The original demand for foreign exchange arose from merchants’ requirements for foreign currency to settle trades. However, now, as well as trade and investment requirements, foreign exchange is also bought and sold for risk management (hedging), arbitrage, and speculative gain. Therefore, financial, rather than trade, flows act as the key determinant of exchange rates; for example, interest rate differentials act as a magnet for yield-driven capital. Thus, the currency markets are often held to be a permanent and ongoing referendum on government policy decisions and the health of the economy; if the markets disapprove, they will vote with their feet and exit a currency. However, debates about the actual versus potential mobility of capital remain contested, as do those about whether exchange rate movements can best be characterized as rational, “overshooting,” or speculatively irrational.
The foreign exchange market – also called forex, FX, or currency market – was one of the original financial markets formed to bring structure to the burgeoning global economy. In terms of trading volume it is, by far, the largest financial market in the world. Aside from providing a venue for the buying, selling, exchanging and speculation of currencies, the forex market also enables currency conversion for international trade settlements and investments. According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is owned by central banks, trading in foreign exchange markets averaged $5.1 trillion per day in April 2016.
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Individual retail speculative traders constitute a growing segment of this market. Currently, they participate indirectly through brokers or banks. Retail brokers, while largely controlled and regulated in the US by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and National Futures Association, have previously been subjected to periodic foreign exchange fraud. To deal with the issue, in 2010 the NFA required its members that deal in the Forex markets to register as such (I.e., Forex CTA instead of a CTA). Those NFA members that would traditionally be subject to minimum net capital requirements, FCMs and IBs, are subject to greater minimum net capital requirements if they deal in Forex. A number of the foreign exchange brokers operate from the UK under Financial Services Authority regulations where foreign exchange trading using margin is part of the wider over-the-counter derivatives trading industry that includes contracts for difference and financial spread betting.
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.
Governments / Central banks – A country’s central bank can play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They can cause an increase or decrease in the value of their nation’s currency by trying to control money supply, inflation, and (or) interest rates. They can use their substantial foreign exchange reserves to try and stabilize the market.
Non-bank foreign exchange companies offer currency exchange and international payments to private individuals and companies. These are also known as "foreign exchange brokers" but are distinct in that they do not offer speculative trading but rather currency exchange with payments (i.e., there is usually a physical delivery of currency to a bank account).
If you scrupulously trail all events, micro factors and macro factors, you have a much higher chance of success in making your predictions. But you should understand that this is not easy. There are some sites that offer so-called free Forex predictions, but you should avoid them, as they are not reliable. To track economic announcements, forecasts, and other important information related to Forex, many professional FX traders use a Forex Calendar.
Traders who understand indicators such as Bollinger bands or MACD will be more than capable of setting up their own alerts. But for the time poor, a paid service might prove fruitful. You would of course, need enough time to actually place the trades, and you need to be confident in the supplier. It is unlikely that someone with a profitable signal strategy is willing to share it cheaply (or at all). Beware of any promises that seem too good to be true.
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.
Both types of contracts are binding and are typically settled for cash for the exchange in question upon expiry, although contracts can also be bought and sold before they expire. The forwards and futures markets can offer protection against risk when trading currencies. Usually, big international corporations use these markets in order to hedge against future exchange rate fluctuations, but speculators take part in these markets as well.