Analysis and insight into trends
in money and banking, and their impact
on the world's leading economies


% annual growth rate:

M3Nominal GDP
1960 – 20187.37% 6.46%
1960 – 19707.72% 6.80%
1971 – 198011.43% 10.30%
1981 – 19907.66% 7.66%
1991 – 20005.60% 5.57%
2001 – 20107.09% 3.90%
Eight years to 20184.03% 3.99%

Sources: M3 from the Federal Reserve website up to March 2006 and from the Shadow Government Statistics subsequently. Nominal GDP from IMF database, as at May 2019.

The medium-term relationship between money and nominal GDP growth in the USA, 1960-2018

Five-year moving averages of annual % changes, with 1962 being the start of the first five-year period

Comment on monetary trends in the USA

The USA has had a remarkably eventful monetary history, but the link between money and movements in the price level has been a prominent and persistent feature throughout the last 150 years. Periods of deflation (i.e., falling prices) were seen in the 1870s, as the USA sought to resume gold payments after the Civil War, and in the Great Depression of the early 1930s. These deflationary episodes were associated with falls in the quantity of money. By contrast, the major periods of inflation – during the First World War, the Second World War and the 1970s – were all accompanied by unusually high growth of the quantity of money. This connection was emphasized in Friedman and Schwartz’ celebrated study A Monetary History of the United States, 1867 – 1960, and the central bank, the Federal Reserve, responded accordingly by adopting a monetary policy which reduced inflation in the 1980s. The table above shows – very clearly – that broad money growth peaked in the 1970s and since then has generally been in decline. Indeed, in the last few years the annual rate of broad money growth has been under 5%, while the increase in nominal GDP has been the lowest since the 1930s.

Despite the evidence, the majority of the Fed’s economists are suspicious of the monetary theory of national income determination. Much of the trouble has stemmed from uncertainty over the meaning of money. Over the last 25 years or so money-like liabilities has been issued by many financial institutions that, strictly speaking, are not banks. In the Great Recession from 2008 these ‘shadow banks’ proved far more vulnerable to financial shocks than the fully-regulated banks. A collapse in the level of shadow banks’ money-like liabilities – which can easily be overlooked in the recognised money aggregates – was an important factor in creating the crisis.