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Thread: Foreign exchange market

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    Default Foreign exchange market

    The foreign exchange (currency or forex or FX) market exists wherever one currency is traded for another. It is by far the largest market in the world, in terms of cash value traded, and includes trading between large banks, central banks, currency speculators, multinational corporations, governments, and other financial markets and institutions. The trade happening in the forex markets across the globe currently exceeds $1.9 trillion/day (on average). Retail traders (small speculators) are a small part of this market. They may only participate indirectly through brokers or banks and may be targets of forex scams.


    History

    The forex market is a cash inter-bank or inter-dealer market, which was established in 1971 when floating exchange rates began to appear. The foreign exchange market is huge in comparison to other markets. For example, the average daily trading volume of US Treasury Bonds is $300 billion and the US stock market has an average daily volume of less than $10 billion. Ten years ago the Wall Street Journal estimated the daily trading volume in the forex market to be in excess of $1 trillion. Today that figure has grown to exceed $1.8 trillion a day.

    Prior to 1971 an agreement called the Bretton Woods Agreement prevented speculation in the currency markets. The Bretton Woods Agreement was set up in 1944 with the aim of stabilising international currencies and preventing money fleeing across nations. This agreement fixed all national currencies against the dollar and set the dollar at a rate of $35 per ounce of gold. Prior to this agreement the gold exchange standard had been used since 1876. The gold standard used gold to back each currency and thus prevented kings and rulers from arbitrarily debasing money and triggering inflation.

    The gold exchange standard had its own problems however. As an economy grew it would import goods from overseas until it ran its gold reserves down. As a result the countrys money supply would shrink resulting in interest rates rising and a slowing of economic activity to the extent that a recession would occur.

    Eventually the recession would cause prices of goods to fall so low that they appeared attractive to other nations. This in turn led to an inflow of gold back into the economy and the resulting increase in money supply saw interest rates fall and the economy strengthen. These boom-bust patterns prevailed throughout the world during the gold exchange standard years until the outbreak of World War I which interrupted the free flow of trade and thus the movement of gold.

    After the war the Bretton Woods Agreement was established, where participating countries agreed to try and maintain the value of their currency with a narrow margin against the dollar. A rate was also used to value the dollar in relation to gold. Countries were prohibited from devaluing their currency to improve their trade position by more than 10%. Following World War II international trade expanded rapidly due to post-war construction and this resulted in massive movements of capital. This de-stabilised the foreign exchange rates that had been set-up by the Bretton Woods Agreement.

    The agreement was finally abandoned in 1971, and the US dollar was no longer convertible to gold. By 1973, currencies of the major industrialised nations became more freely floating, controlled mainly by the forces of supply and demand. Prices were set, with volumes, speed and price volatility all increasing during the 1970s. This led to new financial instruments, market deregulation and open trade. It also led to a rise in the power of speculators.

    In the 1980s the movement of money across borders accelerated with the advent of computers and the market became a continuum, trading through the Asian, European and American time zones. Large banks created dealing rooms where hundreds of millions of dollars, pounds, euros and yen were exchanged in a matter on minutes. Today electronic brokers trade daily in the forex market, in London for example, single trades for tens of millions of dollars are priced in seconds. The market has changed dramatically with most international financial transactions being carried out not to buy and sell goods but to speculate on the market with the aim of most dealers to make money out of money.

    London has grown to become the worlds leading international financial centre and is the worlds largest forex market. This arose not only due to its location, operating during the Asian and American markets, but also due to the creation of the Eurodollar market. The Eurodollar market was created during the 1950s when Russias oil revenue, all in US dollars, was deposited outside the US in fear of being frozen by US authorities. This created a large pool of US dollars that were outside the control of the US. These vast cash reserves were very attractive to foreign investors as they had far less regulations and offered higher yields.

    Today London continues to grow as more and more American and European banks come to the city to establish their regional headquarters. The sizes dealt with in these markets are huge and the smaller banks, commercial hedgers and private investors hardly ever have direct access to this liquid and competitive market, either because they fail to meet credit criteria or because their transaction sizes are too small. But today market makers are allowed to break down the large inter-bank units and offer small traders the opportunity to buy or Market size and liquidity

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    The foreign exchange market is unique because of:





    its trading volume,
    the extreme liquidity of the market,
    the large number of, and variety of, traders in the market,
    its geographical dispersion,
    its long trading hours - 24 hours a day (except on weekends).
    the variety of factors that affect exchange rates,
    According to the BIS study Triennial Central Bank Survey 2004, average daily turnover in traditional foreign exchange markets was estimated at $1,880 billion. Daily averages in April for different years, in billions of US dollars, are presented on the chart below:



    Global foreign exchange market turnover:





