What is Forex?
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.
FOREX TRANSACTION: IT'S ALL IN THE EXCHANGE
If you've ever traveled overseas, you've made a forex transaction. Take a trip to France and you convert your pounds into euros. When you do this, the forex exchange rate between the two currencies—based on supply and demand—determines how many euros you get for your pounds. And the exchange rate fluctuates continuously.
A single pound on Monday could get you 1.19 euros. On Tuesday, 1.20 euros. This tiny change may not seem like a big deal. But think of it on a bigger scale. A large international company may need to pay overseas employees. Imagine what that could do to the bottom line if, like in the example above, simply exchanging one currency for another costs you more depending on when you do it? These few pennies add up quickly. In both cases, you—as a traveler or a business owner—may want to hold your money until the forex exchange rate is more favorable.
There are several key differences between swapping currencies abroad and buying or selling on the forex.
Participating in the foreign exchange market is the easiest, most efficient way of exchanging currencies. You don't have to stand in line at a currency dealer and pay undue premiums to trade monies. Instead, you simply need computing power, internet connectivity and an FX broker to engage the world's currency markets.
OPPORTUNITIES IN FOREX: WHAT'S YOUR OPINION?
Flexibility and diversity are perhaps the two biggest advantages to trading currencies on the forex. The ability to open either a long or short position in the world's leading major, minor or exotic currencies affords traders countless strategic options.
Just like stocks, you can trade currency based on what you think its value is (or where it's headed). But the big difference with forex is that you can trade up or down just as easily. If you think a currency will increase in value, you can buy it. If you think it will decrease, you can sell it. With a market this large, finding a buyer when you're selling and a seller when you're buying is much easier than in other markets. Maybe you hear on the news that China is devaluing its currency to draw more foreign business into its country. If you think that trend will continue, you could make a forex trade by selling the Chinese currency against another currency, say, the US dollar. The more the Chinese currency devalues against the US dollar, the higher your profits. If the Chinese currency increases in value while you have your sell position open, then your losses increase and you want to get out of the trade.
Past Performance: Past Performance is not an indicator of future results.
MAKING A TRADE: HOW TO BUY AND SELL CURRENCY
You have an opinion. Now what? Open your free forex demo platform and trade your opinion.
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.
Let's say you think the euro will increase in value against the US dollar. Your pair is EUR/USD. Since the euro is first, and you think it will go up, you buy EUR/USD. If you think the euro will drop in value against the US dollar, you sell EUR/USD.
If the EUR/USD buy price is 0.70644 and the sell price is 0.70640, then the spread is 0.4 pips. If the trade moves in your favor (or against you), then, once you cover the spread, you could make a profit (or loss) on your trade.
Trading FX pairs in the contemporary forex marketplace is straightforward and user-friendly. Vast functionalities are readily available on the software trading platform designed to aid in analysis and trade execution. Some of the most powerful features are advanced charting applications, technical indicators and multiple order types. Whether you are an intraday scalper or long-term investor, modern platforms make it routine to conduct business on the forex.
FRACTIONS OF A PENNY: TRADING ON MARGIN
If prices are quoted to the hundredths of cents, how can you see any significant return on your investment when you trade forex? The answer is leverage.
When you trade forex, you're effectively borrowing the first currency in the pair to buy or sell the second currency. With a US$5-trillion-a-day market, the liquidity is so deep that liquidity providers—the big banks, basically—allow you to trade with leverage. To trade with leverage, you simply set aside the required margin for your trade size. If you're trading 200:1 leverage, for example, you can trade £2,000 in the market while only setting aside £10 in margin in your trading account. For 50:1 leverage, the same trade size would still only require about £40 in margin. This gives you much more exposure, while keeping your capital investment down.
While it's true that forex leverage is a great way to optimise your capital efficiency, it must be treated with respect. Ultra-low margin requirements give you the ability to assume large positions in the market with only a minimal capital outlay. This is a key element of posting extraordinary returns over the short, medium or long-run.
However, in FX trading, leverage is the quintessential double-edged sword; it simultaneously boosts profit potential and assumed liability. During volatile periods, an unfortunate turn in price can generate losses in excess of deposited funds. The result can be a premature position liquidation, margin call or account closure.
If you're new to the forex, then it's best to start small. Trading lower leverage ensures that you have enough capital to become experienced in the market. There's plenty of time to implement higher degrees of leverage once you gain competency and security in the marketplace.