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.
The foreign exchange market assists international trade and investments by enabling currency conversion. For example, it permits a business in the United States to import goods from European Union member states, especially Eurozone members, and pay Euros, even though its income is in United States dollars. It also supports direct speculation and evaluation relative to the value of currencies and the carry trade speculation, based on the differential interest rate between two currencies.
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.
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.
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.
FOREX.com is a registered FCM and RFED with the CFTC and member of the National Futures Association (NFA # 0339826). Forex trading involves significant risk of loss and is not suitable for all investors. Full Disclosure. Spot Gold and Silver contracts are not subject to regulation under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act. *Increasing leverage increases risk.