The foreign exchange market is an over-the-counter (OTC) marketplace that determines the exchange rate for global currencies. Participants are able to buy, sell, exchange and speculate on currencies. Foreign exchange markets are made up of banks, forex dealers, commercial companies, central banks, investment management firms, hedge funds, retail forex dealers and investors.
So, yes, at any given trading center, it's an eight hour day. But that really doesn't matter, because somewhere in the world trading centers are open. You can trade anytime you want, although you should also note that you'll get the narrowest spreads -- the broker's profit margin -- when the maximum number of trading centers are open or, more precisely, when the trading volume for your currency trade is greatest.
The foreign exchange market (Forex, FX, or currency market) is a global decentralized or over-the-counter (OTC) market for the trading of currencies. This market determines the foreign exchange rate. It includes all aspects of buying, selling and exchanging currencies at current or determined prices. In terms of trading volume, it is by far the largest market in the world, followed by the Credit market.
The series of contagious currency crises in the 1990s—in Mexico, Brazil, East Asia, and Argentina—again focused policy makers’ minds on the problems of the international monetary system. Moves, albeit limited, were made toward a new international financial architecture. Most importantly, these crises led to the establishment of the Financial Stability Forum (since 2009 the Financial Stability Board), which investigated the problems of offshore, capital flows, and hedge funds; and the G20, which attempted to broaden the international regime’s membership and thus deepen its legitimacy. In addition, there were calls for a currency transaction tax, named after Nobel Laureate James Tobin’s proposal, from many civil society nongovernmental organizations as well as some governments. The success of international monetary reform is a crucial issue for governments and their autonomy, firms and the stability of their investments, and citizens who ultimately are those who absorb these effects as they are transmitted into everyday life.
Inflation levels and trends: Typically a currency will lose value if there is a high level of inflation in the country or if inflation levels are perceived to be rising. This is because inflation erodes purchasing power, thus demand, for that particular currency. However, a currency may sometimes strengthen when inflation rises because of expectations that the central bank will raise short-term interest rates to combat rising inflation.
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.
Either way you don’t have to provide the full currency value to open your position. Instead you put down a margin deposit, which is a fraction of the full value. And you don’t actually buy or sell any currency: you are opening a speculative position on the change in value of the forex pair. Your profit or loss is realised when you close your position by selling or buying.
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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 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.