Knowing how the industry is mapped out is important, because the collective combination of all participants creates the market you trade in. The relative weight of the trading party to the market is measured by how much money that party manages – from billion dollar hedge funds and investment banks, to private traders with a few thousand dollars in action.
When you trade forex, you're effectively borrowing the first currency in the pair to buy or sell the second currency. With a US$5-trillion-a-day market, the liquidity is so deep that liquidity providers—the big banks, basically—allow you to trade with leverage. To trade with leverage, you simply set aside the required margin for your trade size. If you're trading 200:1 leverage, for example, you can trade £2,000 in the market while only setting aside £10 in margin in your trading account. For 50:1 leverage, the same trade size would still only require about £40 in margin. This gives you much more exposure, while keeping your capital investment down.
There is no unified or centrally cleared market for the majority of trades, and there is very little cross-border regulation. Due to the over-the-counter (OTC) nature of currency markets, there are rather a number of interconnected marketplaces, where different currencies instruments are traded. This implies that there is not a single exchange rate but rather a number of different rates (prices), depending on what bank or market maker is trading, and where it is. In practice, the rates are quite close due to arbitrage. Due to London's dominance in the market, a particular currency's quoted price is usually the London market price. Major trading exchanges include Electronic Broking Services (EBS) and Thomson Reuters Dealing, while major banks also offer trading systems. A joint venture of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Reuters, called Fxmarketspace opened in 2007 and aspired but failed to the role of a central market clearing mechanism.
An investor can profit from the difference between two interest rates in two different economies by buying the currency with the higher interest rate and shorting the currency with the lower interest rate. Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, it was very common to short the Japanese yen (JPY) and buy British pounds (GBP) because the interest rate differential was very large. This strategy is sometimes referred to as a "carry trade."
The world then decided to have fixed exchange rates that resulted in the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency and that it would be the only currency backed by gold, this is known as the ‘Bretton Woods System’ and it happened in 1944 (I know you super excited to know that). In 1971 the U.S. declared that it would no longer exchange gold for U.S. dollars that were held in foreign reserves, this marked the end of the Bretton Woods System.
By shorting €100,000, the trader took in $115,000 for the short-sale. When the euro fell, and the trader covered their short, it cost the trader only $110,000 to repurchase the currency. The difference between the money received on the short-sale and the buy to cover is the profit. Had the euro strengthened versus the dollar, it would have resulted in a loss.
Unlike a stock market, the foreign exchange market is divided into levels of access. At the top is the interbank foreign exchange market, which is made up of the largest commercial banks and securities dealers. Within the interbank market, spreads, which are the difference between the bid and ask prices, are razor sharp and not known to players outside the inner circle. The difference between the bid and ask prices widens (for example from 0 to 1 pip to 1–2 pips for currencies such as the EUR) as you go down the levels of access. This is due to volume. If a trader can guarantee large numbers of transactions for large amounts, they can demand a smaller difference between the bid and ask price, which is referred to as a better spread. The levels of access that make up the foreign exchange market are determined by the size of the "line" (the amount of money with which they are trading). The top-tier interbank market accounts for 51% of all transactions. From there, smaller banks, followed by large multi-national corporations (which need to hedge risk and pay employees in different countries), large hedge funds, and even some of the retail market makers. According to Galati and Melvin, “Pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, and other institutional investors have played an increasingly important role in financial markets in general, and in FX markets in particular, since the early 2000s.” (2004) In addition, he notes, “Hedge funds have grown markedly over the 2001–2004 period in terms of both number and overall size”. Central banks also participate in the foreign exchange market to align currencies to their economic needs.
At Admiral Markets, our platforms of choice are MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5, which are the world's most user-friendly multi-asset trading platforms. Both platforms are accessible across a range of devices including - PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices and web browsers via the MetaTrader Webtrader platform for MT4 and MT5. These are fast and responsive platforms, providing real time trading data. Additionally, these platforms offer automated trading options and advanced charting capabilities, and are highly secure.
Forex brokers provide leverage up to 50:1 (more in some countries). For this example, assume the trader is using 30:1 leverage, as usually that is more than enough leverage for forex day traders. Since the trader has $5,000, and leverage is 30:1, the trader is able to take positions worth up to $150,000. Risk is still based on the original $5,000; this keeps the risk limited to a small portion of the deposited capital.
Forex alerts or signals are delivered in an assortment of ways. User generated alerts can be created to ‘pop up’ via simple broker trading platform tools, or more complex 3rd party signal providers can send traders alerts via SMS, email or direct messages. Whatever the mechanism the aim is the same, to trigger trades as soon as certain criteria are met.
Alongside choosing a broker, you will also be researching the Forex trading software and platforms they offer. The trading platform is the central element of your trading, and your main working tool. It is an essential piece of the puzzle, as the best Forex tools can have a significant impact on your trading results. So, what should you be looking for when considering your options?
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.
Currency rates are representative of the Bloomberg Generic Composite rate (BGN), a representation based on indicative rates only contributed by market participants. The data is NOT based on any actual market trades. Currency data is 5 minutes delayed, provided for information purposes only and not intended for trading; Bloomberg does not guarantee the accuracy of the data. See full details and disclaimer.
Forex is the one financial market that never sleeps, meaning you can trade at all hours of the day (or night). Unlike the world's stock exchanges, which are located in physical trading rooms like the New York Stock Exchange or the London Stock Exchange, the Forex market is known as an 'Over-the-counter market' (or OTC). This means that the trades take place directly between the parties holding the currencies, rather than being managed via an exchange.
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Both types of contracts are binding and are typically settled for cash for the exchange in question upon expiry, although contracts can also be bought and sold before they expire. The forwards and futures markets can offer protection against risk when trading currencies. Usually, big international corporations use these markets in order to hedge against future exchange rate fluctuations, but speculators take part in these markets as well.