Basically, the Forex market is where banks, companies, governments, investors and traders come to exchange and speculate on currencies. The Forex market is also referred to as the ‘FX market’, ‘Currency market’, ‘Foreign exchange currency market’ or ‘Foreign currency market’, and it is the largest and most liquid market in the world with an average daily turnover of $6 trillion.
The FX market is open 24 hours a day, 5 days a week with the most important world trading centres being located in London, New York, Tokyo, Zurich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris, and Sydney.
It should be noted that there is no central marketplace for the Forex market; trading is instead said to be conducted ‘over the counter’; it’s not like stocks where there is a central marketplace with all orders processed like the NYSE. Forex is a product quoted by all the major banks, and not all banks will have the exact same price. Now, the broker platforms take all theses feeds from the different banks and the quotes we see from our broker are an approximate average of them.
Who Trades Forex and Why?
Banks: The interbank market allows for both the majority of commercial Forex transactions and large amounts of speculative trading each day. Some large banks will trade billions of dollars, daily. Sometimes this trading is done on behalf of customers, however much is done by proprietary traders who are trading for the bank’s own account.
Companies: Companies need to use the foreign exchange market to pay for goods and services from foreign countries and also to sell goods or services in foreign countries. An important part of the daily Forex market activity comes from companies looking to exchange currency in order to transact in other countries.
Governments / Central Banks: A country’s central bank can play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They can cause an increase or decrease in the value of their nation’s currency by trying to control money supply, inflation, and (or) interest rates. They can use their substantial foreign exchange reserves to try and stabilize the market.
Hedge Funds: Somewhere around 70 to 90% of all foreign exchange transactions are speculative in nature. This means, the person or institutions that bought or sold the currency has no plan of actually taking delivery of the currency; instead, the transaction was executed with sole intention of speculating on the price movement of that particular currency. Retail speculators are small cheese compared to the big hedge funds that control and speculate with billions of dollars of equity each day in the currency markets.
Individuals: If you have ever travelled to a different country and exchanged your money into a different currency at the airport or bank, you have already participated in the foreign currency exchange market.
Investors: Investment firms who manage large portfolios for their clients use the Forex market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager controlling an international equity portfolio needs to use the Forex market to purchase and sell several currency pairs in order to pay for foreign securities they want to purchase.
Retail Forex Traders: Finally, we come to retail Forex traders. The retail Forex trading industry is growing everyday with the advent of Forex trading platforms and their ease of accessibility on the internet. Retail Forex traders access the market indirectly either through a broker or a bank. There are two main types of retail Forex brokers that provide us with the ability to speculate on the currency market: brokers and dealers. Brokers work as an agent for the trader by trying to find the best price in the market and executing on behalf of the customer. For this, they charge a commission on top of the price obtained in the market. Dealers are also called market makers because they ‘make the market’ for the trader and act as the counter-party to their transactions, they quote a price they are willing to deal at and are compensated through the spread, which is the difference between the buy and sell price (more on this later).