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.
By contrast, the Australian Dollar, the New Zealand Dollar and the Japanese Yen tend to be more active between 00:00 and 08:00 GMT. As a trader, this means you can trade whenever it suits you - if you work during the day, there will be currencies available to trade before or after work. If you have children but are at home during the day, you can simply choose a different currency. In the Forex market, you can trade 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Believe it or not, this question does come up from time to time, especially from anyone unfamiliar with the foreign exchange market. Unlike the futures markets, there is no central governing body nor any arbitration panels or clearing houses that control the foreign exchange market. All trade is conducted through credit agreements between individual members.
Due to Forex CFDs being leveraged, traders can access large portions of the currency market at a very low margin - sometimes as low as 1/500th of the size of the market they want to access (based on a leverage rate of 1:500). There are few additional costs as well - most Forex trading accounts have little (or no) commissions, order fees, and account management fees. If there are any trading fees, these are usually a markup the broker has added to the spread.
Decide how you will finance your trading in advance: Only one kind of money is good for investing, and that's the kind that you are willing to lose, and preferably without damaging your physical and/or mental wellbeing in the process. Every profitable trader is profitable in their own way, while every loser experiences losses exactly the same way. Remember, use every available opportunity to learn. It's a never-ending process!
The service of the broker you choose, and the platform they offer, is essential in ensuring that you achieve the best trading results. If you were trading on a system that was slow and regularly crashed, for example, you might not be able to enter or exit a trade at the price you want. Instead, it's important to look for a broker that offers high levels of liquidity, low spreads and the ability to execute orders at the price you want (or as close to this as possible).
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Some investment management firms also have more speculative specialist currency overlay operations, which manage clients' currency exposures with the aim of generating profits as well as limiting risk. While the number of this type of specialist firms is quite small, many have a large value of assets under management and can, therefore, generate large trades.
Finally, consider whether the Forex broker offers education and support. Ongoing education is essential to a Forex trader's development and achieving the best results. This is why Admiral Markets offers a range of free articles and tutorials, webinars and online courses, including Forex 101 and Zero to Hero. In addition to educational content and materials, it's also important to consider the availability of support, so you can get your questions answered, and any potential issues dealt with.
Intra-day, a trader must also accept what the market provides at its various intervals. For example, markets are typically more volatile at the start of the trading day, which means specific strategies used during the market open may not work later in the day. It may become quieter as the day progresses and a different strategy can be used. Toward the close, there may be a pickup in action and yet another strategy can be used. If you can accept what is given at each point in the day, even it does not align with you expectations, you are better positioned for success.
Leveraged trading in foreign currency contracts or other off-exchange products on margin carries a high level of risk and may not be suitable for everyone. We advise you to carefully consider whether trading is appropriate for you in light of your personal circumstances. You may lose more than you invest (except for OANDA Europe Ltd customers who have negative balance protection). Information on this website is general in nature. We recommend that you seek independent financial advice and ensure you fully understand the risks involved before trading. Trading through an online platform carries additional risks. Refer to our legal section here.
One of the most unique features of the forex market is that it is comprised of a global network of financial centers that transact 24 hours a day, closing only on the weekends. As one major forex hub closes, another hub in a different part of the world remains open for business. This increases the liquidity available in currency markets, which adds to its appeal as the largest asset class available to investors.
One unique aspect of this international market is that there is no central marketplace for foreign exchange. Rather, currency trading is conducted electronically over-the-counter (OTC), which means that all transactions occur via computer networks between traders around the world, rather than on one centralized exchange. The market is open 24 hours a day, five and a half days a week, and currencies are traded worldwide in the major financial centers of London, New York, Tokyo, Zurich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and Sydney—across almost every time zone. This means that when the trading day in the U.S. ends, the forex market begins anew in Tokyo and Hong Kong. As such, the forex market can be extremely active any time of the day, with price quotes changing constantly.