For trading purposes, the first currency listed in the pair is always the directional currency on a forex price chart. If you pull up a chart of the EUR/USD, and the price is moving higher, it means the EUR is moving higher relative to the USD. If the price on the chart is falling, then the EUR is declining in value relative to the USD. The attached chart shows this.
Investors – Investment firms who manage large portfolios for their clients use the Fx market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager controlling an international equity portfolio needs to use the Forex market to purchase and sell several currency pairs in order to pay for foreign securities they want to purchase.
The foreign exchange market may be left unregulated by governments, with EXCHANGE RATES between currencies being determined by the free interplay of the forces of demand and supply (see FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE SYSTEM), or they may be subjected to support-buying and selling by countries’ CENTRAL BANKS in order to fix them at particular rates. See FIXED EXCHANGE RATE SYSTEM, TOBIN TAX.
To find out how many euros it costs to buy one U.S. dollar, flip the pair to USD/EUR. To find out this rate, divide 1 by 1.3635 (or whatever the current rate is). The result is 0.7334. It costs 0.7334 euros to buy one USD based on the current market price. The price of the currency pair constantly fluctuates, as transactions occur around the globe, 24-hours a day during the week.
Controversy about currency speculators and their effect on currency devaluations and national economies recurs regularly. Economists, such as Milton Friedman, have argued that speculators ultimately are a stabilizing influence on the market, and that stabilizing speculation performs the important function of providing a market for hedgers and transferring risk from those people who don't wish to bear it, to those who do. Other economists, such as Joseph Stiglitz, consider this argument to be based more on politics and a free market philosophy than on economics.
The value of a country's currency depends on whether it is a "free float" or "fixed float". Free floating currencies are those whose relative value is determined by free market forces, such as supply / demand relationships. A fixed float is where a country's governing body sets its currency's relative value to other currencies, often by pegging it to some standard. Free floating currencies include the U.S. Dollar, Japanese Yen and British Pound, while examples of fixed floating currencies include the Chinese Yuan and the Indian Rupee.
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.