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 number quoted for these prices is based on the current exchange rate of the currencies in the pair, or how much of the second currency you would get in exchange for one unit of the first currency (for instance, if 1 EUR could be exchanged for 1.68 USD, the bid and ask price would be on either side of this number). Learn more about Forex quotes in this article: Understanding and Reading Forex Quotes.
Unlike stock markets, which can trace their roots back centuries, the forex market as we understand it today is a truly new market. Of course, in its most basic sense - that of people converting one currency to another for financial advantage - forex has been around since nations began minting currencies. But the modern forex markets are a modern invention. After the accord at Bretton Woods in 1971, more major currencies were allowed to float freely against one another. The values of individual currencies vary, which has given rise to the need for foreign exchange services and trading.
Every broker offers a demo account – whether you are a beginner or not, test every new strategy there first. Keep going until the results are conclusive and you are confident in what you are testing. Only then should you open a live account and use your strategy in the smallest volume trades available. Be sure to treat your demo account trades as if they were real trades. You may also use Forex simulation software to simulate market conditions, and create an impression of a live trading session.
From a historical standpoint, foreign exchange was once a concept for governments, large companies, and hedge funds. But in today's world, trading currencies is as easy as a click of a mouse—accessibility is not an issue, which means anyone can do it. In fact, many investment firms offer the chance for individuals to open accounts and to trade currencies however and whenever they choose.
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.