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clearing,in banking, the periodic settling of bankers' claims against each other, for which local banks establish clearinghouse associations. Clearinghouses are said to have existed in Florence by A.D. 800. They were certainly perfected in Lyons by 1463, and their use was widespread in 18th-century Europe. The first modern clearinghouse was either at Edinburgh (1760) or at London (1773). Such an institution involves frequent meetings of local bank representatives to settle the balances among member banks. In the United States, the balance (debit or credit) for each bank at the close of a meeting is forwarded to the Federal Reserve bank, which adjusts the individual accounts accordingly. Intercity balances are settled on the books of the Federal Reserve banks daily by electronic transfers. Clearing is also practiced by stock and commodity exchanges. The Stock Clearing Corp. (started in 1920), for instance, is responsible for clearing transactions made at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE); in addition, the National Securities Clearing Corp. (1976) handles clearances for NYSE, the American Stock Exchange, and NASDAQ (see under stock exchangestock exchange,
organized market for the trading of stocks and bonds (see bond; stock). Such markets were originally open to all, but at present only members of the owning association may buy and sell directly.
..... Click the link for more information. ), and the International Securities Clearing Corp. (1985) handles overseas transactions. Many of these operations are now computerized. International claims are settled by clearing unions, groups of central banks, and other major financial institutions. The most famous such group was the European Payments Union, now defunct, which was created in 1950 to provide economic stability in Europe during the postwar period.
See T. Cowan, The Clearing Banks and the Trade Unions (1984); B. G. Auguste, The Economics of International Payments Unions and Clearing Houses (1997).
a method of noncash settling of accounts by canceling balancing claims and obligations.
Clearing is widely used in domestic and international settlements of accounts. The method was first used by British banks in the middle of the 18th century and was necessitated by the constricted metallic base of circulation (that is, an insufficiency of gold) and the development of credit. The evolution of clearing operations and the growth of the number of participating banks led to the emergence of special banking institutions called clearinghouses. The first clearinghouse was founded in London in 1775. Later, clearinghouses were organized in New York (1852), Paris and Vienna (1872), Berlin (1883), and elsewhere. In prerevolutionary Russia there was no specialized clearinghouse; its functions were performed by the State Bank.
Clearing operations became especially widespread in the era of imperialism. The development of the capitalist credit system and the huge volume of check turnover necessitate a broad system of clearing operations. During economic recessions and crises, the system of clearing operations experiences severe disturbances as people try to get their hands on cash and gold.
Under socialism the system of an exchange of claims between banks is turned into one of the forms of settling accounts between enterprises and organizations based on the mutual setoff of claims. The decentralized setoff of mutual claims has been used in the USSR since 1954; the method is efficient (the setoff amounts to approximately 80 percent) and widespread (approximately 85 percent of the entire turnover of mutual claims in 1970) for the mutual settling of accounts among industrial, transportation, and supply organizations.
In international settlements, foreign exchange clearing involves accounts between two or among several countries; counterclaims and payments are settled in cash and gold only for the difference in the goods delivered and services rendered. Foreign exchange clearing was first used only for foreign trade accounts and was later extended to noncommercial operations and to other payments arising from economic relations between individual countries. Clearing operations may be unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral. The most common are bilateral clearing operations, in which counterclaims and obligations are set off between two countries. Depending on the manner of liquidating the indebtedness, clearing operations are divided into clearings in which the debt incurred is liquidated by the delivery of goods and not by gold or convertible currency (this is called a nonconvertible balance) and clearings in which the balance must be liquidated entirely or to a certain percentage by payments in gold or in a freely convertible currency (a convertible balance).
In capitalist countries, foreign exchange clearings developed in the course of international settlements during the world economic crisis of 1929–33, which shook the capitalist currency system. In the 1930’s most capitalist countries introduced severe currency limitations. The first clearing agreement was signed between Switzerland and Hungary in 1931. In the mid-1950’s, approximately 60 percent of all international accounts were settled through currency clearings. Since 1958, as a result of the expansion of the currency convertibility of a number of capitalist countries, the share of clearing operations in the entire payment turnover of the capitalist world has been gradually declining.
In the mutual settlements of accounts of socialist countries the clearing system is widely used. Up to Jan. 1, 1964, bilateral clearing was the basic form of international settlement of accounts in socialist countries. However, even in the 1950’s, member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) were beginning to use multilateral clearing operations in their account settlements to expand commodity turnover and improve its structure. The initial form of these settlements was the trilateral single setoff clearing. Also widely used were trilateral clearings that operated within the provisions of trade and payment agreements.
In June 1957, COMECON members signed the Agreement on Multilateral Clearings, which provided that participating countries using bilateral clearings to settle accounts arising from basic commodity circulation could go to a multilateral basis to handle additional commodity circulation among themselves. To settle accounts among the banks of COMECON members, a clearinghouse was founded. Since Jan. 1, 1964, accounts among COMECON members have been settled within the system of multilateral clearings in transfer rubles through the International Bank of Economic Cooperation. The Comprehensive Program of Socialist Economic Integration, which was adopted at the 25th session of COMECON (1971), includes further improvements in the system of multilateral clearings in transfer rubles and the workings of the International Bank of Economic Cooperation to ensure that the instruments of payment of COMECON members will correspond to the aims and goals of socialist economic integration at all stages of its development.
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