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.
Currencies are traded against one another in pairs. Each currency pair thus constitutes an individual trading product and is traditionally noted XXXYYY or XXX/YYY, where XXX and YYY are the ISO 4217 international three-letter code of the currencies involved. The first currency (XXX) is the base currency that is quoted relative to the second currency (YYY), called the counter currency (or quote currency). For instance, the quotation EURUSD (EUR/USD) 1.5465 is the price of the Euro expressed in US dollars, meaning 1 euro = 1.5465 dollars. The market convention is to quote most exchange rates against the USD with the US dollar as the base currency (e.g. USDJPY, USDCAD, USDCHF). The exceptions are the British pound (GBP), Australian dollar (AUD), the New Zealand dollar (NZD) and the euro (EUR) where the USD is the counter currency (e.g. GBPUSD, AUDUSD, NZDUSD, EURUSD).
Since the market is made by each of the participating banks providing offers and bids for a particular currency, the market pricing mechanism is based on supply and demand. Because there are such large trade flows within the system, it is difficult for rogue traders to influence the price of a currency. This system helps create transparency in the market for investors with access to interbank dealing.
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.
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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.
When learning about Forex trading, many beginners tend to focus on major currency pairs because of their daily volatility and tight spreads. But there are numerous other opportunities – from exotic FX pairs, to CFD trading opportunities on stocks, commodities, energy futures, to indices. There are even indices that track groups of indices, and you can trade them as well.
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.
Set realistic trading goals: It's important to be realistic with your trading expectations, as this will help you assess the best times to open and close trades. Many new Forex traders have very high expectations about their potential profits, and this causes them to trade very aggressively, with large sums of money and fast decisions. Again, start small to test your knowledge and skills, and as you start to reliably achieve the results you want, you can set bigger goals.
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.