Trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk and may not be suitable for all investors. The high degree of leverage can work against you as well as for you. Before deciding to trade foreign exchange you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience and risk appetite. The possibility exists that you could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and therefore you should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. You should be aware of all the risks associated with foreign exchange trading and seek advice from an independent financial advisor if you have any doubts.
In the futures market, futures contracts are bought and sold based upon a standard size and settlement date on public commodities markets, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the U.S., the National Futures Association regulates the futures market. Futures contracts have specific details, including the number of units being traded, delivery and settlement dates, and minimum price increments that cannot be customized. The exchange acts as a counterpart to the trader, providing clearance and settlement.
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.
Forex hedging: Hedging is a risk management technique where a trader can offset potential losses by taking opposite positions in the market. In Forex, this can be done by taking two opposite positions on the same currency pair (e.g. by opening a long trade and a short trade on the GBP/USD currency pair), or by taking opposite positions on two correlated currencies.
As Forex trading can be an income-generating activity, it's important to treat your trading as a business activity - one where you consider both how to maximise your income, how to minimise your costs, and how to minimise the risks. With this in mind, make sure to consider the costs of trading with any Forex broker, before you ultimately select one.
Due to Forex CFDs being leveraged, traders can access large portions of the currency market at a very low margin - sometimes as low as 1/500th of the size of the market they want to access (based on a leverage rate of 1:500). There are few additional costs as well - most Forex trading accounts have little (or no) commissions, order fees, and account management fees. If there are any trading fees, these are usually a markup the broker has added to the spread.
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There are actually three ways that institutions, corporations and individuals trade forex: the spot market, the forwards market and the futures market. The forex trading in the spot market always has been the largest market because it is the "underlying" real asset that the forwards and futures markets are based on. In the past, the futures market was the most popular venue for traders because it was available to individual investors for a longer period of time. However, with the advent of electronic trading and numerous forex brokers, the spot market has witnessed a huge surge in activity and now surpasses the futures market as the preferred trading market for individual investors and speculators. When people refer to the forex market, they usually are referring to the spot market. The forwards and futures markets tend to be more popular with companies that need to hedge their foreign exchange risks out to a specific date in the future.