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Exchange Currencies Market
. . . As with many financial markets there are many derivatives of the central market such as futures, options and forwards. For now we will only discuss the main market or as sometimes referred to "Spot or Cash market." aka Forex Market. For additional Forex Market knowledge you will find a good forex trading guide very helpful in understanding and trading forex markets.
The word FOREX is derived from Foreign Exchange and is the largest financial market in the world. Unlike many markets the FX market is open 24-hrs per day and has well over 1 Trillion US Dollars in trading volume every day. This tremendous trading activity is more than the combined turnover of all the world's stock markets on any given day combined. This tends to lead to a very liquid market and thus a desirable market to trade.
Unlike many other trading markets (all financial instruments that can be traded) the FX Forex market does not have a fixed exchange. It is primarily traded through banks, brokers, dealers, financial institutions and private individuals. Forex trades are executed thru phone and increasingly online via the Internet. It is only in the last few years that the smaller investor has been able to gain access to this market. Previously the large amounts of deposits required precluded the smaller investors. With the advent of the Internet and growing competition it is now easily in the reach of most financial traders and investors.
You will often hear the term INTERBANK discussed in FX terminology. This originally, as the name implies was simply banks and large institutions exchanging information about the current rate at which their clients or themselves were prepared to buy or sell a foreign currency. INTER meaning between and Bank meaning deposit taking institutions normally made up of banks, large institution, brokers or even the government. The currency futures market has moved on to such a degree now that the term inter bank now means anybody who is prepared to buy or sell a currency.
It could be two individuals or your local travel agent offering to exchange Euros for US Dollars. You will however find that most of the brokers and banks use centralized feeds to insure reliability of price quotes. The quotes for Bid (buy) and Offer (sell) will all be from reliable sources. These quotes are normally made up of the top 300 or so large institutions. This insures that if they place an order on your behalf that the institutions they have placed the order with is capable of fulfilling the order.
Although we have discussed orders being fulfilled, it is estimated that anywhere from 70%-90% of the FX market is speculative and involves day traders. In other words the person or institution that bought or sold the currency has no intention of actually taking delivery of the currency. Instead they were solely speculating on the movement of that particular currency.
90% of all currencies are traded against the U.S. Dollar. The four next most traded currencies are the Euro (EUR), Japanese Yen (JPY), Pound Sterling (GBP) and Swiss Franc(CHF). As currencies are traded in pairs and exchanged one for the other when traded, the rate at which they are exchanged is called the exchange rate. These four currencies traded against the US Dollar make up the majority of the market and are called major currencies or the majors.
So now we know that the FX market is the largest in the world and that your broker or institution that you are trading with is collecting quotes from a centralized feed or individual quotes comprising of inter bank rates. So how are these quotes made up. Well, as we previously mentioned currencies are traded in pairs and are each assigned a symbol. For the Japanese Yen it is JPY, for the Pounds Sterling it is GBP, for Euro it is EUR and for the Swiss Frank it is CHF. So, EUR/USD would be Euro-Dollar pair. GBP/USD would be pounds Sterling-Dollar pair and USD/CHF would be Dollar-Swiss Franc pair and so on. You will always see the USD quoted first with few exceptions such as Pounds Sterling, EuroDollar, Australia Dollar and New Zealand Dollar. The first currency quoted is called the base currency. Have a look below for some example.
Currency Symbol Currency Pair
EUR/USD - Euro / US Dollar
GBP/USD - Pounds Sterling/ US Dollar
USD/JPY - US Dollar / Japanese Yen
USD/CHF - US Dollar / Swiss Franc
USD/CAD - US Dollar / Canadian Dollar
AUD/USD - Australian Dollar / US Dollar
NZD/USD - New Zealand Dollar / US Dollar
When you see FX quotes you will actually see two numbers. The first number is called the bid and the second number is called the offer (sometimes called the ASK). If we use the EUR/USD as an example you might see 0.9950/0.9955 the first number 0.9950 is the bid price and is the price traders are prepared to buy Euros against the USD Dollar. The second number 0.9955 is the offer price and is the price traders are prepared to sell the Euro against the US Dollar. These quotes are sometimes abbreviated to the last two digits of the currency such as 50/55. Each broker has its own convention and some will quote the full number and others will show only the last two. You will also notice that there is a difference between the bid and the offer price and that is called the spread. For the four major currencies the spread is normally 5 give or take a pip (will explain pips later)
To carry on from the symbol conventions and using our previous EUR quote of 0.9950 bid, that means that 1 Euro = 0.9950 US Dollars. In another example if we used the USD/CAD 1.4500 that would mean that 1 US Dollar = 1.4500 Canadian Dollars.
The most common increment of currencies is the PIP. If the EUR/USD moves from 0.9550 to 0.9551 that is one Pip. A pip is the last decimal place of a quotation. The Pip or POINT as it is sometimes referred to depending on context is how we will measure our profit or loss.
As each currency has its own value it is necessary to calculate the value of a pip for that particular currency. We also want a constant so we will assume that we want to convert everything to US Dollars. In currencies where the US Dollar is quoted first the calculation would be as follows.
Example JPY rate of 116.73 (notice the JPY only goes to two decimal places, most of the other currencies have four decimal places)
In the case of the JPY 1 pip would be .01 therefore
USD/JPY: (.01 divided by exchange rate = pip value) so .01/116.73=0.0000856 it looks like a big number but later we will discuss lot (contract) size.
USD/CHF: (.0001 divided by exchange rate = pip value) so .0001/1.4840 = 0.0000673
USD/CAD: (.0001 divided by exchange rate = pip value) so .0001/1.5223 = 0.0001522
In the case where the US Dollar is not quoted first and we want to get to the US Dollar value we have to add one more step.
EUR/USD: (0.0001 divided by exchange rate = pip value) so .0001/0.9887 = EUR 0.0001011 but we want to get back to US Dollars so we add another little calculation which is EUR X Exchange rate so 0.0001011 X 0.9887 = 0.0000999 when rounded up it would be 0.0001.
GBP/USD: (0.0001 divided by exchange rate = pip value) so 0.0001/1.5506 = GBP 0.0000644 but we want to get back to US Dollars so we add another little calculation which is GBP X Exchange rate so 0.0000644 X 1.5506 = 0.0000998 when rounded up it would be 0.0001.
By this time you might be rolling your eyes back and thinking do I really need to work all this out and the answer is no. Nearly all the brokers you will deal with will work all this out for you. They may have slightly different conventions but it is all done automatically. It is good however for you to know how they work it out. In the next section we will be discussing how these seemingly insignificant amounts can add up.
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