In July 1944, representatives from the Allied nations brought forward the importance of a monetary system which would fill the gap left behind the gold standard. They arranged a meeting at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to set up a system that would be called the Bretton Woods system of international monetary management. The creation of Bretton Woods System led to the formation of fixed exchange rates as the United States defined the value of US dollar in terms of gold equal to $ 35 for one ounce and other countries pegged their currencies to the dollar. The US dollar became the main reserve currency and the only currency that was backed by gold. However, in 1970 the U.S. gold reserves were so depleted that it was impossible for the U.S. treasury to cover all the reserves held by foreign central banks.
One of the most unique features of the forex market is that it is comprised of a global network of financial centers that transact 24 hours a day, closing only on the weekends. As one major forex hub closes, another hub in a different part of the world remains open for business. This increases the liquidity available in currency markets, which adds to its appeal as the largest asset class available to investors.
Currency carry trade refers to the act of borrowing one currency that has a low interest rate in order to purchase another with a higher interest rate. A large difference in rates can be highly profitable for the trader, especially if high leverage is used. However, with all levered investments this is a double edged sword, and large exchange rate price fluctuations can suddenly swing trades into huge losses.
There are actually three ways that institutions, corporations and individuals trade forex: the spot market, the forwards market and the futures market. The forex trading in the spot market always has been the largest market because it is the "underlying" real asset that the forwards and futures markets are based on. In the past, the futures market was the most popular venue for traders because it was available to individual investors for a longer period of time. However, with the advent of electronic trading and numerous forex brokers, the spot market has witnessed a huge surge in activity and now surpasses the futures market as the preferred trading market for individual investors and speculators. When people refer to the forex market, they usually are referring to the spot market. The forwards and futures markets tend to be more popular with companies that need to hedge their foreign exchange risks out to a specific date in the future.