    $621 billion spot
    $1.26 trillion in derivatives, ie
    $208 billion in outright forwards
    $944 billion in forex swaps
    $107 billion in FX options.
    Top 10 Currency Traders % of overall volume, May 2005
    Rank Name % of volume
    1 Deutsche Bank 17.0
    2 UBS 12.5
    3 Citigroup 7.5
    4 HSBC 6.4
    5 Barclays 5.9
    6 Merrill Lynch 5.7
    7 J.P. Morgan Chase 5.3
    8 Goldman Sachs 4.4
    9 ABN AMRO 4.2
    10 Morgan Stanley 3.9
    Exchange-traded forex futures contracts were introduced in 1972 at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and are actively traded relative to most other futures contracts. Forex futures volume has grown rapidly in recent years, but only accounts for about 7% of the total foreign exchange market volume, according to The Wall Street Journal Europe (5/5/06, p. 20).

    The ten most active traders account for almost 73% of trading volume, according to The Wall Street Journal Europe, (2/9/06 p. 20). These large international banks continually provide the market with both bid (buy) and ask (sell) prices. The bid/ask spread is the difference between the price at which a bank or market maker will sell ("ask", or "offer") and the price at which a market-maker will buy ("bid") from a wholesale customer. This spread is minimal for actively traded pairs of currencies, usually only 1-3 pips. For example, the bid/ask quote of EUR/USD might be 1.2200/1.2203. Minimum trading size for most deals is usually $100,000.

    These spreads might not apply to retail customers at banks, which will routinely mark up the difference to say 1.2100 / 1.2300 for transfers, or say 1.2000 / 1.2400 for banknotes or travelers' cheques. Spot prices at market makers vary, but on EUR/USD are usually no more than 5 pips wide (i.e. 0.0005). Competition has greatly increased with pip spreads shrinking on the majors to as little as 1 to 1.5 pips.


    Currencies and how they are priced

    Currency prices are affected by an assortment of economic and political conditions, but almost certainly the most significant are interest rates, global trade, inflation, and political stability. Governments participate in the market by either flooding the market with their domestic currency in an effort to decrease the price or, conversely, buying in order to elevate the price. This is known as central bank intervention. Any of these factors, as well as large market orders, can initiate high volatility in currency prices. However, the size and volume of the forex market make it impossible for any one entity to "force" the market for any length of time.


    Trading characteristics

    There is no single unified foreign exchange market. Due to the over-the-counter (OTC) nature of currency markets, there are rather a number of interconnected marketplaces, where different currency instruments are traded. This implies that there is no such thing as a single dollar rate - but rather a number of different rates (prices), depending on what bank or market maker is trading. In practice the rates are often very close, otherwise they could be exploited by arbitrageurs.

    Top 6 Most Traded Currencies Rank Currency ISO 4217 Code Symbol
    1 United States dollar USD $
    2 Eurozone euro EUR €
    3 Japanese yen JPY ¥
    4 British pound sterling GBP £
    5-6 Swiss franc CHF -
    5-6 Australian dollar AUD $
    The main trading centers are in London, New York, and Tokyo, but banks throughout the world participate. As the Asian trading session ends, the European session begins, then the US session, and then the Asian begin in their turns. Traders can react to news when it breaks, rather than waiting for the market to open.

    There is little or no 'inside information' in the foreign exchange markets. Exchange rate fluctuations are usually caused by actual monetary flows as well as by expectations of changes in monetary flows caused by changes in GDP growth, inflation, interest rates, budget and trade deficits or surpluses, and other macroeconomic conditions. Major news is released publicly, often on scheduled dates, so many people have access to the same news at the same time. However, the large banks have an important advantage; they can see their customers' order flow.

    Currencies are traded against one another. Each pair of currencies thus constitutes an individual product and is traditionally noted XXX/YYY, where YYY is the ISO 4217 international three-letter code of the currency into which the price of one unit of XXX is expressed. For instance, EUR/USD is the price of the euro expressed in US dollars, as in 1 euro = 1.2045 dollar.

    On the spot market, according to the BIS study, the most heavily traded products were:





    EUR/USD - 28 %
    USD/JPY - 18 %
    GBP/USD (also called sterling or cable) - 14 %
    and the US currency was involved in 89% of transactions, followed by the euro (37%), the yen (20%) and sterling (17%). (Note that volume percentages should add up to 200% - 100% for all the sellers, and 100% for all the buyers).

    Although trading in the euro has grown considerably since the currency's creation in January 1999, the foreign exchange market is thus still largely dollar-centered. For instance, trading the euro versus a non-European currency ZZZ will usually involve two trades: EUR/USD and USD/ZZZ. The only exception to this is EUR/JPY, which is an established traded currency pair in the interbank spot market.

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    Market participants

    Banks

    The interbank market caters for both the majority of commercial turnover and large amounts of speculative trading every day. A large bank may trade billions of dollars daily. Some of this trading is undertaken on behalf of customers, but much is conducted by proprietary desks, trading for the bank's own account.

