For the past 300 years, there has been some form of a foreign exchange market. For most of U.S. history, the only currency traders were multinational corporations that did business in many countries. They used forex markets to hedge their exposure to overseas currencies. They could do so because the U.S. dollar was fixed to the price of gold. According to the gold price history, gold was the only metal the United States used to back up the value of the nation’s paper currency.
Hedge funds – Somewhere around 70 to 90% of all foreign exchange transactions are speculative in nature. This means, the person or institutions that bought or sold the currency has no plan of actually taking delivery of the currency; instead, the transaction was executed with sole intention of speculating on the price movement of that particular currency. Retail speculators (you and I) are small cheese compared to the big hedge funds that control and speculate with billions of dollars of equity each day in the currency markets.
Once Nixon abolished the gold standard, the dollar's value quickly plummeted. The dollar index was established to give companies the ability to hedge this risk. Someone created the U.S. Dollar Index to give them a tradeable platform. Soon, banks, hedge funds, and some speculative traders entered the market. They were more interested in chasing profit than in hedging risks.
Investors should stick to the major and minor pairs in the beginning. This is because it will be easier to find trades, and lower spreads, making scalping viable. Exotic pairs, however, have much more illiquidity and higher spreads. In fact, because they are riskier, you can make serious cash with exotic pairs, just be prepared to lose big in a single session too.
If you live in the Salt Lake area, you can save time, skip long lines and avoid the language and cultural barriers of exchanging your money overseas by converting your dollars to Pesos, Euros, Dinar, Yuan or other foreign banknotes before you leave home. And when you get home, you can change your currency back to dollars and cents at your friendly hometown currency exchange.
National central banks play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They try to control the money supply, inflation, and/or interest rates and often have official or unofficial target rates for their currencies. They can use their often substantial foreign exchange reserves to stabilize the market. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of central bank "stabilizing speculation" is doubtful because central banks do not go bankrupt if they make large losses as other traders would. There is also no convincing evidence that they actually make a profit from trading.
The purpose of this method is to make sure no single trade or single day of trading hurts has a significant impact on the account. Therefore, a trader knows that they will not lose more in a single trade or day than they can make back on another by adopting a risk maximum that is equivalent to the average daily gain over a 30 day period. (To understand the risks involved in forex, see "Forex Leverage: A Double-Edged Sword.")
In the context of the foreign exchange market, traders liquidate their positions in various currencies to take up positions in safe-haven currencies, such as the US dollar. Sometimes, the choice of a safe haven currency is more of a choice based on prevailing sentiments rather than one of economic statistics. An example would be the financial crisis of 2008. The value of equities across the world fell while the US dollar strengthened (see Fig.1). This happened despite the strong focus of the crisis in the US.