A foreign exchange market is a 24-hour over-the-counter (OTC) and dealers’ market, meaning that transactions are completed between two participants via telecommunications technology. The currency markets are also further divided into spot markets—which are for two-day settlements—and the forward, swap, interbank futures, and options markets. London, New York, and Tokyo dominate foreign exchange trading. The currency markets are the largest and most liquid of all the financial markets; the triennial figures from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) put daily global turnover in the foreign exchange markets in trillions of dollars. It is sobering to consider that in the early 21st century an annual world trade’s foreign exchange is traded in just less than every five days on the currency markets, although the widespread use of hedging and exchanges into and out of vehicle currencies—as a more liquid medium of exchange—means that such measures of financial activity can be exaggerated.
Forex trading as it relates to retail traders (like you and I) is the speculation on the price of one currency against another. For example, if you think the euro is going to rise against the U.S. dollar, you can buy the EURUSD currency pair low and then (hopefully) sell it at a higher price to make a profit. Of course, if you buy the euro against the dollar (EURUSD), and the U.S. dollar strengthens, you will then be in a losing position. So, it’s important to be aware of the risk involved in trading Forex, and not only the reward.
The mere expectation or rumor of a central bank foreign exchange intervention might be enough to stabilize the currency. However, aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime. Central banks do not always achieve their objectives. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. Several scenarios of this nature were seen in the 1992–93 European Exchange Rate Mechanism collapse, and in more recent times in Asia.
Live Spreads Widget: Dynamic live spreads are available on Active Trader commission-based accounts. When static spreads are displayed, the figures are time-weighted averages derived from tradable prices at FXCM from October 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Spreads are variable and are subject to delay. The spread figures are for informational purposes only. FXCM is not liable for errors, omissions or delays, or for actions relying on this information.
Cross Currency Pairs signifies secondary currencies traded against each other and not against the U.S. dollar. Examples include Euro vs. the Japanese Yen (EUR/JPY) or the British Pound vs. Swiss Franc (GBP/CHF). Most reputable brokers offer this category of trades, and it’s especially important for a forex trading account denominated in a currency other than the U.S. dollar, or for more advanced traders capitalizing on discrepancies between other economies.
In the futures market, futures contracts are bought and sold based upon a standard size and settlement date on public commodities markets, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the U.S., the National Futures Association regulates the futures market. Futures contracts have specific details, including the number of units being traded, delivery and settlement dates, and minimum price increments that cannot be customized. The exchange acts as a counterpart to the trader, providing clearance and settlement.