    Until recently, foreign exchange brokers did large amounts of business, facilitating interbank trading and matching anonymous counterparts for small fees. Today, however, much of this business has moved on to more efficient electronic systems, such as EBS, Reuters Dealing 3000 Matching (D2), the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Bloomberg and TradeBook(R). The broker squawk box lets traders listen in on ongoing interbank trading and is heard in most trading rooms, but turnover is noticeably smaller than just a few years ago.

    Commercial companies

    An important part of this market comes from the financial activities of companies seeking foreign exchange to pay for goods or services. Commercial companies often trade fairly small amounts compared to those of banks or speculators, and their trades often have little short term impact on market rates. Nevertheless, trade flows are an important factor in the long-term direction of a currency's exchange rate. Some multinational companies can have an unpredictable impact when very large positions are covered due to exposures that are not widely known by other market participants.

    Central banks

    National central banks play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They try to control the money supply, inflation, and/or interest rates and often have official or unofficial target rates for their currencies. They can use their often substantial foreign exchange reserves to stabilize the market. Milton Friedman argued that the best stabilization strategy would be for central banks to buy when the exchange rate is too low, and to sell when the rate is too high — that is, to trade for a profit based on their more precise information. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of central bank "stabilizing speculation" is doubtful because central banks do not go bankrupt if they make large losses, like other traders would, and there is no convincing evidence that they do make a profit trading.

    The mere expectation or rumor of central bank intervention might be enough to stabilize a currency, but aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime. Central banks do not always achieve their objectives, however. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. Several scenarios of this nature were seen in the 1992-93 ERM collapse, and in more recent times in Southeast Asia.

    Investment management firms

    Investment management firms (who typically manage large accounts on behalf of customers such as pension funds and endowments) use the foreign exchange market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager with an international equity portfolio will need to buy and sell foreign currencies in the spot market in order to pay for purchases of foreign equities. Since the forex transactions are secondary to the actual investment decision, they are not seen as speculative or aimed at profit-maximisation.

    Some investment management firms also have more speculative specialist currency overlay operations, which manage clients' currency exposures with the aim of generating profits as well as limiting risk. Whilst the number of this type of specialist firms is quite small, many have a large value of assets under management (AUM), and hence can generate large trades.

    Hedge funds

    Hedge funds, such as George Soros's Quantum fund have gained a reputation for aggressive currency speculation since 1990. They control billions of dollars of equity and may borrow billions more, and thus may overwhelm intervention by central banks to support almost any currency, if the economic fundamentals are in the hedge funds' favor.

    Retail forex brokers

    Retail forex brokers or market makers handle a minute fraction of the total volume of the foreign exchange market. According to CNN, one retail broker estimates retail volume at $25-50 billion daily, which is about 2% of the whole market. CNN also quotes an official of the National Futures Association "Retail forex trading has increased dramatically over the past few years. Unfortunately, the amount of forex fraud has also increased dramatically."

    All firms offering foreign exchange trading online are either market makers or facilitate the placing of trades with market makers.

    In the retail forex industry market makers often have two separate trading desks- one that actually trades foreign exchange (which determines the firm's own net position in the market, serving as both a proprietary trading desk and a means of offsetting client trades on the interbank market) and one used for off-exchange trading with retail customers (called the "dealing desk" or "trading desk").

    Many retail FX market makers claim to offset clients' trades on the interbank market (that is, with other larger market makers), e.g. after buying from the client, they sell to a bank. Nevertheless, the large majority of retail currency speculators are novices and who lose money [1], so that the market makers would be giving up large profits by offsetting all order flow. Offsetting does occur, and while it is difficult to know for certain to what extent, it occurs mostly for risk management and regulatory reasons (e.g. the CFTC has capital requirements derived from a percentage the notional value of outstanding trades on client accounts, and on the net position of the market maker in its own accounts).

    The dealing desk operates much like the currency exchange counter at a bank. Interbank exchange rates, which are displayed at the dealing desk, are adjusted to incorporate spreads (so that the market maker will make a profit) before they are displayed to retail customers. Prices shown by the market maker do not necessarily reflect interbank market rates. Arbitrage opportunities may exist, but retail market makers are efficient at removing arbitrageurs from their systems or limiting their trades.

    Most retail forex brokers do not offer their customers direct access to the interbank forex market because of the limited number of clearing banks willing to process small orders. More importantly, the dealing desk model can be far more profitable, as a large portion of retail traders' losses are directly turned into market maker profits. While the income of a marketmaker that offsets trades or a broker that facilitates transactions is limited to transaction fees (commissions), dealing desk brokers can generate income in a variety of ways because they not only control the trading process, they also control pricing which they can skew to maximize profits.

