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An Introduction to Foreign Exchange

Todays Date: December 16, 2018

One of the most fast-paced and thrilling markets in the world is the foreign exchange market or what we often refer to as the Forex or FX. It is also by far the largest and most liquid financial market in the world. In the past, the key players in the foreign exchange market were large corporations, financial institutions, central banks, extremely wealthy individuals, and hedge banks. With the introduction of the internet, changes took place in the foreign exchange market and presently, average investors have started to play key roles in the market through buying and selling currencies through online brokerage accounts – all with just a click of a mouse.

Simply put, the foreign exchange market is where currencies are being traded. Currencies are important because they need to be exchanged or traded for foreign trade and business to take place. As an example, if you are in the United States and you want to buy perfume from France, you would need to exchange your US dollars for euros so you can make your purchases. The exchange rate would vary, depending on the current trading rate of a specific currency.

What makes the foreign exchange market even more unique is that in spite of being an international market, it does not have a central marketplace. Investors can conduct currency trading through electronic over-the-counter transactions. The foreign exchange market is open for trading 24 hours a day and 5 and a half days a week. Currencies are traded in these hours in the major financial centers of New York, London, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Sydney.

Investors can trade foreign currencies in three ways – through spot markets, forwards markets, and futures markets. In spot markets, currencies are bought and sold according to their current rates. Current rates change with supply and demand that depend on current interest rates, reactions to ongoing political conditions, economic performance, assessments on the future performance of one currency against another, and a lot of other factors.

In forwards and futures markets, trading happens a lot differently. No actual currencies are being traded in these two markets. Contracts are bought and sold over the counter in forwards market. These two parties lay out the terms of agreement between themselves. In futures markets, investors buy and sell futures contracts based on a standard size and a settlement date on public commodities markets.

The foreign exchange market indeed offers several opportunities for investors. To be successful, it is important that a currency trader has a good understanding of the basics behind movements in currencies.

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