The Foreign Exchange market, also referred to as the "Forex" or "FX" market, is the largest financial market in the world, with a daily average turnover of approximately US$1.5 trillion. Foreign Exchange is the simultaneous buying of one currency and selling of another. The world’s currencies are on a floating exchange rate and are always traded in pairs, for example Euro/Dollar or Dollar/Yen.
FX Trading is not centralized on an exchange, as with the stock and futures markets. The FX market is considered an Over the Counter (OTC) or ’Interbank’ market, due to the fact that transactions are conducted between two counterparts over the telephone or via an electronic network.
The Forex market is called an ’Interbank’ market due to the fact that historically it has been dominated by banks, including central banks, commercial banks, and investment banks. However, the percentage of other market participants is rapidly growing, and now includes large multinational corporations, global money managers, registered dealers, international money brokers, futures and options traders, and private speculators.
A true 24-hour market, Forex trading begins each day in Sydney, and moves around the globe as the business day begins in each financial center, first to Tokyo, then London, and New York. Unlike any other financial market, investors can respond to currency fluctuations caused by economic, social and political events at the time they occur - day or night.
The most often traded or ’liquid’ currencies are those of countries with stable governments, respected central banks, and low inflation. Today, over 85% of all daily transactions involve trading of the major currencies, which include the US Dollar, Japanese Yen, Euro, British Pound, Swiss Franc, Canadian Dollar and the Australian Dollar.
No. FXA requires a minimum deposit of $250. FXA allows customers to execute margin trades at up to 200:1 leverage. This means that investors can execute trades of $10,000 with an initial margin requirement of $50. However, it is important to remember that while this type of leverage allows investors to maximize their profit potential, the potential for loss is equally great. A more pragmatic margin trade for someone new to the FX markets would be 20:1 but ultimately depends on the investor’s appetite for risk.
Margin is essentially collateral for a position. If the market moves against a customer’s position, FXA will request additional funds through a "margin call." If there are insufficient available funds, FXA will immediately close out the customer’s open positions.
In trading parlance, a long position is one in which a trader buys a currency at one price and aims to sell it later at a higher price. In this scenario, the investor benefits from a rising market. A short position is one in which the trader sells a currency in anticipation that it will depreciate. In this scenario, the investor benefits from a declining market. However, it is important to remember that every FX position requires an investor to go long in one currency and short the other.
FXA has an extensive Glossary that provides detailed definitions of all Forex related terms.
Intraday positions are all positions opened anytime during the 24 hour period AFTER the close of FXA’s normal trading hours at 4:30pm EST. Overnight positions are positions that are still on at the end of normal trading hours (4:30pm EST), which are automatically rolled by FXA at competitive rates (based on the currencies interest rate differentials) to the next day’s price.
Currency prices are affected by a variety of economic and political conditions, most importantly interest rates, inflation and political stability. Moreover, governments sometimes participate in the Forex market to influence the value of their currencies, either by flooding the market with their domestic currency in an attempt to lower the price, or conversely buying in order to raise the price. This is known as Central Bank intervention. Any of these factors, as well as large market orders, can cause high volatility in currency prices. However, the size and volume of the Forex market makes it impossible for any one entity to "drive" the market for any length of time.
The most common risk management tools in FX trading are the limit order and the stop loss order. A limit order places restriction on the maximum price to be paid or the minimum price to be received. A stop loss order ensures a particular position is automatically liquidated at a predetermined price in order to limit potential losses should the market move against an investor’s position. The liquidity of the Forex market ensures that limit order and stop loss orders can be easily executed.
Currency traders make decisions using both technical factors and economic fundamentals. Technical traders use charts, trend lines, support and resistance levels, and numerous patterns and mathematical analyses to identify trading opportunities, whereas fundamentalists predict price movements by interpreting a wide variety of economic information, including news, government-issued indicators and reports, and even rumor. The most dramatic price movements however, occur when unexpected events happen. The event can range from a Central Bank raising domestic interest rates to the outcome of a political election or even an act of war. Nonetheless, more often it is the expectation of an event that drives the market rather than the event itself.
Market conditions dictate trading activity on any given day. As a reference, the average small to medium trader might trade as often as 10 times a day. Most importantly, by not charging commission, FXA customers can take positions as often as necessary without worrying about excessive transaction costs.
As a general rule, a position is kept open until one of the following occurs: 1) realization of sufficient profits from a position; 2) the specified stop-loss is triggered; 3) another position that has a better potential appears and you need these funds.
In The Forex Market section we describe the foreign exchange market in some detail. In order to gain a practical understanding of foreign exchange trading, there is no better way than to open a demo account, where you can experience what it’s like to trade the Forex market without risking any capital.