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.
Second, since trades don't take place on a traditional exchange, you won't find the same fees or commissions that you would on another market. Next, there's no cut-off as to when you can and cannot trade. Because the market is open 24 hours a day, you can trade at any time of day. Finally, because it's such a liquid market, you can get in and out whenever you want and you can buy as much currency as you can afford.
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. 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.
These currency pairs, in addition to a variety of other combinations, account for over 95% of all speculative trading in the forex market. However, you will probably have noticed the US dollar is prevalent in the major currency pairings. This is because it’s the world’s leading reserve currency, playing a part in approximately 88% of currency trades.
Forex, or the foreign exchange market (also called FX for short) is the marketplace where currencies are traded. At its simplest, a foreign exchange transaction might be, for example, when you transfer your local currency to a new one for an upcoming holiday. Across the market as a whole, an estimated 5.3 billion USD is traded every day between governments, banks, corporations, and speculators.
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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.
Continue your Forex education: The markets are constantly changing, with new trading ideas and strategies being published regularly. To ensure you continue to develop your trading skills, it's important to stay on top of your trading education by regularly reviewing market analysis and by learning new trading strategies. For more trading education, take a look at our Forex and CFD webinars, which are designed to grow your knowledge as you start and continue to trade.
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.