Spot and Forward Foreign Exchange
Forex trading may be for spot or forward delivery. Spot transactions are generally undertaken for an actual exchange of currencies - delivery or settlement - for a value date two business days later.
Forward transactions involve a delivery date further in the future, sometimes as far as a year or more ahead. By buying or selling in the forward market, it is possible to protect the value of any anticipated flows of foreign currency, in terms of one's own domestic currency, from exchange rate volatility.
Difference Between Foreign Currency and Foreign Exchange
Anyone who has traveled outside their country of residence would have had some exposure to both foreign currency and foreign exchange.
For example, if you live in the United States and travelled, lets say, to London, England you may have exchanged your home currency i.e. US $ for British Pounds. The British Pounds are referred to as a foreign currency and the act of exchanging your US $ for British Pounds is called foreign exchange.
The Foreign Exchange Market
Unlike some financial markets, the foreign exchange market has no single location as it is not dealt across a trading floor. Instead, trading is done via telephone and computer links between dealers in different trading centres and different countries.
The FX market is considered an Over The Counter (OTC) or 'interbank' market, as transactions are conducted between two counterparts over the telephone or via an electronic network. Trading is not centralized on an exchange, as it is with the stock and futures markets.
Reasons for Buying and Selling Currencies
Through the mechanism of the foreign exchange market companies, fund managers and banks are enabled to buy and sell foreign currencies in whatever amounts they want. The demand for foreign currency is stimulated by a number of factors such as capital flows arising from trade in goods and services, cross-border investment and loans and speculation on the future level of exchange rates. Exchange deals are typically for amounts between $3 million and $10 million, though transactions for much larger amounts are often done.
There are two basic reasons to buy and sell currencies. About 5% of daily turnover is from companies and governments that buy or sell products and services in a foreign country or must convert profits made in foreign currencies into their domestic currency. The other 95% is trading for profit, or speculation.
Speculators desire to trade forex for the opportunity to profit from a movement in currency exchange rates. For example, if a trader believes that the Euro will weaken relative to the U.S. dollar, then the trader can sell Euros against U.S. dollars in the Forex market. This is referred to as being "short Euros against the dollar" which, from a trading perspective, is the same as being "long dollars against the Euro". If the Euro weakens against the dollar, then the position will profit
For speculators, the best trading opportunities are usually with the most commonly traded and therefore most liquid currencies, called "the Majors." Today, more than 85% of all daily transactions involve trading of the Majors, which include the US Dollar, Japanese Yen, Euro, British Pound, Swiss Franc, Canadian Dollar and Australian Dollar.
True 24 Hour Market
Forex is a true 24-hour market and trading begins each day in Sydney, and moves around the globe as the business day begins in each financial centre, first to Tokyo, then London, and then New York. Unlike any other financial market, traders can respond to currency fluctuations caused by economic, social and political events at the time they occur - day or night.
As with all financial products, FX quotes include a "'bid" and "offer". The "bid" is the price at which a dealer is willing to buy - and clients can sell - the base currency for the counter currency. The "offer" is the price at which a dealer will sell - and clients can buy - the base currency for the counter currency.
The US Dollar is the Centre-piece
The US dollar is the centre-piece of the Forex market and is normally considered the "base" currency for quotes. In the "Majors," this includes USD/JPY, USD/CHF and USD/CAD. For these currencies and many others, quotes are expressed as a unit of $1 USD per the other currency quoted in the pair. The exceptions to USD-based quoting include the Euro, British pound (also called Sterling), and Australian dollar. These currencies are quoted as dollars per foreign currency as opposed to foreign currencies per dollar.
What Affects the Currency Prices
Currency prices are affected by a variety of economic and political conditions, most significantly 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 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.
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. Fundamentalists predict price movements by interpreting a wide variety of economic information, including news, government-issued indicators and reports, and even rumour.
Rewards and Risks in the Forex Trading Market
Trading foreign currencies is a challenging and potentially profitable opportunity for educated and experienced traders.
However, there is considerable exposure to risk in any foreign exchange transaction. Any transaction involving currencies involves risks including, but not limited to, the potential for changing political and/or economic conditions that may substantially affect the price or liquidity of a currency.
Moreover, the leveraged nature of FX trading means that any market movement will have an equally proportional effect on your deposited funds. This may work against you as well as for you. The possibility exists that you could sustain a total loss of initial margin funds and be required to deposit additional funds to maintain your position. If you fail to meet any margin call within the time prescribed, your position will be liquidated and you will be responsible for any resulting losses.
Before deciding to participate in the Forex market, you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience and risk appetite. Most importantly, you should not invest money you cannot afford to lose.
As an investor you may lower your exposure to risk by employing risk-reducing strategies such as "stop-loss" or "limit" orders.
There are also risks associated with utilizing an Internet-based deal execution software application including, but not limited to, the failure of hardware and software.