The Forex market

The Forex market is open 24 hours a day, so that you can be right there trading whenever you hear a financial scoop.

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 between traders around the world, rather than on one centralized exchange. 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 London, New York, Tokyo, Zurich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and Sydney – across almost every time zone. This means that when the trading day in the U.S. ends, the forex market begins anew in Tokyo and Hong Kong. As such, the forex market can be extremely active any time of the day, with price quotes changing constantly.

Unlike the stock market, a smaller market with tens of thousands of stocks to choose from, the Forex market revolves around more or less eight major currencies. A narrow choice means no room for confusion, so even though the market is huge, it’s quite easy to get a clear picture of what’s happening.

Like any other trading price, the spread for a forex pair consists of a bid price at which you can sell (the lower end of the spread) and an offer price at which you can buy (the higher end of the spread). It is important to note, however, for each forex pair, which way round you are trading.When buying, the spread always reflects the price for buying the first currency of the forex pair with the second. So an offer price of 1.3000 for EUR/USD means that it will cost you $1.30 to buy €1. You would buy if you think that the price of the euro against the dollar is going to rise, that is, if you think you will later be able to sell your €1 for more than $1.30.When selling, the spread gives you the price for selling the first currency for the second. So a bid price of 1.3000 for EUR/USD means that you can sell €1 for $1.30. You would sell if you think that the price of the euro is going to fall against the dollar, so you can buy back your €1 for less than the $1.30 you originally paid for it.

Forex is always quoted in pairs, in terms of one currency versus another. Take for example GBP/USD (sterling vs US dollar) – the fluctuations in the exchange rate between these two is where a trader looks to make their profit. The first currency, also known as the base is the one that you think will go up or down against the second currency, which is known as the quote.

When trading currencies, you can speculate on the future direction of the market, taking either a long (buy) or short (sell) position depending on whether you think the currency’s value will go up or down. Forex price movements are triggered by currencies either appreciating in value (strengthening) or depreciating in value (weakening).

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