlling monetary policy are interest rates, open market operations, bank rates, cash reserve ratios, statutory liquidity ratios, forward guidance, and quantitative easing through asset purchases.

What are the tools used for controlling monetary policy
Monetary Policy: Definition, Types, Instruments, Decision Making 12

1.Interest rate

Interest rates refer to the cost of borrowing money. They are a key tool used by central banks to control monetary policy. By raising or lowering interest rates, central banks either stimulate or cool down the economy. Higher interest rates make borrowing more expensive, decreasing spending and overall economic demand to control inflation. Lower interest rates do the opposite – they make borrowing cheaper to incentivize spending and stimulate sluggish economic activity, albeit risking excess inflation.

2. Open market operation

Open market operations refer to the buying and selling of securities by a central bank in the open market to control the money supply. The central bank conducts open market purchases of securities to inject new money into the system and stimulate the economy. This adds reserves, increases money supply, promotes lending, and lowers interest rates. Open market sales do the opposite – withdrawing money to curb excess demand.

3. Exchange rates

Exchange rates determine the value of one currency versus another. Central banks influence exchange rates through interventions and monetary policy to maintain export competitiveness. Weakening the domestic currency stimulates exports and foreign inflows but makes imports more costly. Strengthening the currency has the opposite effect.

4. Bank rate

The bank rate is the interest rate charged by the central bank on funds lent to commercial banks. Lowering the bank rate makes borrowing cheaper for banks, encouraging more lending and boosting money supply and economic growth. Raising the bank rate does the opposite – reducing lending and reining in inflation. 

5. Marginal standing facility (MSF) rate

The marginal standing facility (MSF) rate is the interest rate at which banks borrow overnight funds from the central bank using collateral during cash shortfalls. The central bank lowers the MSF rate to inject liquidity into the banking system, expand the money supply, reduce interest rates, and boost lending and economic growth. It raises the MSF rate to discourage bank borrowing and tighten liquidity to control inflation.

6. Liquidity adjustment facility (LAF)

The liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) involves the central bank using repo and reverse repo auctions to inject or absorb liquidity in the banking system to align short-term rates with policy targets. The repo rate is the interest paid by the central bank on short-term funds borrowed from banks during liquidity injection. The reverse repo rate is the interest received from banks when liquidity is absorbed.

7. Cash reserve ratio (CRR)

The cash reserve ratio (CRR) is the minimum proportion of deposits that banks must hold as cash reserves with the central bank. Raising the CRR drains out banking system liquidity as it locks up funds in reserves, reducing lending capacity. Lowering the CRR releases more funds for banks to lend, injecting liquidity and boosting credit expansion.

8. Statutory liquidity ratio (SLR)

The statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) is the minimum share of bank deposits that must be held in liquid assets like cash, gold, and government securities. Raising the SLR locks up funds in liquid assets, reducing lending capacity and controlling credit and money supply. Lowering the SLR releases more funds for lending, injecting liquidity and boosting credit flow.

9. Forward guidance

Forward guidance involves central banks communicating future monetary policy outlooks to shape economic expectations. Dovish guidance signals prolonged low rates to incentivize investment and spending due to expectations of cheap financing costs when growth is weak. Hawkish guidance warns of impending rate hikes so that economic agents curb activity in anticipation of tighter policy when inflation is high.

10. Credit guidance

Credit guidance involves central banks using quantitative caps and qualitative directives to influence bank lending standards and the overall availability of credit aligned with policy goals. Tools like lending limits for certain sectors or loan-to-value ratio stipulations aim to curb excessive credit when risks are high. Advisories to banks to ease lending help spur credit when growth is weak. 

11. Collateral policy

Collateral policy refers to central bank guidelines on asset eligibility for banks to access their liquidity facilities. Relaxed collateral standards widen the pool of securities banks pledge to raise liquidity. This expands credit availability and money supply. Tight standards narrow eligible collateral, restraining liquidity flows and speculative lending. 

12. Helicopter money

Helicopter money involves the central bank directly financing government spending or tax cuts by printing large amounts of money. It differs from quantitative easing, where bonds are purchased from the market. The aim is to rapidly stimulate consumer demand through massive monetary expansion not reliant on private credit creation.

How monetary policy decisions are made & implemented?

The Reserve Bank of India, headed by the Governor, makes monetary policy decisions through its Monetary Policy Committee, which meets every two months. The key objectives for formulating and implementing monetary policy are maintaining price stability, ensuring adequate liquidity, and promoting economic growth. The key monetary policy decisions in India are made by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), which was constituted in 2016 based on the recommendations of the Urjit Patel Committee.

The MPC has six members – three officials from the RBI and three external members nominated by the Government of India. The MPC is headed by the RBI Governor, who has the casting vote in case of a tie. The other members from the RBI side include the Deputy Governor in charge of Monetary Policy and one other official nominated by the RBI Board. The external members are experts in the fields of economics, banking, and finance nominated for a period of four years by the central government. The MPC is required to meet at least four times a year and make decisions on interest rates, liquidity management, and other monetary measures aimed at achieving the inflation target set by the government in consultation with the RBI.

