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.
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.
For example, if you invested 5,000 EUR and lost 1,000 EUR, you will have lost 20% of your balance, leaving you with a final balance of 4,000 EUR. To bring your balance back to 5,000 EUR, you will need to make a profit of 1,000 EUR. However, with a starting balance of 4,000 EUR (after the previous loss), there is now a 25% gain, rather than a 20% one.
Major Currency — currencies from the world’s most developed economies including Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia — represent the most heavily traded and liquid currency markets for any forex trader. A major currency pair is created when one of these currencies is traded against the U.S. dollar. Examples include Euro vs. the U.S. Dollar (EUR/USD) and the U.S. Dollar vs. the Canadian Dollar (USD/CAD). Their availability on a forex brokerage is essential.
Experts say that forex is a zero-sum game. That means that someone always loses commensurate to someone else’s win — that’s how the game is played. When you add in costs and fees associated with running a forex account and making trades, you enter negative-sum territory. That said, shrewd trading moves can pay out. Substantially. If you have the time and interest required to learn to identify patterns in price fluctuations and execute far-sighted trades, you will make wins on the forex market. That said, the most thoughtful strategy is also liable to bring about loss. Don’t trade more than you can afford to lose.
^ The total sum is 200% because each currency trade always involves a currency pair; one currency is sold (e.g. US$) and another bought (€). Therefore each trade is counted twice, once under the sold currency ($) and once under the bought currency (€). The percentages above are the percent of trades involving that currency regardless of whether it is bought or sold, e.g. the U.S. Dollar is bought or sold in 88% of all trades, whereas the Euro is bought or sold 32% of the time.
Big news comes in and then the market starts to spike or plummets rapidly. At this point it may be tempting to jump on the easy-money train, however, doing so without a disciplined trading plan behind you can be just as damaging as gambling before the news comes out. This is because illiquidity and sharp price movements mean a trade can quickly translate into significant losses as large swings take place or ‘whipsaw’.
If you've been researching Forex trading, you might have seen the term 'Forex CFDs' at some point. There are two ways to trade Forex: using CFDs or spot Forex (also known as margin). Spot Forex involves buying and selling the actual currency. For example, you might purchase a certain amount of Pound Sterling for Euros, and then, once the value of the Pound increases, you may then exchange your Euros for Pounds again, receiving more money back compared with what you originally spent on the purchase.
When trading Forex, you'll see that both 'Bid' and 'Ask' prices are quoted. The bid price is the price at which you can buy the currency, while the ask price is the price at which you can sell it. If you are purchasing a currency in a trade, this is known as a long trade, and the hope is that the currency pair will increase in value, so that you can sell it at a higher price and make a profit on the difference.
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.