This short introduction explains the basics of trading Forex online, a brief explanation of the markets and the major benefits of trading Forex online. There are also two scenarios describing the implications of trading in a bear as well as a bull market to better acquaint you with some of the risks and opportunities of the largest and most liquid market in the world.
As an additional aid for those who are new to Forex, there is also a glossary at the bottom of this text which explains some of the terms used in connection with currency trading.
Foreign exchange, Forex or just FX are all terms used to describe the trading of the world's many currencies. The Forex market is the largest market in the world, with trades amounting to more than USD 3 trillion every day. Most Forex trading is speculative, with only a low percentage of market activity representing governments' and companies' fundamental currency conversion needs.
Unlike trading on the stock market, the Forex market is not conducted by a central exchange, but on the “interbank” market, which is thought of as an OTC (over the counter) market. Trading takes place directly between the two counterparts necessary to make a trade, whether over the telephone or on electronic networks all over the world. The main centres for trading are Sydney, Tokyo, London, Frankfurt and New York. This worldwide distribution of trading centres means that the Forex market is a 24-hour market.
A currency trade is the simultaneous buying of one currency and selling of another one. The currency combination used in the trade is called a cross (for example, the euro/US dollar, or the GB pound/Japanese yen.). The most commonly traded currencies are the so-called “majors” – EURUSD, USDJPY, USDCHF and GBPUSD.
The most important Forex market is the spot market as it has the largest volume. The market is called the spot market because trades are settled immediately, or “on the spot”. In practice this means two banking days.
For forward outrights, settlement on the value date selected in the trade means that even though the trade itself is carried out immediately, there is a small interest rate calculation left. The interest rate differential doesn't usually affect trade considerations unless you plan on holding a position with a large differential for a long period of time. The interest rate differential varies according to the cross you are trading. On the USDCHF, for example, the interest rate differential is quite small, whereas the differential on NOKJPY is large. This is because if you trade e.g. NOKJPY, you get almost 7% (annual) interest in Norway and close to 0% in Japan. So, if you borrow money in Japan, to finance the trade and buying NOK, you have a positive interest rate differential. This differential has to be calculated and added to your account. You can have both a positive and a negative interest rate differential, so it may work for or against you when you make a trade.
Trading on Margin
Trading on margin means that you can buy and sell assets that represent more value than the capital in your account. Forex trading is usually conducted with relatively small margin deposits. This is useful since it permits investors to exploit currency exchange rate fluctuations which tend to be very small. A margin of 1.0% means you can trade up to USD 1,000,000 even though you only have USD 10,000 in your account. A margin of 1% corresponds to a 100:1 leverage (or “gearing”). (Because USD 10,000 is 1% of USD 1,000,000.) Using this much leverage enables you to make profits very quickly, but there is also a greater risk of incurring large losses and even being completely wiped out. Therefore, it is inadvisable to maximise your leveraging as the risks can be very high. For more information on the trading conditions of Saxo Bank, go to the Account Summary on your SaxoTrader and open the section entitled “Trading Conditions” found in the top right-hand corner of the Account Summary.
Why Trade Forex?
24 hour trading
One of the major advantages of trading Forex is the opportunity to trade 24 hours a day from Sunday evening (20:00 GMT) to Friday evening (22:00 GMT). This gives you a unique opportunity to react instantly to breaking news that is affecting the markets.
The Forex market is so liquid that there are always buyers and sellers to trade with. The liquidity of this market, especially that of the major currencies, helps ensure price stability and narrow spreads. The liquidity comes mainly from banks that provide liquidity to investors, companies, institutions and other currency market players.
The fact that Forex is often traded without commissions makes it very attractive as an investment opportunity for investors who want to deal on a frequent basis.
Trading the “majors” is also cheaper than trading other cross because of the high level of liquidity. For more information on the trading conditions of Saxo Bank, go to the Account Summary on your SaxoTrader and open the section entitled “Trading Conditions” found in the top right-hand corner of the Account Summary.
Leverage (gearing) enables you to hold a position worth up to 100 times more than your margin deposit. For example, a USD 10,000 deposit can command positions of up to USD 1,000,000 through leverage. You can leverage the first USD 25,000 of your investment up to 100 times and additional collateral up to 50 times.
Profit potential in falling markets
Since the market is constantly moving, there are always trading opportunities, whether a currency is strengthening or weakening in relation to another currency. When you trade currencies, they literally work against each other. If the EURUSD declines, for example, it is because the US dollar gets stronger against the euro and vice versa. So, if you think the EURUSD will decline (that is, that the euro will weaken versus the dollar), you would sell EUR now and then later you buy euro back at a lower price. In case that the EURUSD indeed declines, then you can take your profit. The opposite trading scenario would occur if the EURUSD appreciates.
Important Forex Trading Terms
The spread is the difference between the price that you can sell currency at (Bid) and the price you can buy currency at (Ask). The spread on majors is usually 3 pips under normal market conditions. For more information on the trading conditions at Saxo Bank, go to the Account Summary on your Client Station and open the section entitled “Trading Conditions” found in the top right-hand corner of the Account Summary.
A pip is the smallest unit by which a cross price quote changes. When trading Forex you will often hear that there is a 3-pip spread when you trade the majors. This spread is revealed when you compare the bid and the ask price, for example EURUSD is quoted at a bid price of 0.9875 and an ask price of 0.9878. The difference is USD 0.0003, which is equal to 3 “pips”.
On a contract or position, the value of a pip can easily be calculated. You know that the EURUSD is quoted with four decimals, so all you have to do is cancel out the four zeros on the amount you trade and you will have the value of one pip. Thus, on a EURUSD 100,000 contract, one pip is USD 10. On a USDJPY 100,000 contract, one pip is equal to 1000 yen, because USDJPY is quoted with only two decimals.