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Capital, Savings, and Investment, Providing Funds for Investments in Capital

economies of scale, government bonds, contractual obligations, corporate bonds, business ventures

To take advantage of specialization and economies of scale, firms must build large production facilities that can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The firms that build these plants raise some funds with new issues of stock, as described above. But firms also borrow huge sums of money every year to undertake these capital investments. When they do that, they compete with government agencies that are borrowing money to finance construction projects and other public spending programs, and with households that are borrowing money to finance the purchase of housing, automobiles, and other goods and services.

Savings play an important role in the lending process. For any of this borrowing to take place, banks and other lenders must have funds to lend out. They obtain these funds from people or organizations that are willing to deposit money in accounts at the bank, including savings accounts. If everyone spent all of the income they earned each year, there would be no funds available for banks to lend out.

Among the three major sectors of the U.S. economy—households, businesses, and government—only households are net savers. In other words, households save more money than they borrow. Conversely, businesses and government are net borrowers. A few businesses may save more than they invest in business ventures. However, overall, businesses in the United States, like businesses in virtually all countries, invest far more than they save. Many companies borrow funds to finance their investments. And while some local and state governments occasionally run budget surpluses, overall the government sector is also a large net borrower in the U.S. economy. The government borrows money by issuing various forms of bonds. Like corporate bonds, government bonds are contractual obligations to repay what is borrowed, plus some specified rate of interest, at a specified time.

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