If you read about investing, you've seen the word forex trading. But because forex doesn't get much publicity in the major publications and websites, many investors don't know that forex is just short for "foreign exchange". So trading the forex market is simply trading foreign currencies.
As recently as ten years ago, currency trading had high barriers to entry, so only large banking and institutional firms had access to the tools and systems required to play in the forex trading game. Recently, however, technology has developed to the point that any individual investor can hop right in and trade with one of the many online platforms.
When buying and selling in the forex currency trading system market, you'll see that there are four "currency pairs" that dominate the percentage of trades. Those four are the Euro vs U.S. Dollar, US Dollar vs Japanese Yen, US Dollar vs Swiss Franc, and US Dollar vs British Pound.
The goal when investing in currency is to be holding a currency that appreciates in value in relation to the other currencies. To use an overly simplistic example, if you bought 50 British Pounds for 100 US Dollars, held the Pounds for 1 week, and in that period the value of Pounds increased in relation to US Dollars, you could then convert those Pounds back into dollars for, say, $120.
Unlike the domestic stock markets, the forex currency trading is open for trades 24 hours a day. Much like the phrase "it's always noon somewhere," it's always business hours at some region of the globe. Since every country trades on the FX market, and it's open all day, the daily volume is roughly $1.2 trillion, which dwarfs that of the NYSE. Another comparison to make in order to truly realize the magnitude of the forex market is with the currency futures market (which has around 1% of the daily volume).
One other important distinction to make is that forex currency trading is not centered on an exchange like the NYSE or NASDAQ. There is no central body or organization required to act as middleman. Trading circulates between major banking centers around the world.
Until recently, there were strict financial requirements and massive minimum transaction sizes which prevented individual investors from trading. But with the advent of the internet came the FX brokers. A forex currency broker is similar to an online stock trading account such as etrade.
Anybody can open an account and buy and sell in any quantity. Because the brokers have thousands of investors placing orders through them, they are able to meet the large minimum transaction size by purchasing in large blocks and distributing currency amongst the purchasing investors.
Although it is now easy to start trading forex, it is a complicated and complex market. While it offers fantastic opportunity for wealth, it is also very easy to lose your shirt in a hurry. Before trading forex, do your homework and read as much as you can find before investing your hard earned money.
Forex tradingThe investor's goal in Forex trading is to profit from foreign currency movements. Forex trading or currency trading is always done in currency pairs. For example, the exchange rate of EUR/USD on Aug 26th, 2003 was 1.0857. This number is also referred to as a "Forex rate" or just "rate" for short. If the investor had bought 1000 euros on that date, he would have paid 1085.70 U.S. dollars. One year later, the Forex rate was 1.2083, which means that the value of the euro (the numerator of the EUR/USD ratio) increased in relation to the U.S. dollar. The investor could now sell the 1000 euros in order to receive 1208.30 dollars. Therefore, the investor would have USD 122.60 more than what he had started one year earlier. However, to know if the investor made a good investment, one needs to compare this investment option to alternative investments. At the very minimum, the return on investment (ROI) should be compared to the return on a "risk-free" investment. One example of a risk-free investment is long-term U.S. government bonds since there is practically no chance for a default, i.e. the U.S. government going bankrupt or being unable or unwilling to pay its debt obligation.
When trading currencies, trade only when you expect the currency you are buying to increase in value relative to the currency you are selling. If the currency you are buying does increase in value, you must sell back the other currency in order to lock in a profit. An open trade (also called an open position) is a trade in which a trader has bought or sold a particular currency pair and has not yet sold or bought back the equivalent amount to close the position.
However, it is estimated that anywhere from 70%-90% of the FX market is speculative. In other words, the person or institution that bought or sold the currency has no plan to actually take delivery of the currency in the end; rather, they were solely speculating on the movement of that particular currency.