The foreign exchange market is an over-the-counter (OTC) marketplace that determines the exchange rate for global currencies. Participants are able to buy, sell, exchange and speculate on currencies. Foreign exchange markets are made up of banks, forex dealers, commercial companies, central banks, investment management firms, hedge funds, retail forex dealers and investors.
Governments / Central banks – A country’s central bank can play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They can cause an increase or decrease in the value of their nation’s currency by trying to control money supply, inflation, and (or) interest rates. They can use their substantial foreign exchange reserves to try and stabilize the market.

The number quoted for these prices is based on the current exchange rate of the currencies in the pair, or how much of the second currency you would get in exchange for one unit of the first currency (for instance, if 1 EUR could be exchanged for 1.68 USD, the bid and ask price would be on either side of this number). Learn more about Forex quotes in this article: Understanding and Reading Forex Quotes.


The most common type of forward transaction is the foreign exchange swap. In a swap, two parties exchange currencies for a certain length of time and agree to reverse the transaction at a later date. These are not standardized contracts and are not traded through an exchange. A deposit is often required in order to hold the position open until the transaction is completed.
Controversy about currency speculators and their effect on currency devaluations and national economies recurs regularly. Economists, such as Milton Friedman, have argued that speculators ultimately are a stabilizing influence on the market, and that stabilizing speculation performs the important function of providing a market for hedgers and transferring risk from those people who don't wish to bear it, to those who do.[79] Other economists, such as Joseph Stiglitz, consider this argument to be based more on politics and a free market philosophy than on economics.[80]
Currency and exchange were important elements of trade in the ancient world, enabling people to buy and sell items like food, pottery, and raw materials.[9] If a Greek coin held more gold than an Egyptian coin due to its size or content, then a merchant could barter fewer Greek gold coins for more Egyptian ones, or for more material goods. This is why, at some point in their history, most world currencies in circulation today had a value fixed to a specific quantity of a recognized standard like silver and gold.
Along with being able to access a wide range of financial markets, another benefit of trading CFDs is that a trader can access a much larger portion of those markets, and increase their potential profits as a result. CFD contracts provide leveraged access to the market, meaning a trader can access a much larger portion of the market than what they would be able to purchase outright.
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The spread, in Forex, is the difference between the bid and ask price of a currency pair. For example, if the Bid price of the EUR/USD is 1.16668, and the sell price is 1.16669, the spread will be 0.0001, or 1 pip. In any Forex trade, the value of a currency pair will need to cross the spread before it becomes profitable. To continue with the previous example, if a trader entered a long EUR/USD trade at 1.16668, the trade wouldn't become profitable until the value of the pair was higher than 1.16669.
Non-bank foreign exchange companies offer currency exchange and international payments to private individuals and companies. These are also known as "foreign exchange brokers" but are distinct in that they do not offer speculative trading but rather currency exchange with payments (i.e., there is usually a physical delivery of currency to a bank account).
Demo Account: Although demo accounts attempt to replicate real markets, they operate in a simulated market environment. As such, there are key differences that distinguish them from real accounts; including but not limited to, the lack of dependence on real-time market liquidity, a delay in pricing, and the availability of some products which may not be tradable on live accounts. The operational capabilities when executing orders in a demo environment may result in atypically, expedited transactions; lack of rejected orders; and/or the absence of slippage. There may be instances where margin requirements differ from those of live accounts as updates to demo accounts may not always coincide with those of real accounts.

A foreign exchange option (commonly shortened to just FX option) is a derivative where the owner has the right but not the obligation to exchange money denominated in one currency into another currency at a pre-agreed exchange rate on a specified date. The FX options market is the deepest, largest and most liquid market for options of any kind in the world.

This depends on how liquid the currency is, or how much of it is being bought and sold at any one time. The most liquid currency pairs are the ones with the most supply and demand in the Forex market, and this supply and demand is generated by banks, businesses, importers and exporters, and traders. Major currency pairs tend to be the most liquid, with the EUR/USD currency pair moving by 90-120 pips on an average day.
Traders know the news events that will move the market, yet the direction is not known in advance. Therefore, a trader may even be fairly confident that a news announcement, for instance that the Federal Reserve will or will not raise interest rates, will impact markets. Even then, traders cannot predict how the market will react to this expected news. Other factors such additional statements, figures or forward looking indications provided by news announcements can also make market movements extremely illogical.
Foreign exchange trading increased by 20% between April 2007 and April 2010 and has more than doubled since 2004.[58] The increase in turnover is due to a number of factors: the growing importance of foreign exchange as an asset class, the increased trading activity of high-frequency traders, and the emergence of retail investors as an important market segment. The growth of electronic execution and the diverse selection of execution venues has lowered transaction costs, increased market liquidity, and attracted greater participation from many customer types. In particular, electronic trading via online portals has made it easier for retail traders to trade in the foreign exchange market. By 2010, retail trading was estimated to account for up to 10% of spot turnover, or $150 billion per day (see below: Retail foreign exchange traders).
If you're day trading a currency pair like the GBP/USD, you can risk $50 on each trade, and each pip of movement is worth $10 with a standard lot (100,000 units worth of currency). Therefore you can take a position of one standard lot with a 5-pip stop-loss order, which will keep the risk of loss to $50 on the trade. That also means a winning trade is worth $80 (8 pips x $10).

In 1876, something called the gold exchange standard was implemented. Basically it said that all paper currency had to be backed by solid gold; the idea here was to stabilize world currencies by pegging them to the price of gold. It was a good idea in theory, but in reality it created boom-bust patterns which ultimately led to the demise of the gold standard.


Currencies are traded against one another in pairs. Each currency pair thus constitutes an individual trading product and is traditionally noted XXXYYY or XXX/YYY, where XXX and YYY are the ISO 4217 international three-letter code of the currencies involved. The first currency (XXX) is the base currency that is quoted relative to the second currency (YYY), called the counter currency (or quote currency). For instance, the quotation EURUSD (EUR/USD) 1.5465 is the price of the Euro expressed in US dollars, meaning 1 euro = 1.5465 dollars. The market convention is to quote most exchange rates against the USD with the US dollar as the base currency (e.g. USDJPY, USDCAD, USDCHF). The exceptions are the British pound (GBP), Australian dollar (AUD), the New Zealand dollar (NZD) and the euro (EUR) where the USD is the counter currency (e.g. GBPUSD, AUDUSD, NZDUSD, EURUSD).
More specifically, the spot market is where currencies are bought and sold according to the current price. That price, determined by supply and demand, is a reflection of many things, including current interest rates, economic performance, sentiment towards ongoing political situations (both locally and internationally), as well as the perception of the future performance of one currency against another. When a deal is finalized, this is known as a "spot deal". It is a bilateral transaction by which one party delivers an agreed-upon currency amount to the counter party and receives a specified amount of another currency at the agreed-upon exchange rate value. After a position is closed, the settlement is in cash. Although the spot market is commonly known as one that deals with transactions in the present (rather than the future), these trades actually take two days for settlement.
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