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.
Forex banks, ECNs, and prime brokers offer NDF contracts, which are derivatives that have no real deliver-ability. NDFs are popular for currencies with restrictions such as the Argentinian peso. In fact, a forex hedger can only hedge such risks with NDFs, as currencies such as the Argentinian peso cannot be traded on open markets like major currencies.
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.
Finally, there are large and small speculators simply looking to profit off the price movements in the forex market, which, of course, is where you come into the picture. With all of these cross-currents, the forex markets offer unique trading opportunities, and it is easy to see why this type of trading has become so popular with both new and professional forex investors worldwide.
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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