The Forex market is the largest financial market on Earth. Its average daily trading volume is more than $3.2 trillion. Compare that with the New York Stock Exchange, which only has an average daily trading volume of $55 billion. In fact, if you were to put ALL of the world's equity and futures markets together, their combined trading volume would only equal a QUARTER of the Forex market. Why is size important? Because there are so many buyers and sellers that transaction prices are kept low. If you're wondering how trading the Forex market is different then trading stocks, here are a few major benefits.
National central banks play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They try to control the money supply, inflation, and/or interest rates and often have official or unofficial target rates for their currencies. They can use their often substantial foreign exchange reserves to stabilize the market. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of central bank "stabilizing speculation" is doubtful because central banks do not go bankrupt if they make large losses as other traders would. There is also no convincing evidence that they actually make a profit from trading.
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).
During the week the most active Forex trading days are: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Sundays (opening) and Mondays are days when traders are mostly watching and analyzing the market and predict further price moves. Fridays are traded approximately till noon, after that all actions slow down and almost freeze before the actual market closing at 5 pm EST.
When you trade forex, you're effectively borrowing the first currency in the pair to buy or sell the second currency. With a US$5-trillion-a-day market, the liquidity is so deep that liquidity providers—the big banks, basically—allow you to trade with leverage. To trade with leverage, you simply set aside the required margin for your trade size. If you're trading 200:1 leverage, for example, you can trade $2,000 in the market while only setting aside $10 in margin in your trading account. For 50:1 leverage, the same trade size would still only require about £40 in margin. This gives you much more exposure, while keeping your capital investment down.
One unique aspect of this international market is that there is no central marketplace for foreign exchange. Rather, currency trading is conducted electronically over-the-counter (OTC), which means that all transactions occur via computer networks between traders around the world, rather than on one centralized exchange. The market is open 24 hours a day, five and a half days a week, and currencies are traded worldwide in the major financial centers of London, New York, Tokyo, Zurich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and Sydney - across almost every time zone. This means that when the trading day in the U.S. ends, the forex market begins anew in Tokyo and Hong Kong. As such, the forex market can be extremely active any time of the day, with price quotes changing constantly.