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.
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.
Analysis: Does the platform provide in-built analysis?, or offer the tools for you to conduct technical and fundamental analysis independently? Many Forex traders make trades based on technical indicators, and can trade far more effectively if they can access this information within the trading platform, rather than having to leave the platform to find it. This should include charts that are updated in real time, and access to up-to-date market data and news.
Currencies are traded against one another in pairs. Each currency pair thus constitutes an individual trading product and is traditionally noted XXXYYY or XXX/YYY, where XXX and YYY are the ISO 4217 international three-letter code of the currencies involved. The first currency (XXX) is the base currency that is quoted relative to the second currency (YYY), called the counter currency (or quote currency). For instance, the quotation EURUSD (EUR/USD) 1.5465 is the price of the Euro expressed in US dollars, meaning 1 euro = 1.5465 dollars. The market convention is to quote most exchange rates against the USD with the US dollar as the base currency (e.g. USDJPY, USDCAD, USDCHF). The exceptions are the British pound (GBP), Australian dollar (AUD), the New Zealand dollar (NZD) and the euro (EUR) where the USD is the counter currency (e.g. GBPUSD, AUDUSD, NZDUSD, EURUSD).
During the 1920s, the Kleinwort family were known as the leaders of the foreign exchange market, while Japheth, Montagu & Co. and Seligman still warrant recognition as significant FX traders. The trade in London began to resemble its modern manifestation. By 1928, Forex trade was integral to the financial functioning of the city. Continental exchange controls, plus other factors in Europe and Latin America, hampered any attempt at wholesale prosperity from trade[clarification needed] for those of 1930s London.
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.
Volatility is what keeps your trading activity moving. However, if you're not careful it can also completely destroy it. When volatile, the market moves sideways, which makes spreads grow and your orders slip. As a beginner Forex trader, you need to accept that once you are in the market, anything can potentially happen, and it can completely negate your strategy.
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.