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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.
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.
More specifically, the spot market is where currencies are bought and sold according to the current price. That price, determined by supply and demand, is a reflection of many things, including current interest rates, economic performance, sentiment towards ongoing political situations (both locally and internationally), as well as the perception of the future performance of one currency against another. When a deal is finalized, this is known as a "spot deal". It is a bilateral transaction by which one party delivers an agreed-upon currency amount to the counter party and receives a specified amount of another currency at the agreed-upon exchange rate value. After a position is closed, the settlement is in cash. Although the spot market is commonly known as one that deals with transactions in the present (rather than the future), these trades actually take two days for settlement.