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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.
Spot for most currencies is two business days; the major exception is the U.S. dollar versus the Canadian dollar, which settles on the next business day. Other pairs settle in two business days. During periods that have multiple holidays, such as Easter or Christmas, spot transactions can take as long as six days to settle. The price is established on the trade date, but money is exchanged on the value date.
Currencies are always traded in pairs, so the "value" of one of the currencies in that pair is relative to the value of the other. This determines how much of country A's currency country B can buy, and vice versa. Establishing this relationship (price) for the global markets is the main function of the foreign exchange market. This also greatly enhances liquidity in all other financial markets, which is key to overall stability.
The term CFD stands for 'Contract For Difference', and it is a contract used to represent the movement in the prices of financial instruments. In terms of Forex, this means that rather than purchasing and selling large amounts of currency, you can profit on price movements without owning the asset itself. Along with Forex, CFDs are also available on shares, indices, bonds, commodities and cryptocurrencies. In every case, they allow you to trade on the price movements of these instruments without having to purchase them.

Did you know that Admiral Markets offers an enhanced version of Metatrader that boosts trading capabilities? Now you can trade with MetaTrader 4 and MetaTrader 5 with an advanced version of MetaTrader that offers excellent additional features such as the correlation matrix, which enables you to view and contrast various currency pairs in real-time, or the mini trader widget - which allows you to buy or sell via a small window while you continue with everything else you need to do.
The purpose of this method is to make sure no single trade or single day of trading hurts has a significant impact on the account. Therefore, a trader knows that they will not lose more in a single trade or day than they can make back on another by adopting a risk maximum that is equivalent to the average daily gain over a 30 day period. (To understand the risks involved in forex, see "Forex Leverage: A Double-Edged Sword.")
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.
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.[9] 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.
At the end of 1913, nearly half of the world's foreign exchange was conducted using the pound sterling.[24] The number of foreign banks operating within the boundaries of London increased from 3 in 1860, to 71 in 1913. In 1902, there were just two London foreign exchange brokers.[25] At the start of the 20th century, trades in currencies was most active in Paris, New York City and Berlin; Britain remained largely uninvolved until 1914. Between 1919 and 1922, the number of foreign exchange brokers in London increased to 17; and in 1924, there were 40 firms operating for the purposes of exchange.[26]
Currencies are always traded in pairs, so the "value" of one of the currencies in that pair is relative to the value of the other. This determines how much of country A's currency country B can buy, and vice versa. Establishing this relationship (price) for the global markets is the main function of the foreign exchange market. This also greatly enhances liquidity in all other financial markets, which is key to overall stability.
For instance, if you opened a long trade on the GBP/USD currency pair, and the pair increased in value, the price limit at which the trade should close (the stop loss) would climb alongside the price of the currency pair. If the value of the GBP/USD then started to fall, the trade would be closed as soon as it hit your stop loss, preserving any profits you had made beforehand.

At the end of 1913, nearly half of the world's foreign exchange was conducted using the pound sterling.[24] The number of foreign banks operating within the boundaries of London increased from 3 in 1860, to 71 in 1913. In 1902, there were just two London foreign exchange brokers.[25] At the start of the 20th century, trades in currencies was most active in Paris, New York City and Berlin; Britain remained largely uninvolved until 1914. Between 1919 and 1922, the number of foreign exchange brokers in London increased to 17; and in 1924, there were 40 firms operating for the purposes of exchange.[26]
Economic numbers: While economic numbers can certainly reflect economic policy, some reports and numbers take on a talisman-like effect: the number itself becomes important to market psychology and may have an immediate impact on short-term market moves. "What to watch" can change over time. In recent years, for example, money supply, employment, trade balance figures and inflation numbers have all taken turns in the spotlight.
Spread: The spread is the difference between a currency pair's bid and ask price. For the most popular currency pairs, the spread is often low - sometimes even less than a pip! For pairs that aren't traded as frequently, the spread tends to be much higher. Before a Forex trade becomes profitable, the value of the currency pair must cross the spread.
Currency futures contracts are contracts specifying a standard volume of a particular currency to be exchanged on a specific settlement date. Thus the currency futures contracts are similar to forward contracts in terms of their obligation, but differ from forward contracts in the way they are traded. In addition, Futures are daily settled removing credit risk that exist in Forwards.[78] They are commonly used by MNCs to hedge their currency positions. In addition they are traded by speculators who hope to capitalize on their expectations of exchange rate movements.
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.
Similarly, if you wanted to purchase 3,000 USD with Euros, that would cost 2,570 EUR. With a leverage rate of 1:30, however, you could access 3,000 USD worth of the EUR/USD currency pair as a CFD with just 100 USD. The best part, however, is that the size of the potential profit a trader could make is the same as if they had invested in the asset outright. The risk here is that potential losses are magnified to the same extent as potential profits.
As traders, we can take advantage of the high leverage and volatility of the Forex market by learning and mastering and effective Forex trading strategy, building an effective trading plan around that strategy, and following it with ice-cold discipline. Money management is key here; leverage is a double-edged sword and can make you a lot of money fast or lose you a lot of money fast. The key to money management in Forex trading is to always know the exact dollar amount you have at risk before entering a trade and be TOTALLY OK with losing that amount of money, because any one trade could be a loser. More on money management later in the course.
Currencies are traded as pairs, and the movement of currency pairs measure the value of one currency against another. For instance, the EURUSD currency pair measures the value of the Euro against the US dollar. When the value of the pair increases, this means the value of the Euro has increased against the value of the US dollar. When the value of the pair decreases, this means the value of the US dollar has increased (or the value of the Euro has fallen).
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.
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.

Trader's also have the ability to trade risk-free with a demo trading account. This means that traders can avoid putting their capital at risk, and they can choose when they wish to move to the live markets. For instance, Admiral Markets' demo trading account enables traders to gain access to the latest real-time market data, the ability to trade with virtual currency, and access to the latest trading insights from expert traders.
By contrast, the AUD/NZD moves by 50-60 pips a day, and the USDHKD currency pair only moves by an average of 32 pips a day (when looking at the value of currency pairs, most will be listed with five decimal points. A 'Pip' is 0.0001. So, if the EUR/USD moved from 1.16667 to 1.16677, that would represent a 1 pip change). The major Forex pairs tend to be the most liquid, and therefore provide the most opportunities for short-term trading.
Much can be said of unrealistic expectations, which come from many sources, but often result in all of the above problems. Our own trading expectations are often imposed on the market, yet we cannot expect it to act according our desires. Put simply, the market doesn't care about individual desires and traders must accept that the market can be choppy, volatile and trending all in short-, medium- and long-term cycles. There is no tried-and-true method for isolating each move and profiting, and believing so will result in frustration and errors in judgment.
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.
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.
Most retail investors should spend time investigating a forex dealer to find out whether it is regulated in the U.S. or the U.K. (dealers in the U.S. and U.K. have more oversight) or in a country with lax rules and oversight. It is also a good idea to find out what kind of account protections are available in case of a market crisis, or if a dealer becomes insolvent.
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