“Forex” is just one of a number of terms that are used to describe the trading of the world’s various currencies. Foreign Exchange and just plain FX are some other terms used. The Forex market is the largest in the world with an average of $ 3 trillion US is traded on a daily basis.
Most Forex trading is what is considered “speculative trading”; that is buying and selling in the hope of making a profit, rather than doing so for some fundamental business-related need. Only a low percentage of market activity actually represents governments’ and companies’ fundamental currency conversion needs. What follows is a basic introduction to a few of the different types of common Forex trading.
Unlike stock market trading, the Forex market is not conducted by a central exchange. Rather, it is conducted on what is known as the “interbank market”. This is the short-term (often overnight) borrowing and lending between banks, as distinct from a banks’ business with their corporate clients or other financial institutions. The Forex market is considered an OTC or “over the counter” market. This is when trading takes place directly between two parties – whether over the telephone or on electronic networks all over the world- rather than on an exchange.
Over the counter trades can be customised whereas exchange-traded products are often standardised. The main centres for trading are Sydney, Tokyo, London, Frankfurt and New York. Such a worldwide distribution of trading centres across many time zones means that the Forex market never rests; it’s active 24/7.
A currency trade involves the simultaneous buying of one currency and selling of another one. The currency combination used in the trade is called a “cross” (for example, the Euro/US dollar, or the GB pound/Japanese yen.). The most commonly traded currencies are the so-called “majors” – EURUSD (Euro/US dollar), USDJPY (US dollar/Japanese yen) and GBPUSD (British pound/US dollar). The most important Forex market is the “spot market” as it has the largest volume. It is called the “spot market” because all trades are settled immediately, or “on the spot” as it where, which in practice means two banking days.
In the case of what are called “forward outrights”, settlement on the value date selected in the trade means that even though the trade itself is carried out immediately, there is a small interest rate calculation left. This interest rate differential doesn’t usually affect trade considerations unless one plans on holding a position with a large differential over a long period of time. The interest rate differential varies according to the cross being traded. Some interest differentials are fairly insignificant, while others can be quite large.
Margin trading involves buying and selling assets that represent more value than the capital in ones account. A margin deposit is the deposit required when entering into a position as well as to hold an open position. An open position is a position in a currency that has not yet been offset. For example, if someone buys 100,000 USDJPY, they have an open position in USDJPY until it is offset by selling 100,000 USDJPY, which “closes” the position.
Forex trading usually requires only relatively small margin deposits, which is useful since it permits investors to better take advantage of exchange rate fluctuations, which tend to be very small. What this means is someone with a margin of 1.0% can trade up to USD 1,000,000 even though they may only have USD 10,000 in their account. Using this much leverage can enable a savvy investor to profit very quickly, but there is also a greater risk of incurring large losses and even being completely wiped out.