The Foreign Exchange market, also referred to as the "Forex" market, is the largest financial market in the world, with a daily average turnover of approximately US$1.2 trillion. Foreign Exchange is the simultaneous buying of one currency and selling of another. The world's currencies are on a floating exchange rate and are always traded in pairs, for example Euro/Dollar or Dollar/Yen.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
A true 24-hour market, Forex trading begins each day in Sydney, and moves around the globe as the business day begins in each financial center, first to Tokyo, then London, and New York. Unlike any other financial market, investors can respond to currency fluctuations caused by economic, social and political events at the time they occur - day or night.
In order to gain a complete understanding of what foreign exchange market is, it is useful to examine the reasons that lead to its existence in the first place. Exhaustively detailing the historical events that shaped the foreign exchange market into what it is today is of no great importance to the fx trader and therefore we happily will omit lengthy explanations of historical events such as the Bretton Woods accord in favor of a more specific insight into the reasoning behind foreign exchange as a medium of exchange of goods and services.Originally our ancestors conducted trading of goods against other goods this system of bartering was of course quite inefficient and required lengthy negotiation and searching to be able to strike a deal. Eventually forms of metal like bronze, silver and gold came to be used in standardized sizes and later grades (purity) to facilitate the exchange of merchandise. The basis for these mediums of exchange was acceptance by the general public and practical variables like durability and storage. Eventually during the late middle ages, a variety of paper IOU started gaining popularity as an exchange medium.The obvious advantage of carrying around 'precious' paper versus carrying around bags of precious metal was slowly recognized through the ages. Eventually stable governments adopted paper currency and backed the value of the paper with gold reserves. This came to be known as the gold standard. The Bretton Woods accord in July 1944 fixed the dollar to 35 USD per ounce and other currencies to the dollar. In 1971, president Nixon suspended the convertibility to gold and let the US dollar 'float' against other currencies.Since then the foreign exchange market has developed into the largest market in the world with a total daily turnover of about 1.5 trillion USD. Traditionally an institutional (inter-bank) market, the popularity of online currency trading offered to the private individual is democratising foreign exchange and widening the retail market.
In the last years, the foreign exchange market has expanded from one where banks would execute transactions between themselves to one in which many other kinds of financial institutions like brokers and market-makers participate including non-financial corporations, investment firms, pension funds and hedge funds.Its' focus has broadened from servicing importers and exporters to handling the vast amounts of overseas investment and other capital flows that currently take place. Lately foreign exchange day trading has become increasingly popular and various firms offer trading facilities to the small investor.Foreign exchange is an 'over the counter' (OTC) market, that means that there is no central exchange and clearing house where orders are matched. Geographic trading 'centers' exist around the world however and are: (in order of importance) London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Frankfurt, Geneva & Zurich, Paris and Hong Kong. Essentially foreign exchange deals are made between participants on the basis of trust and reputation to deliver on an agreement. In the case of banks trading with one another, they do so solely on that basis. In the retail market, customers demand a written legally accepted contract between themselves and their broker in exchange of a deposit of funds on which basis the customer may trade.Some market participants may be involved in the 'goods' market, conducting international transactions for the purchase or sale of merchandise. Some may be engaged in 'direct investment' in plant and equipment, or may be in the 'money market,' trading short-term debt instruments internationally. The various investors, hedgers, and speculators may be focused on any time period, from a few minutes to several years. But, whether official or private, and whether their motive be investing, hedging, speculating, arbitraging, paying for imports, or seeking to influence the rate, they are all part of the aggregate demand for and supply of the currencies involved, and they all play a role in determining the exchange rate at that moment.
Foreign exchange is traded essentially in two distinctive ways. Over an organized exchange and 'over the counter'. Exchange traded foreign exchange represents a very small portion of the total foreign exchange market the great majority of foreign exchange deals being traded between banks and other market participants 'over the counter'.1. Exchange traded currenciesIn the case of an organized exchange like the Chicago Mercantile exchange (CME) in the US, standardized currency contract sizes that represent a certain monetary value are traded in the International money market (IMM). A central clearing house organizes matching of transactions between counter-parties. There are various disadvantages to trading currency futures as outlined in the chapter Advantages of trading FX.2. Forex marketIn comparison the over the counter market is traded around the world by a multitude of participants and price quality, reputation and trading conditions determine who a participant wishes to trade with. It is probably the most competitive market in the world and brokers like ACM must insure they live up to the highest standards of service and be compliant with market standards and practices if they want to acquire new customers and retain their existing ones. In 1998 a survey under the auspices of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), global turnover of reporting dealers was estimated at about USD 1.49 trillion per day. In comparison, currency futures turnover was estimated at USD 12 billion.Among the various financial centers around the world, the largest amount of foreign exchange trading takes place in the United Kingdom, even though that nation's currency, the British pound is less widely traded in the market than several others. As shown in the graph underneath, the United Kingdom accounts for about 32 percent of the global total; the United States ranks a distant second with about 18 percent, and Japan is third with 8 percent.
FX Trading is not centralized on an exchange, as with the stock and futures markets. The FX market is considered an Over the Counter (OTC) or 'Interbank' market, due to the fact that transactions are conducted between two counterparts over the telephone or via an electronic networ