    The rules of the game in trading FX are highly disadvantageous for retail speculators. Most retail speculators in FX lack trading experience and capital (account minimums at some firms are as low as 250-500 USD). Large minimum position sizes, which on most retail platforms ranges from $10,000 to $100,000, force small traders to take imprudently large positions using extremely high leverage. Professional forex traders rarely use more than 10:1 leverage, yet many retail forex firms allow client leverage of 100:1 or even 200:1, without disclosing that this is highly unusual for currency traders. This drastically increases the risk of a margin call (which, if the speculator's trade is not offset, is pure profit for the market maker).

    According to the Wall Street Journal "Even people running the trading shops warn clients against trying to time the market. 'If 15% of day traders are profitable,' says Drew Niv, chief executive of ****, 'I'd be surprised.' " [1]

    In the US, "it is unlawful to offer foreign currency futures and option contracts to retail customers unless the offeror is a regulated financial entity" according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [2]. Legitimate retail brokers serving traders in the U.S. are most often registered with the CFTC as "futures commission merchants" (FCMs) and are members of the National Futures Association (NFA)[3] . Retail forex brokers are much less regulated than stock brokers and there is no protection similar to that from the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. The CFTC has noted an increase in forex scams [4].

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    Speculation

    Controversy about currency speculators and their effect on currency devaluations and national economies recurs regularly. Nevertheless, many economists (e.g. Milton Friedman) argue that speculators perform the important function of providing a market for hedgers and transferring risk from those people who don't wish to bear it, to those who do. Other economists (e.g. Joseph Stiglitz) however, may consider this argument to be based more on politics and a free market philosophy than on economics.

    Large hedge funds and other well capitalized "position traders" are the main professional speculators.

    Currency speculation is considered a highly suspect activity in many countries. While investment in traditional financial instruments like bonds or stocks often is considered to contribute positively to economic growth by providing capital, currency speculation does not, according to this view; it is simply gambling, that often interferes with economic policy. For example, in 1992, currency speculation forced the Central Bank of Sweden to raise interest rates for a few days to 150% per annum, and later to devalue the krona. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is one well known proponent of this view. He blamed the devaluation of the Malaysian ringgit in 1997 on George Soros and other speculators. [5]

    Gregory Millman reports on an opposing view, comparing speculators to "vigilantes" who simply help "enforce" international agreements and anticipate the effects of basic economic "laws" in order to profit.

    In this view, countries may develop unsustainable financial bubbles or otherwise mishandle their national economies, and forex speculators only made the inevitable collapse happen sooner. A relatively quick collapse might even be preferable to continued economic mishandling. Mahathir Mohamad and other critics of speculation are viewed as trying to deflect the blame from themselves for having caused the unsustainable economic conditions.

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    Thanks.
    This article lets us even more understand the foreign exchange market.
    Last edited by adomym; 06-10-2007 at 09:37 AM.

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    Yep, sure it does! But.... I don`t remember reading the market hours of FOREX? Maybe you should include them too?

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    This article lets us even more understand the foreign exchange market.

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    good posts man
    thanxs fro your information

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    oh well thx bro.

    i have read the text but i still dont understand something. why son many times there is a difference between the closing price and the opening one between friday and sunday opening prices.

    to be real, many times it has helped me but many times it has been a drag too.
    anyone?

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    Quote Originally Posted by acidguy View Post
    oh well thx bro.

    i have read the text but i still dont understand something. why son many times there is a difference between the closing price and the opening one between friday and sunday opening prices.

    to be real, many times it has helped me but many times it has been a drag too.
    anyone?
    Currency exchanges don't stop just because it's weekends, but go very quietly (at least for most of time). For examples tourists/travellers may need to exchange currencies during weekends.

    If there is a big news or something, the prices do fluctuate. Most brokers stop their price feed during weekends, and resume on monday morning. That's way sometimes there is a price gap from friday closing time to monday opening time.

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    oh well thank you bro.

    i found this is a site too, it clarified me some things about weekends:
    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Orders left over the weekend or holidays
    Orders left pending at close of trading on Friday at 5:00pm ET or placed over the weekend are subject to a gap open on Sunday evening when FOREX.com starts trading at 5:00pm ET. For both stop loss and limit orders - if your order is triggered """due to news, events or other fundamental factors""", it will not be executed over the weekend. Your order WILL be executed at the prevailing price when FOREX trading desk opens Sunday. Because of the additional gap risk involved, you may want to reconsider leaving open orders over the weekend or holidays.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    i think about a month ago, i was winning in a pair and sunday afternoon, when i cheked i had been kickout from position due to margin losses. then in awhile the currency went back to the spot i was looking for but i was already out of the position so. i didnt care too much due was a demo trade but

    its dangerous but also is a learning process so, thats cool!

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    I don't know who really cares about this kind of tattering.

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