Flights to quality: Unsettling international events can lead to a "flight-to-quality", a type of capital flight whereby investors move their assets to a perceived "safe haven". There will be a greater demand, thus a higher price, for currencies perceived as stronger over their relatively weaker counterparts. The US dollar, Swiss franc and gold have been traditional safe havens during times of political or economic uncertainty.
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The foreign exchange market works through financial institutions and operates on several levels. Behind the scenes, banks turn to a smaller number of financial firms known as "dealers", who are involved in large quantities of foreign exchange trading. Most foreign exchange dealers are banks, so this behind-the-scenes market is sometimes called the "interbank market" (although a few insurance companies and other kinds of financial firms are involved). Trades between foreign exchange dealers can be very large, involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of the sovereignty issue when involving two currencies, Forex has little (if any) supervisory entity regulating its actions.
Just like stocks, you can trade currency based on what you think its value is (or where it's headed). But the big difference with forex is that you can trade up or down just as easily. If you think a currency will increase in value, you can buy it. If you think it will decrease, you can sell it. With a market this large, finding a buyer when you're selling and a seller when you're buying is much easier than in in other markets. Maybe you hear on the news that China is devaluing its currency to draw more foreign business into its country. If you think that trend will continue, you could make a forex trade by selling the Chinese currency against another currency, say, the US dollar. The more the Chinese currency devalues against the US dollar, the higher your profits. If the Chinese currency increases in value while you have your sell position open, then your losses increase and you want to get out of the trade.
As mentioned earlier, in a long trade (also known as a buy trade), a trader will open a trade at the bid price, and will aim to close the trade at a higher price, making a profit on the difference between the opening and closing value of the currency pair. So if the EUR/USD bid price is 1.16667, and the trade closes at the price of 1.17568, the difference is 0.00901, or 90.1 pips. (When trading a single lot, that would make a 901 USD profit).
By contrast, if you just traded 20 EUR, a loss would not significantly affect your account balance. It would provide you with the opportunity to learn from your experience and plan your next trade more effectively. With this in mind, limiting the capital you are prepared to risk to 5% of your account balance (or lower) will put you in a better position to continue trading Forex (and improving your technique) over the long term.
This form of analysis involves look keeping track of real-world events that might influence the values of the financial instruments you want to trade. For instance, the value of the Australian Dollar might fluctuate following a Reserve Bank of Australia interest rate announcement, which will then affect the movements of all currency pairs including the AUD.
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In a currency pair with a wider spread, such as the EURCZK, the currency will need to make a larger movement in order for the trade to become profitable. At the time of writing, the bid price for this pair is 25.4373, while the ask price is 25.4124, so the spread is 0.0200, or 20 pips. It's also not uncommon for this currency pair to have movements of less than 20 pips a day, meaning traders will likely need to perform a multi-day trade to make a profit.
The challenge is assessing which outcome is the most likely, and then opening a trade accordingly. A good starting point for this trading approach is first being aware of upcoming events that may affect the Forex market (refer to our live Forex calendar for the latest events) and second, looking at the effect similar announcements had on different currency pairs in the past. You can learn more about fundamental analysis in our Introduction to Fundamental Analysis article.
This information can then allow traders to make judgements regarding a currency pair's price movement. For example, if a Japanese candlestick closes near the highest price for the period, that would imply that there is a strong interest on the part of buyers for this currency pair during that time period. A trader might then decide to open a long trade to take advantage of that interest.
Wave analysis, also known as Elliott Wave analysis, is a well-known method that analyses the price chart for patterns and the direction (trend) of a financial instrument. The method is based on historical movements in market prices, with the belief that history repeats itself. The reason for this is due to market sentiment, meaning that the market as a whole moves as a herd, and reacts in a similar way to similar events and announcements.
Unlike stock markets, which can trace their roots back centuries, the forex market as we understand it today is a truly new market. Of course, in its most basic sense - that of people converting one currency to another for financial advantage - forex has been around since nations began minting currencies. But the modern forex markets are a modern invention. After the accord at Bretton Woods in 1971, more major currencies were allowed to float freely against one another. The values of individual currencies vary, which has given rise to the need for foreign exchange services and trading.