Forex, also known as foreign exchange, FX or currency trading, is a decentralized global market where all the world's currencies trade. The forex market is the largest, most liquid market in the world with an average daily trading volume exceeding $5 trillion. All the world's combined stock markets don't even come close to this. But what does that mean to you? Take a closer look at forex trading and you may find some exciting trading opportunities unavailable with other investments.
How much each pip is worth is called the "pip value." For any pair where the USD is listed second in the currency pair, the above-mentioned pip values apply. If the USD is listed first, the pip value may be slightly different. To find the pip value of the USD/CHF for example, divide the normal pip value (mentioned above) by the current USD/CHF exchange rate. For example, a micro lot is worth $0.10/0.9435 = $0.1060, where 0.9435 is the current price of the pair and subject to change. For JPY pairs (USD/JPY), go through this same process, but then multiply by 100. For a more detailed explanation, see Calculating Pip Value for Different Forex Pairs and Account Currencies.
You may have noticed that the value of currencies goes up and down every day. What most people don't realize is that there is a foreign exchange market - or 'Forex' for short - where you can potentially profit from the movement of these currencies. The best known example is George Soros who made a billion dollars in a day by trading currencies. Be aware, however, that currency trading involves significant risk and individuals can lose a substantial part of their investment. As technologies have improved, the Forex market has become more accessible resulting in an unprecedented growth in online trading. One of the great things about trading currencies now is that you no longer have to be a big money manager to trade this market; traders and investors like you and I can trade this market.
Investment management firms (who typically manage large accounts on behalf of customers such as pension funds and endowments) use the foreign exchange market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager bearing an international equity portfolio needs to purchase and sell several pairs of foreign currencies to pay for foreign securities purchases.
Forex pairs trade in 1000, 10,000 and 100,000 units, called micro, mini and standard lots. When starting out in forex day trading it's recommended traders open a micro lot account. Trading micro lots allows for more flexibility so risk remains below 1% of the account on each trade. For example, a micro-lot trader can buy $6,000 worth of currency, or $14,000, or $238,000 but if they open a mini lot account they can only trade in increments of $10,000, so $10,000, $20,000, etc. If trading standard lots, a trader can only take positions of $100,000, $200,000, etc.
The bare bones of foreign currency exchange trading are simple. You make money off exchanging one country’s money for another. However, exploiting those fluctuations or price movements requires both strategy and savvy. Signing up for online tutorials or in-person conferences will help you lay a base layer of knowledge on the forex market, but traders agree that true expertise is built on the job. Jump in to a demo or a real (small sum) account and start hitting buttons, pulling from vast online resources whenever you hit a snag or just a big, fat question mark.
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.
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.
The spot market is where currencies are bought and sold at their current market price. The prices of currencies fluctuate consistently, many times by only a tiny fraction of their current value. A mixture of economic, political, and supply/demand affect the price of currencies, and markets are exceptionally liquid for primary trading pairs around the world.
Meanwhile, daily interbank settlements are also a mover of these markets as forex or broker-dealers, such as banks, are amongst the biggest participants in the forex market. Since these dealers interact with each other, this market is referred to as the interbank market. Large corporations, including exporters and importers, will also use the FX market to hedge currency exposure in order to prevent losses due to the fluctuating value of currencies.