Market Insights

Central banks impact on exchange rates

Central Banks on the Foreign Exchange Market

As the monetary authorities of a country's economy, central banks are in charge of regulating  and supervising the country's banking system. They are in charge of developing the country's monetary policy. While they are politically autonomous, they have a statutory monopoly in their country that gives them the authority and obligation to issue money. Central banks, sometimes known as "lenders of last resort," are in charge of producing adequate reserves and governing the banking sector by guaranteeing commercial banks do not face a supply deficit, as was the situation during the 2008 financial crisis.

Typically, central banks intervene to avoid substantial and quick changes in the value of their currencies. This guarantees that they are neither undervalued nor overpriced for an inordinately long length of time.

Among the basic techniques of central bank intervention are the issuance and withdrawal of liquidity in the home currency and a significant currency swap over a short period. To raise the value of a currency, central banks can reduce the supply of their currency, which increases demand for the currency. Selling the local currency in exchange for other currencies, on the other hand, increases the supply of a currency and causes its value to decline. Currency depreciation causes domestic items to be less expensive than imported ones, which has both positive and dire consequences on a country's currency.

What is a Central Bank?

Central banks are autonomous entities that are used by countries all over the globe to help manage their commercial banking industry, establish central bank interest rates, and maintain financial stability throughout the country.

The presence of a central bank as a lender of last resort boosts investor confidence. Investors are more confident that governments will honour their debt obligations, which helps to reduce government borrowing rates.

What role do central banks play?

Central banks perform three main functions:

1. Regulating the market

Central banks' main job is to manage economic activity by establishing interest rates, which are sometimes referred to as the key interest rate.

Although central banks do not directly control the foreign currency market, they can directly impact inflation and exchange rates by raising or reducing the main interest rate. This is the instrument used to renew banks' liquidity, and it is the primary measure of an economy's credit cost. When the critical rate is low, it suggests that the cost of borrowing is low, which promotes growth.

2. Managing foreign currency reserves

Along with the key interest rate, central banks also manage the regulation of foreign reserves. They monitor and adjust their own foreign reserves to maintain the strength of their currency, often referred to as the currency peg. Currency reserves are essential to economies because they ensure that there is a sufficient supply of foreign currency in circulation, and that there is an adequate flow of investments between countries.

3. Issuing the national currency

The central bank is also responsible for printing the currency and ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of cash in the economy.

What are the Most Important Central Banks?

The European Central Bank (ECB), the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, and ultimately the Bank of Canada are the most prominent central banks. Because of their country's and currency's weight in the global economy, these central banks' influence extends beyond their boundaries.

Participants in the foreign exchange market pay close attention to these central banks' pronouncements and actions since their decisions impact the most traded currency pairings and the global economy as a whole.

1. The European Central Bank (ECB)

In 1999, the European Central Bank (ECB) was founded. The ECB's governing council is the committee that makes monetary policy decisions. The council comprises six members of the ECB's executive board, as well as the governors of all 19 eurozone nations' central banks.

The ECB, as a central bank, dislikes surprises. Whenever it intends to adjust interest rates, it usually provides the market plenty of notice by warning of an anticipated move through press statements.

The mandate of the bank is to maintain prices steady and growth sustainable. Unlike the Fed, the ECB seeks to keep the annual rise in consumer prices below 2%. As an export-dependent economy, the ECB has a strong interest in preventing excessive currency strength since it jeopardises its export market.

The ECB's council meets biweekly, although policy decisions are usually taken during sessions that include a news conference. These gatherings take place 11 times a year.

2. U.S. Federal Reserve System (Fed)

The Federal Reserve, sometimes known as the Fed, is the United States' central bank. It is most likely the world's most powerful central bank. With the U.S. dollar accounting for over 90% of all currency transactions worldwide, the Fed's influence has a far-reaching impact on the worth of several currencies.

The Fed is responsible for ensuring that the U.S. economy runs smoothly while keeping the public's best interests in mind. This is accomplished by executing five core duties that support monetary policy, financial stability, the soundness of individual financial institutions, the safety of payment and settlement systems, and consumer protection.

3. Bank of England (BOE)

The Bank of England was founded in 1694. It is owned by the U.K. government but operates independently of it. Together with the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority, it makes up the Bank of England.

The Bank of England was given the power to monitor and manage the country's monetary policy in 1997. The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee is the group that makes monetary policy decisions. Its members are the Governor, the Deputy Governor, the Chief Economist, and four external members. The committee meets eight times a year to deliberate and make decisions on monetary policy.

4. Bank of Japan

The Bank of Japan's building, also known as the "Monetary Control Authority", is located in Tokyo. It was established as a government-owned bank in 1882. Today it is an independent institution not owned by the government, yet it still reports to the Japanese government.

