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).
Unlike a stock market, the foreign exchange market is divided into levels of access. At the top is the interbank foreign exchange market, which is made up of the largest commercial banks and securities dealers. Within the interbank market, spreads, which are the difference between the bid and ask prices, are razor sharp and not known to players outside the inner circle. The difference between the bid and ask prices widens (for example from 0 to 1 pip to 1–2 pips for currencies such as the EUR) as you go down the levels of access. This is due to volume. If a trader can guarantee large numbers of transactions for large amounts, they can demand a smaller difference between the bid and ask price, which is referred to as a better spread. The levels of access that make up the foreign exchange market are determined by the size of the "line" (the amount of money with which they are trading). The top-tier interbank market accounts for 51% of all transactions. From there, smaller banks, followed by large multi-national corporations (which need to hedge risk and pay employees in different countries), large hedge funds, and even some of the retail market makers. According to Galati and Melvin, “Pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, and other institutional investors have played an increasingly important role in financial markets in general, and in FX markets in particular, since the early 2000s.” (2004) In addition, he notes, “Hedge funds have grown markedly over the 2001–2004 period in terms of both number and overall size”. Central banks also participate in the foreign exchange market to align currencies to their economic needs.
The Forex (FOReign EXchange) market appeared at the end of the 1970s after many countries decided to unpeg their currency value from that of the US dollar or gold. This led to the formation of an international market on which currency could be exchanged and traded freely. Today, Forex is the largest financial market in the world. It doesn’t matter where you live or even where you are right now; as long as you have access to the Internet, a trading terminal (a special program for trading Forex), and an account with a Forex broker, all the instruments and opportunities of Forex are available to you.
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.
It should be noted that there is no central marketplace for the Forex market; trading is instead said to be conducted ‘over the counter’; it’s not like stocks where there is a central marketplace with all orders processed like the NYSE. Forex is a product quoted by all the major banks, and not all banks will have the exact same price. Now, the broker platforms take all theses feeds from the different banks and the quotes we see from our broker are an approximate average of them. It’s the broker who is effectively transacting the trade and taking the other side of it…they ‘make the market’ for you. When you buy a currency pair…your broker is selling it to you, not ‘another trader’.
Leverage simply means borrowing money needed to make a trade, and in Forex terms, this money is borrowed from the broker. This is one huge advantage of the Forex market, whereby brokers allow you to trade up to 2% of the overall contract size (50:1) compared to stock market (2:1). You can use the small account to trade large sizes where wins can be quite large and you only need a small capital to obtain it.
In the context of the foreign exchange market, traders liquidate their positions in various currencies to take up positions in safe-haven currencies, such as the US dollar. Sometimes, the choice of a safe haven currency is more of a choice based on prevailing sentiments rather than one of economic statistics. An example would be the financial crisis of 2008. The value of equities across the world fell while the US dollar strengthened (see Fig.1). This happened despite the strong focus of the crisis in the US.
The mere expectation or rumor of a central bank foreign exchange intervention might be enough to stabilize the currency. However, aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime. Central banks do not always achieve their objectives. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. Several scenarios of this nature were seen in the 1992–93 European Exchange Rate Mechanism collapse, and in more recent times in Asia.
As you could see the foreign exchange market is not so complex to understand and not so dangerous to enter. You can become one of its participants in a few minutes and start earning money more than easily. How to learn Forex trading and specifically how to use the online trading platform are thoroughly presented on our website. You can read our educational materials and trading e-books which will help you understand the essence of Forex trading, discover its benefits, learn how to trade effectively and how to manage your risk.
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 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.