The spread, in Forex, is the difference between the bid and ask price of a currency pair. For example, if the Bid price of the EUR/USD is 1.16668, and the sell price is 1.16669, the spread will be 0.0001, or 1 pip. In any Forex trade, the value of a currency pair will need to cross the spread before it becomes profitable. To continue with the previous example, if a trader entered a long EUR/USD trade at 1.16668, the trade wouldn't become profitable until the value of the pair was higher than 1.16669.
Traders who understand indicators such as Bollinger bands or MACD will be more than capable of setting up their own alerts. But for the time poor, a paid service might prove fruitful. You would of course, need enough time to actually place the trades, and you need to be confident in the supplier. It is unlikely that someone with a profitable signal strategy is willing to share it cheaply (or at all). Beware of any promises that seem too good to be true.
Individual retail speculative traders constitute a growing segment of this market. Currently, they participate indirectly through brokers or banks. Retail brokers, while largely controlled and regulated in the US by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and National Futures Association, have previously been subjected to periodic foreign exchange fraud. To deal with the issue, in 2010 the NFA required its members that deal in the Forex markets to register as such (I.e., Forex CTA instead of a CTA). Those NFA members that would traditionally be subject to minimum net capital requirements, FCMs and IBs, are subject to greater minimum net capital requirements if they deal in Forex. A number of the foreign exchange brokers operate from the UK under Financial Services Authority regulations where foreign exchange trading using margin is part of the wider over-the-counter derivatives trading industry that includes contracts for difference and financial spread betting.
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The mere expectation or rumor of a central bank foreign exchange intervention might be enough to stabilize the currency. However, aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime. Central banks do not always achieve their objectives. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. Several scenarios of this nature were seen in the 1992–93 European Exchange Rate Mechanism collapse, and in more recent times in Asia.
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.
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.
One way to deal with the foreign exchange risk is to engage in a forward transaction. In this transaction, money does not actually change hands until some agreed upon future date. A buyer and seller agree on an exchange rate for any date in the future, and the transaction occurs on that date, regardless of what the market rates are then. The duration of the trade can be one day, a few days, months or years. Usually the date is decided by both parties. Then the forward contract is negotiated and agreed upon by both parties.
OANDA doesn’t provide any products to American investors besides forex. In some ways, the clarity and concentration of a forex focus is ideal for all types of forex investors. The inexperienced can set their sights on mastering one corner of the market. The seasoned can take advantage of a trading platform that’s designed to manage nothing but forex. That said, if being able to diversify your interests while staying within the same brokerage is important to you, check out thinkorswim or Ally Invest.
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The foreign exchange market is where currencies are traded. Currencies are important to most people around the world, whether they realize it or not, because currencies need to be exchanged in order to conduct foreign trade and business. If you are living in the U.S. and want to buy cheese from France, either you or the company that you buy the cheese from has to pay the French for the cheese in euros (EUR). This means that the U.S. importer would have to exchange the equivalent value of U.S. dollars (USD) into euros. The same goes for traveling. A French tourist in Egypt can't pay in euros to see the pyramids because it's not the locally accepted currency. As such, the tourist has to exchange the euros for the local currency, in this case the Egyptian pound, at the current exchange rate.