The meetings are held in Mumbai, where the RBI headquarters is located. The MPC aims to maintain annual consumer price index (CPI) inflation at 4 percent with a tolerance band of +/- 2 percent. The decisions are taken by majority vote on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation. The RBI publishes a bi-annual Monetary Policy Report explaining the sources of inflation and forecasts for growth and inflation.

The RBI relies primarily on the repo rate, reverse repo rate, open market operations, cash reserve ratio, statutory liquidity ratio, marginal standing facility rate, and the bank rate to regulate liquidity, credit flow, and interest rates in the economy to maintain price stability while supporting growth objectives. The repo rate has emerged as the main policy rate, with changes in it signaling the RBI’s monetary policy stance. The RBI actively uses these tools in conjunction to ensure appropriate monetary and liquidity conditions aligned with evolving inflation and growth dynamics.

How often does monetary policy change?

Monetary policy changes periodically in response to economic conditions, with the goal of promoting stable prices and maximum sustainable employment, which impacts stock market performance. The frequency with which monetary policy is adjusted depends on economic conditions and the central bank’s assessment of whether its policy goals are being met. 

Why is monetary policy required?

Monetary policy is required to promote stable economic growth, optimal employment levels, and price stability, which provides a healthy environment for stock market investment and growth. Well-executed monetary policy helps maintain confidence in financial markets and encourages long-term capital investment.

Monetary policy holds significance as an essential economic tool due to its close relationship between the supply of money, interest rates, inflation, and overall economic conditions. Changes in monetary policy impacts financial markets like the stock market. Monetary policy refers to the actions taken by a country’s central bank to influence the availability and cost of money and credit. The main goals of monetary policy are typically to promote sustainable economic growth, full employment, and price stability. 

What’s the difference between monetary policy & fiscal policy?

Monetary policy involves a central bank manipulating interest rates and money supply to influence economic growth. Fiscal policy refers to a government adjusting taxes and spending to impact the economy. Both affect the stock market – monetary policy more quickly through interest rates and fiscal policy more broadly through consumer spending, corporate profits, and debt levels. However, the two policies have different mechanisms, with monetary policy acting through the banking system and fiscal policy direct from the government budget.

How is the stock market related to monetary policy?

The stock market and monetary policy are intricately linked. Monetary policy refers to the actions taken by a nation’s central bank to influence economic growth and stability. The main tools used in monetary policy are controlling interest rates and the money supply. Changes in monetary policy affect the stock market and company valuations in a variety of ways.

The most direct way monetary policy impacts stocks is through interest rates. Lower interest rates make it less expensive for companies to borrow money to invest and expand their businesses. Lower rates also make stocks more attractive relative to lower-risk assets like bonds. Investors tend to shift money out of conservative fixed-income investments and into riskier assets, like stocks that offer higher potential returns when interest rates fall. This increased demand pushes stock prices higher. 

Conversely, borrowing becomes more expensive, causing companies to pull back on investing in new projects and expansion when interest rates rise. Higher rates also make bonds and other fixed-income assets more appealing relative to stocks. Investors move money out of stocks and into bonds, putting downward pressure on stock prices. Interest rates also influence stock valuations through their impact on discount rates. Discount rates are used to calculate the present value of future cash flows, which is a key input in valuation models.

Lower discount rates increase the present value of future earnings and cash flows, justifying higher current stock prices. The discount rates in models go up, reducing the present value of future earnings and negatively impacting stock prices when interest rates rise. Beyond interest rates, the broader stance of monetary policy also affects risk appetite in financial markets. It encourages risk-taking and flows of capital into the stock market when the policy is accommodative with low rates and other simulative actions. A tighter, restrictive monetary policy discourages risk-taking, leading to outflows from stocks. 

The central bank’s actions also signal information about the state of the economy. For example, lowering rates implies the central bank sees economic weakness and is trying to boost growth. This negatively impacts investor outlooks and stock prices. Rate hikes, on the other hand, suggest the central bank sees inflationary pressures building and wants to cool the economy. This could positively impact stocks if it reduces fears about runaway inflation.

The money supply is another monetary policy lever with implications for stocks. Increasing the money supply provides more liquidity to financial markets and the economy, making it easier for businesses to access capital to invest and grow. More money in the system also boosts asset prices like stocks as investors have more cash to put to work. Conversely, tightening the money supply removes liquidity and makes it more difficult for companies to obtain financing, which negatively impacts business growth and stock prices.

Arjun Remesh

Head of Content

Arjun is a seasoned stock market content expert with over 7 years of experience in stock market, technical & fundamental analysis. Since 2020, he has been a key contributor to Strike platform. Arjun is an active stock market investor with his in-depth stock market analysis knowledge. Arjun is also an certified stock market researcher from Indiacharts, mentored by Rohit Srivastava.

Shivam Gaba

Reviewer of Content

Shivam is a stock market content expert with CFTe certification. He is been trading from last 8 years in indian stock market. He has a vast knowledge in technical analysis, financial market education, product management, risk assessment, derivatives trading & market Research. He won Zerodha 60-Day Challenge thrice in a row. He is being mentored by Rohit Srivastava, Indiacharts.

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