Foreign exchange trading increased by 20% between April 2007 and April 2010 and has more than doubled since 2004. The increase in turnover is due to a number of factors: the growing importance of foreign exchange as an asset class, the increased trading activity of high-frequency traders, and the emergence of retail investors as an important market segment. The growth of electronic execution and the diverse selection of execution venues has lowered transaction costs, increased market liquidity, and attracted greater participation from many customer types. In particular, electronic trading via online portals has made it easier for retail traders to trade in the foreign exchange market. By 2010, retail trading was estimated to account for up to 10% of spot turnover, or $150 billion per day (see below: Retail foreign exchange traders).
In the futures market, futures contracts are bought and sold based upon a standard size and settlement date on public commodities markets, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the U.S., the National Futures Association regulates the futures market. Futures contracts have specific details, including the number of units being traded, delivery and settlement dates, and minimum price increments that cannot be customized. The exchange acts as a counterpart to the trader, providing clearance and settlement.
Ready to learn Forex? The pros at Online Trading Academy are here to help! The foreign exchange market (also known as forex or FX) is one of the most exciting, fast-paced markets in the financial world. Though historically, forex has been the domain of large institutions, central banks, and high wealth individuals, the growth of the Internet has allowed the average individual to become involved with and profit from online currency trading.
During the 15th century, the Medici family were required to open banks at foreign locations in order to exchange currencies to act on behalf of textile merchants. To facilitate trade, the bank created the nostro (from Italian, this translates to "ours") account book which contained two columned entries showing amounts of foreign and local currencies; information pertaining to the keeping of an account with a foreign bank. During the 17th (or 18th) century, Amsterdam maintained an active Forex market. In 1704, foreign exchange took place between agents acting in the interests of the Kingdom of England and the County of Holland.
As one major forex market closes, another one opens. According to GMT, for instance, forex trading hours move around the world like this: available in New York between 01:00 pm – 10:00 pm GMT; at 10:00 pm GMT Sydney comes online; Tokyo opens at 00:00 am and closes at 9:00 am GMT; and to complete the loop, London opens at 8:00 am and closes at 05:00 pm GMT. This enables traders and brokers worldwide, together with the participation of the central banks from all continents, to trade online 24 hours a day.
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.
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.
U.S. President Richard Nixon’s nullification of the Bretton Woods Accord in 1971 effectively ended the fixed price peg of the US Dollar — and by extension many other world currencies — to gold. The US Dollar officially became a floating fiat currency and was adopted as a reserve currency by many foreign nations, who continue to use it as a reserve currency today.
The foreign exchange market is the most liquid financial market in the world. Traders include governments and central banks, commercial banks, other institutional investors and financial institutions, currency speculators, other commercial corporations, and individuals. According to the 2010 Triennial Central Bank Survey, coordinated by the Bank for International Settlements, average daily turnover was $3.98 trillion in April 2010 (compared to $1.7 trillion in 1998). Of this $3.98 trillion, $1.5 trillion was spot transactions and $2.5 trillion was traded in outright forwards, swaps, and other derivatives.
All forex trades involve two currencies because you're betting on the value of a currency against another. Think of EUR/USD, the most-traded currency pair in the world. EUR, the first currency in the pair, is the base, and USD, the second, is the counter. When you see a price quoted on your platform, that price is how much one euro is worth in US dollars. You always see two prices because one is the buy price and one is the sell. The difference between the two is the spread. When you click buy or sell, you are buying or selling the first currency in the pair.