Currency and exchange were important elements of trade in the ancient world, enabling people to buy and sell items like food, pottery, and raw materials. If a Greek coin held more gold than an Egyptian coin due to its size or content, then a merchant could barter fewer Greek gold coins for more Egyptian ones, or for more material goods. This is why, at some point in their history, most world currencies in circulation today had a value fixed to a specific quantity of a recognized standard like silver and gold.
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.
In all cases, to make a meaningful description of trading hours worldwide, the opening and closing times at each location worldwide need to be presented with a common base reference time. In this article, for instance, the data is referenced to GMT. In other articles with a United States orientation, however, the common base reference time often used is Eastern Standard Time. It isn't wrong, but it's a little confusing for readers who don't distinguish between GMT and EST --something few persons other than forex traders and airline personnel need to deal with on a regular basis.
Starting with $500 gives some flexibility in how you can trade; $100 doesn't. If you want to day trade forex, start with at least $500. No matter what balance you start with, limit risk to 1% of your account balance on each trade. Alter the above scenarios to help determine what your position size should be based on the stop loss level you use and what type of lot (micro, mini or standard) you're trading.
Understanding the above concepts will help you grasp what's happening when you see a forex pair rising or falling on a chart. If you do the math on the difference in pips between two price points, it will also help you see the profit potential available from such moves. For more on starting out in forex trading, see Minimum Capital Required to Start Day Trading Forex and How Much Money Can I Make Forex Day Trading? Both these articles provide more examples of how profit is realized in the forex market, as well as introducing new concepts, such as leverage.
When you trade forex, you're effectively borrowing the first currency in the pair to buy or sell the second currency. With a US$5-trillion-a-day market, the liquidity is so deep that liquidity providers—the big banks, basically—allow you to trade with leverage. To trade with leverage, you simply set aside the required margin for your trade size. If you're trading 200:1 leverage, for example, you can trade £2,000 in the market while only setting aside £10 in margin in your trading account. For 50:1 leverage, the same trade size would still only require about £40 in margin. This gives you much more exposure, while keeping your capital investment down.
There is no unified or centrally cleared market for the majority of trades, and there is very little cross-border regulation. Due to the over-the-counter (OTC) nature of currency markets, there are rather a number of interconnected marketplaces, where different currencies instruments are traded. This implies that there is not a single exchange rate but rather a number of different rates (prices), depending on what bank or market maker is trading, and where it is. In practice, the rates are quite close due to arbitrage. Due to London's dominance in the market, a particular currency's quoted price is usually the London market price. Major trading exchanges include Electronic Broking Services (EBS) and Thomson Reuters Dealing, while major banks also offer trading systems. A joint venture of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Reuters, called Fxmarketspace opened in 2007 and aspired but failed to the role of a central market clearing mechanism.
Individual retail speculative traders constitute a growing segment of this market. Currently, they participate indirectly through brokers or banks. Retail brokers, while largely controlled and regulated in the US by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and National Futures Association, have previously been subjected to periodic foreign exchange fraud. To deal with the issue, in 2010 the NFA required its members that deal in the Forex markets to register as such (I.e., Forex CTA instead of a CTA). Those NFA members that would traditionally be subject to minimum net capital requirements, FCMs and IBs, are subject to greater minimum net capital requirements if they deal in Forex. A number of the foreign exchange brokers operate from the UK under Financial Services Authority regulations where foreign exchange trading using margin is part of the wider over-the-counter derivatives trading industry that includes contracts for difference and financial spread betting.
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The increasingly asymmetric relationship between the currency markets and national governments represents a classic autonomy problem. The “trilemma” of economic policy options available to governments are laid out by the Mundell-Fleming model. The model shows that governments have to choose two of the following three policy aims: (1) domestic monetary autonomy (the ability to control the money supply and set interest rates and thus control growth); (2) exchange rate stability (the ability to reduce uncertainty through a fixed, pegged, or managed regime); and (3) capital mobility (allowing investment to move in and out of the country).
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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.
All forex trades involve two currencies because you're betting on the value of a currency against another. Think of EUR/USD, the most-traded currency pair in the world. EUR, the first currency in the pair, is the base, and USD, the second, is the counter. When you see a price quoted on your platform, that price is how much one euro is worth in US dollars. You always see two prices because one is the buy price and one is the sell. The difference between the two is the spread. When you click buy or sell, you are buying or selling the first currency in the pair.