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.
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.
While Forex trading for beginners or professionals will always require software, the level of competition between brokers means that most Forex trading software is available for free. Many Forex trading beginners are also tempted to purchase FX robots, also known as Expert Advisers (EAs). While some EAs can be helpful, it can be hard for them to remain profitable when the market changes.
Forex day trading is usually used in order to eliminate the need to pay fees for keeping a position overnight. These fees are referred to as 'Swaps'. In some cases, the swaps could be positive, and a trading strategy based on acquiring assets with positive swaps is referred to as a 'Carry Trade', however this strategy is beyond the scope of this article. Day traders hold a lot of importance for the Forex market.
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.