Forex (FX) is a portmanteau of foreign currency and exchange. Foreign exchange is the process of changing one currency into another for a variety of reasons, usually for commerce, trading, or tourism. According to a 2019 triennial report from the Bank for International Settlements (a global bank for national central banks), the daily trading volume for forex reached $6.6 trillion in 2019.
Trading currencies can be risky and complex. Because there are such large trade flows within the system, it is difficult for rogue traders to influence the price of a currency. This system helps create transparency in the market for investors with access to interbank dealing.
Retail investors should spend time learning about the forex market and then researching which forex broker to sign up with, and find out whether it is regulated in the United States or the United Kingdom (U.S. and U.K. dealers have more oversight) or in a country with more lax rules and oversight. It is also a good idea to find out what kind of account protections are available in case of a market crisis, or if a dealer becomes insolvent.
What Is the Forex Market?
The foreign exchange market is where currencies are traded. Currencies are important because they allow us to purchase goods and services locally and across borders. International currencies need to be exchanged to conduct foreign trade and business.
If you are living in the United States and want to buy cheese from France, then either you or the company from which you buy the cheese has to pay the French for the cheese in euros (EUR). This means that the U.S. importer would have to exchange the equivalent value of U.S. dollars (USD) for euros.
The same goes for traveling. A French tourist in Egypt can’t pay in euros to see the pyramids because it’s not the locally accepted currency. The tourist has to exchange the euros for the local currency, in this case the Egyptian pound, at the current exchange rate.
One unique aspect of this international market is that there is no central marketplace for foreign exchange. Rather, currency trading is conducted electronically over the counter (OTC), which means that all transactions occur via computer networks among traders around the world, rather than on one centralized exchange.
For more info Forex Trading.
The market is open 24 hours a day, five and a half days a week, and currencies are traded worldwide in the major financial centers of Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Zurich—across almost every time zone. This means that when the U.S. trading day ends, the forex market begins anew in Tokyo and Hong Kong. As such, the forex market can be extremely active anytime, with price quotes changing constantly.
A Brief History of Forex
In its most basic sense, the forex market has been around for centuries. People have always exchanged or bartered goods and currencies to purchase goods and services. However, the forex market, as we understand it today, is a relatively modern invention.
After the Bretton Woods accord began to collapse in 1971, more currencies were allowed to float freely against one another. The values of individual currencies vary based on demand and circulation and are monitored by foreign exchange trading services.2
Commercial and investment banks conduct most of the trading in forex markets on behalf of their clients, but there are also speculative opportunities for trading one currency against another for professional and individual investors.
There are two distinct features of currencies as an asset class:
You can earn the interest rate differential between two currencies.
You can profit from changes in the exchange rate.
An investor can profit from the difference between two interest rates in two different economies by buying the currency with the higher interest rate and shorting the currency with the lower interest rate. Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, it was very common to short the Japanese yen (JPY) and buy British pounds (GBP) because the interest rate differential was very large. This strategy is sometimes referred to as a carry trade.