The Bank of Japan is responsible for maintaining a healthy financial system, stabilizing prices and economic activity, and conducting monetary transactions. It does this through the execution of the following duties:

The Bank of Japan has a transparency policy and aims to be as open and transparent as possible. It has no objection to explaining its actions to the public; it publishes its decisions in the minutes of its meetings and on its website. This is a sharp contrast to its European counterparts, often making policy without releasing any information.

5. Swiss National Bank (SNB)

The Swiss National Bank is Switzerland's central bank. In addition to conducting monetary policy, it is also the bank's task to issue Swiss franc banknotes and coins and provide banking services to commercial banks and the Swiss government.

The SNB was initially established in the 19th century to protect the country's gold reserves. Switzerland has one of the strongest currencies in the world, which protects its citizens from the exchange rate volatility.

6. Bank of Canada

The Bank of Canada is Canada's central bank. Its governing council is responsible for conducting monetary policy, supervising and regulating financial institutions to ensure the stability of the financial system and the safety of the payment system, and promoting the efficiency of financial markets.

The Bank of Canada is unique in that it conducts monetary policy within the context of an inflation-targeting framework. It makes its decisions on the basis of two key variables: the operational target, the Consumer Price Index, and the policy target, the overnight rate.

Interest rate decisions are taken eight times a year. The Bank of Canada provides the market with a great deal of information regarding both the decision and its rationale.

6. Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ)

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is the central bank for New Zealand. It was established in 1934 to protect the value of the country's money and is an institution wholly owned by the New Zealand government.

The RBNZ supervises and regulates New Zealand's banks, performs monetary policy, and issues New Zealand's currency.

How Do Central Banks Affect Exchange Rates?

One of the most critical roles of central banks is to ensure that a country's currency is as stable as possible. It is not unusual for central banks to intervene in the foreign currency exchange market.

Central banks' key interest rates have a direct impact on currency rates. Central banks use the following strategies to influence currency rates:

1. Raising or lowering the key interest rate

When the central bank raises interest rates, this indicates that demand for money is low, and there is a corresponding devaluation of a country's currency. Investors seek out a higher interest rate, driving demand for the currency to rise.

When the central bank lowers interest rates, this indicates that demand for money is high, and there is a corresponding appreciation of a country's currency. Investors shy away from a low-interest rate, thus lowering demand for the currency.

2. Buying and selling foreign currencies

Central banks perform market intervention by buying and selling in the foreign exchange market. When a central bank buys a foreign currency, it increases demand for it, thereby strengthening the currency. When a central bank sells a currency, it reduces demand for it, thereby weakening the currency.

3. The currency peg

The currency peg is a strategy by which a central bank maintains the exchange rate between two or more currencies within a narrow band. The central bank of China is one of the most prominent practitioners of this strategy.

The China Monetary Policy Committee (China's monetary policy body) has used this strategy to combat the appreciation of the Chinese yuan, which inflows of foreign capital might have caused. Since it began in the early 2000s, this currency peg has been managed by allowing a slight appreciation of the yuan while stepping in to prevent greater appreciation.

What are the Risks of Foreign Exchange Intervention

A central bank is considered to be a market participant, even though it is a government institution. Every time a central bank intervenes in the market, it's a risky venture. There are several reasons for this:

1. Reversal of capital flows

The currency that a central bank buys could reverse course, leading to a devaluation. If the central bank converts the money that it made into foreign currency into its local currency, this will cause a devaluation of its own currency.

2. Speculative attacks

A central bank can be subject to speculative attacks if its actions are viewed as being unfair or insufficiently neutral. For example, if a central bank is seen as intervening to help a particular economic segment, investors may dump that country's currency.

3. Loss of independence

A central bank's independence is seen as one of its most essential attributes. If a central bank's actions are perceived as being unduly influenced by political concerns, there is a real possibility of losing credibility.

4. Hoarding

One risk of a central bank buying too many foreign currencies is that its own domestic currency may be hoarded. In this case, there will be too much demand for money, and the central bank will end up having to sell its domestic currency.

5. Capital controls

Many countries have capital controls that prevent the purchase of certain currencies. If a central bank were to buy too many of these currencies, it would violate these controls.


Central banks are the most powerful financial institutions in the world, as they hold the power of money creation. They are also considered to be the most influential, as they can directly impact a country's currency to a greater extent than any other financial institution.

Any country can potentially have a central bank, but only developed countries have a central bank that is independent of government control. In order to be considered a central bank, an institution must have complete power over the country's money supply and be free of government influence.

Central banks are responsible for implementing a country's monetary policy. This includes the supervision of individual banks and the determination of interest rates. Their monetary policies are implemented through open market operations, which is when a central bank buys or sells securities to influence the interest rate.

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