Introduction to Forex Trading

Introduction to Forex Trading

Forex is an abbreviation for Foreign Exchange, the system by which one currency is exchanged for another. For such reasons, an exchange rate needs to be established between currencies of all countries. Generally, all currencies are expressed in terms of U.S. dollars, while the U.S. dollar itself is commonly quoted in the Japanese yen, British pound and the Euros.

Here is an example to depict why foreign exchange service is required. A person traveling from the U.S. to Australia would require the Australian currency during his stay there. He would then be required to go to a money exchanger and get dollars exchanged for Australian Dollars at the exchange rate existing on that day.

How Forex Trading Works

All trades related to foreign exchange are based on purchasing one kind of currency against another. This gives rise to the concept of pairs like the Euro/U.S. Dollar. The first currency in the pair is referred to as the base currency (the one that provides a baseline for the purchase or sale) while the second one is termed as the counter or quote currency. While buying, an exchange rate specifies how much should be paid in the counter or quote currency to obtain one unit of the base currency whereas selling involves how much shall be received in counter or quote currency upon selling one unit of the base currency. The 15 important currency pairs are EUR/USD, USD/JPY, GBP/USD, USD/CHF, USD/CAD, AUD/USD, EUR/JPY, EUR/GBP, EUR/CHF, GBP/JPY, AUD/JPY, CHF/JPY, EUR/AUD, GBP/CHF, and NZD/USD . Foreign exchange quotes are a relation between currencies. For example, quote USD/JPY 108,91 would mean that 1 U.S. Dollar costs 108,91 Japanese Yens. The forex market is considered the largest and most liquid market in the world, trading around $2 trillion on an average every day. It is larger than all equity markets combined.

The forex market does not have a single centralized location as the exchange market operates through the electronic network. The prime location where forex is handled includes U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan and Germany. Exchange markets work all the time as their twenty-four-hour operation period is started in the Far East, in New Zealand (Wellington), passing the time zones in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Moscow, Frankfurt-on-Main, London, then finishing the day in New York and Los Angeles. As a result, the forex markets operate 24 hours a day, 5.5 days a week. Trading sessions imply the period of trading activity from the time the market opens until it closes. In London, the standard trading session is from 7am to 6pm. In New York the session extends from 9.30am to 4 pm. ( EUR (Euro), USD (American Dollar), JPY (Japanese Yen), GBP (Great Britain Pound), CHF (Swiss Francs), CAD (Canadian Dollar), AUD (Australian Dollar), NZD (New Zealand Dollar) )

The sheer number of currencies traded brings an extreme level of volatility on a day-to-day basis. Exchange rates fluctuate rapidly, offering opportunities for profit risk to astute traders. Yet, like the equity markets, forex offers plenty of instruments to mitigate risk allowing the individual to make profit in both rising and falling markets. Forex also allows highly leveraged trading with low margin requirements in comparison to its equity counterparts.

Leverage - An Important Concept:

To trade on the forex market one can open either a standard or a mini account. It is possible to deposit small margin money with the concerned bank and then borrow up to 100 times that sum in standard accounts and 200 times the sum on mini accounts, to trade in foreign currencies. When the amount of initial margin deposited is small relative to the value of the contract, the transaction is known to be 'leveraged' or 'geared'. This may work against the investor or in favour of him. If the unrealized gain/loss of the net total open position falls below the margin balance, the account would be under margined and all open positions could have to be liquidated. To avoid liquidation of positions, it is best not to use the entire account balance as margin for open positions. Instead, it is better to leave enough funds in the account to withstand a market movement against the open positions. Stop loss orders should be used to limit downside risk.

Margin Trading is trading with a borrowed capital. Marginal trading in an exchange market uses lots. 1 lot equals approximately $100,000, but to open it, it is necessary to have only a small part of the sum. In marginal trading, each transaction has two obligatory stages; buying (selling) of currency at one price, and then selling (buying) it at another, or same price. The first transaction is called opening the position, the second one, closing the position. When you open a position, you can choose the number of lots you want from 1 to 10. The deposit sum for one lot will vary from $500 to $2000, depending on the credit leverage you choose. Leverage is a financial mechanism that allows crediting speculative transactions with a small deposit. A trader wanting to trade in 4 lots of USD/JPY would require a margin of $4,000. The total transaction value of $400,000 divided by a leverage of 1:100, calculates the margin requirement.

Let us now consider another example in more details. For a trader anticipating an upward movement in the rate of Euro vis-à-vis the U.S. Dollar, a good deal would be to buy the Euro cheap for dollars and later sell it back at a higher price. The margin required for this deal would be $1,000 (the account being a standard account operating at a leverage of 1:100). This deal would fetch the trader 104591.56 euros ($100,000/$0.9561). If the Euro does move up as anticipated by the trader, he can sell the euro at the higher price and make a profit. If he manages to sell the euro say at a price of $0.9661, he stands to make a profit of $1,045.91 ($101,045.91-$100,000).

Players in the Forex market

Until recently, only banks, hedge funds, and occasional high net worth individuals were able to participate in the forex trading market since one had to invest in a large minimum transaction size and meet stringent financial requirements. However, forex currency trading has now become one of the most lucrative businesses in the world with retail traders also playing an important part as indirect players, operating through banks or brokers. Traders can place trades for foreign exchanges online, with the most popular sources including Interbank FX, Gain Capital Group, Forex Capital Market in the U.S. and Saxo Bank in Denmark. According to the report published in 2004 by the Wall Street Journal, Europe, 73% of the entire forex trading volume depends on large international banks. These are Barclays Bank, Citibank, Chase Manhatten Bank, Deutsche Bank, Swiss Bank Corporation, Union Bank of Switzerland, etc.


For people trading in the forex market it is important that they verify the authenticity and efficiency of the services offered. They should ensure that trading facilities in all major currencies are available, besides availability of updated forex market news and supporting tools like charts and software. The extreme liquidity of the currency market, and the multitude of opportunities for large profits, makes it hard to resist for the advanced trader. With such potential, however, comes significant risk, and traders should get familiar with methods of risk management.

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