Forex, also known as foreign exchange, FX or currency trading, is a decentralized global market where all the world's currencies trade. The forex market is the largest, most liquid market in the world with an average daily trading volume exceeding $5 trillion. All the world's combined stock markets don't even come close to this. But what does that mean to you? Take a closer look at forex trading and you may find some exciting trading opportunities unavailable with other investments.
The most common type of forward transaction is the foreign exchange swap. In a swap, two parties exchange currencies for a certain length of time and agree to reverse the transaction at a later date. These are not standardized contracts and are not traded through an exchange. A deposit is often required in order to hold the position open until the transaction is completed.
All forex trades involve two currencies because you're betting on the value of a currency against another. Think of EUR/USD, the most-traded currency pair in the world. EUR, the first currency in the pair, is the base, and USD, the second, is the counter. When you see a price quoted on your platform, that price is how much one euro is worth in US dollars. You always see two prices because one is the buy price and one is the sell. The difference between the two is the spread. When you click buy or sell, you are buying or selling the first currency in the pair.
Investors – Investment firms who manage large portfolios for their clients use the Fx market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager controlling an international equity portfolio needs to use the Forex market to purchase and sell several currency pairs in order to pay for foreign securities they want to purchase.
If you are keen to start trading, a risk-free way to learn the fundamentals and test out new skills is by opening a Forex demo account. A demo trading account gives you the opportunity to trade on Admiral Markets' 7,500+ trading instruments, including our 40 CFDs on Forex currency pairs, in real market conditions, without spending any of your money. Simply put, you will have access to virtual funds that you can use to make trades in a demo environment, making this the perfect way to put your knowledge to the test.
Trading in the euro has grown considerably since the currency's creation in January 1999, and how long the foreign exchange market will remain dollar-centered is open to debate. Until recently, trading the euro versus a non-European currency ZZZ would have usually involved two trades: EURUSD and USDZZZ. The exception to this is EURJPY, which is an established traded currency pair in the interbank spot market.
For traders—especially those with limited funds—day trading or swing trading in small amounts is easier in the forex market than other markets. For those with longer-term horizons and larger funds, long-term fundamentals-based trading or a carry trade can be profitable. A focus on understanding the macroeconomic fundamentals driving currency values and experience with technical analysis may help new forex traders to become more profitable.
Many currency pairs will move about 50 to 100 pips (sometimes more or less depending on overall market conditions) a day. A pip (an acronym for Point in Percentage) is the name used to indicate the fourth decimal place in a currency pair, or the second decimal place when JPY is in the pair. When the price of the EUR/USD moves from 1.3600 to 1.3650, that's a 50 pip move; if you bought the pair at 1.3600 and sold it at 1.3650 you'd make a 50-pip profit.
A spot transaction is a two-day delivery transaction (except in the case of trades between the US dollar, Canadian dollar, Turkish lira, euro and Russian ruble, which settle the next business day), as opposed to the futures contracts, which are usually three months. This trade represents a “direct exchange” between two currencies, has the shortest time frame, involves cash rather than a contract, and interest is not included in the agreed-upon transaction. Spot trading is one of the most common types of forex trading. Often, a forex broker will charge a small fee to the client to roll-over the expiring transaction into a new identical transaction for a continuation of the trade. This roll-over fee is known as the "swap" fee.
The benefit of choosing a regulated broker is that this will ensure that you, as a trader, are protected to the full extent of the law in your country. For instance, in 2018 the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) introduced a range of legislation protecting retail trading clients, which all European Forex brokers must abide by. This legislation includes limits on available leverage, volatility protection, negative balance protection and more.
The challenge is assessing which outcome is the most likely, and then opening a trade accordingly. A good starting point for this trading approach is first being aware of upcoming events that may affect the Forex market (refer to our live Forex calendar for the latest events) and second, looking at the effect similar announcements had on different currency pairs in the past. You can learn more about fundamental analysis in our Introduction to Fundamental Analysis article.
However, since the Forex market is a global market, it means there is always a part of the world that is awake and conducting business, and during these hours their currencies tend to experience the most movement. For example, currency pairs involving the US dollar experience the most movement during US business hours (16:00 to 24:00 GMT), while the Euro, Pound, Swiss Franc and other European currencies experience the most movement during European business hours, (8:00 and 16:00 GMT).
Retail Forex traders – Finally, we come to retail Forex traders (you and I). The retail Forex trading industry is growing everyday with the advent of Forex trading platforms and their ease of accessibility on the internet. Retail Forex traders access the market indirectly either through a broker or a bank. There are two main types of retail Forex brokers that provide us with the ability to speculate on the currency market: brokers and dealers. Brokers work as an agent for the trader by trying to find the best price in the market and executing on behalf of the customer. For this, they charge a commission on top of the price obtained in the market. Dealers are also called market makers because they ‘make the market’ for the trader and act as the counter-party to their transactions, they quote a price they are willing to deal at and are compensated through the spread, which is the difference between the buy and sell price (more on this later).
The most profitable forex strategy will require an effective money management system. One technique that many suggest is never trading more than 1-2% of your account on a single trade. So, if you have $10,000 in your account, you wouldn’t risk more than $100 to $200 on an individual trade. As a result, a temporary string of bad results won’t blow all your capital.
Despite being able to trade 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, you shouldn’t (Forex trading is not quite 24.7). You should only trade a forex pair when it’s active, and when you’ve got enough volume. Trading forex at weekends will see small volume. Take GBP/USD for example, there are specific hours where you have enough volatility to create profits that are likely to negate the bid price spread and commission costs.
Currency trading was very difficult for individual investors prior to the internet. Most currency traders were large multinational corporations, hedge funds or high-net-worth individuals because forex trading required a lot of capital. With help from the internet, a retail market aimed at individual traders has emerged, providing easy access to the foreign exchange markets, either through the banks themselves or brokers making a secondary market. Most online brokers or dealers offer very high leverage to individual traders who can control a large trade with a small account balance.