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Forex Tutorial: The Forex Market

The foreign exchange market (forex or FX for short) is one of the most exciting, fast-paced markets around. Until recently, forex trading in the currency market had been the domain of large financial institutions, corporations, central banks, hedge funds and extremely wealthy individuals. The emergence of the internet has changed all of this, and now it is possible for average investors to buy and sell currencies easily with the click of a mouse through online brokerage accounts.

Daily currency fluctuations are usually very small. Most currency pairs move less than one cent per day, representing a less than 1% change in the value of the currency. This makes foreign exchange one of the least volatile financial markets around. Therefore, many currency speculators rely on the availability of enormous leverage to increase the value of potential movements. In the retail forex market, leverage can be as much as 250:1. Higher leverage can be extremely risky, but because of round-the-clock trading and deep liquidity, foreign exchange brokers have been able to make high leverage an industry standard in order to make the movements meaningful for currency traders.

Extreme liquidity and the availability of high leverage have helped to spur the market's rapid growth and made it the ideal place for many traders. Positions can be opened and closed within minutes or can be held for months. Currency prices are based on objective considerations of supply and demand and cannot be manipulated easily because the size of the market does not allow even the largest players, such as central banks, to move prices at will.

The forex market provides plenty of opportunity for investors. However, in order to be successful, a currency trader has to understand the basics behind currency movements.

The goal of this forex tutorial is to provide a foundation for investors or traders who are new to the foreign currency markets. We'll cover the basics of exchange rates, the market's history and the key concepts you need to understand in order to be able to participate in this market. We'll also venture into how to start trading foreign currencies and the different types of strategies that can be employed.

Forex Tutorial: How To Trade & Open A Forex Account

So, you think you are ready to trade? Make sure you read this section to learn how you can go about setting up a forex account so that you can start trading currencies. We'll also mention other factors that you should be aware of before you take this step. We will then discuss how to trade forex and the different types of orders that can be placed.

Opening A Forex Brokerage Account
Trading forex is similar to the equity market because individuals interested in trading need to open up a trading account. Like the equity market, each forex account and the services it provides differ, so it is important that you find the right one. Below we will talk about some of the factors that should be considered when selecting a forex account.

Leverage
Leverage is basically the ability to control large amounts of capital, using very little of your own capital; the higher the leverage, the higher the level of risk. The amount of leverage on an account differs depending on the account itself, but most use a factor of at least 50:1, with some being as high as 250:1. A leverage factor of 50:1 means that for every dollar you have in your account you control up to $50. For example, if a trader has $1,000 in his or her account, the broker will lend that person $50,000 to trade in the market. This leverage also makes your margin, or the amount you have to have in the account to trade a certain amount, very low. In equities, margin is usually at least 50%, while the leverage of 50:1 is equivalent to 2%.

Leverage is seen as a major benefit of forex trading, as it allows you to make large gains with a small investment. However, leverage can also be an extreme negative if a trade moves against you because your losses also are amplified by the leverage. With this kind of leverage, there is the real possibility that you can lose more than you invested - although most firms have protective stops preventing an account from going negative. For this reason, it is vital that you remember this when opening an account and that when you determine your desired leverage you understand the risks involved.

Commissions and Fees
Another major benefit of forex accounts is that trading within them is done on a commission-free basis. This is unlike equity accounts, in which you pay the broker a fee for each trade. The reason for this is that you are dealing directly with market makers and do not have to go through other parties like brokers.

This may sound too good to be true, but rest assured that market makers are still making money each time you trade. Remember the bid and ask from the previous section? Each time a trade is made, it is the market makers that capture the spread between these two. Therefore, if the bid/ask for a foreign currency is 1.5200/50, the market maker captures the difference (50 basis points).

If you are planning on opening a forex account, it is important to know that each firm has different spreads on foreign currency pairs traded through them. While they will often differ by only a few pips (0.0001), this can be meaningful if you trade a lot over time. So when opening an account make sure to find out the pip spread that it has on foreign currency pairs you are looking to trade.

Other Factors
There are a lot of differences between each forex firm and the accounts they offer, so it is important to review each before making a commitment. Each company will offer different levels of services and programs along with fees above and beyond actual trading costs. Also, due to the less regulated nature of the forex market, it is important to go with a reputable company. (For more information on what to look for when opening an account, read Wading Into The Currency Market. If you are not ready to open a "real money" account but want to try your hand at forex trading, read Demo Before You Dive In.)

How to Trade Forex
Now that you know some important factors to be aware of when opening a forex account, we will take a look at what exactly you can trade within that account. The two main ways to trade in the foreign currency market is the simple buying and selling of currency pairs, where you go long one currency and short another. The second way is through the purchasing of derivatives that track the movements of a specific currency pair. Both of these techniques are highly similar to techniques in the equities market.The most common way is to simply buy and sell currency pairs, much in the same way most individuals buy and sell stocks. In this case, you are hoping the value of the pair itself changes in a favorable manner. If you go long a currency pair, you are hoping that the value of the pair increases. For example, let's say that you took a long position in the USD/CAD pair - you will make money if the value of this pair goes up, and lose money if it falls. This pair rises when the U.S. dollar increases in value against the Canadian dollar, so it is a bet on the U.S. dollar.

The other option is to use derivative products, such as options and futures, to profit from changes in the value of currencies. If you buy an option on a currency pair, you are gaining the right to purchase a currency pair at a set rate before a set point in time. A futures contract, on the other hand, creates the obligation to buy the currency at a set point in time. Both of these trading techniques are usually only used by more advanced traders, but it is important to at least be familiar with them. (For more on this, try Getting Started in Forex Options and our tutorials, Option Spread Strategies and Options Basics Tutorial.)

Types of Orders
A trader looking to open a new position will likely use either a market order or a limit order. The incorporation of these order types remains the same as when they are used in the equity markets. A market order gives a forex trader the ability to obtain the currency at whatever exchange rate it is currently trading at in the market, while a limit order allows the trader to specify a certain entry price. (For a brief refresher of these orders, see The Basics of Order Entry.)

Forex traders who already hold an open position may want to consider using a take-profit order to lock in a profit. Say, for example, that a trader is confident that the GBP/USD rate will reach 1.7800, but is not as sure that the rate could climb any higher. A trader could use a take-profit order, which would automatically close his or her position when the rate reaches 1.7800, locking in their profits.

Another tool that can be used when traders hold open positions is the stop-loss order. This order allows traders to determine how much the rate can decline before the position is closed and further losses are accumulated. Therefore, if the GBP/USD rate begins to drop, an investor can place a stop-loss that will close the position (for example at 1.7787), in order to prevent any further losses.

As you can see, the type of orders that you can enter in your forex trading account are similar to those found in equity accounts. Having a good understanding of these orders is critical before placing your first trade.

How to Start Trading Forex (4 steps)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Welcome to the world of forex. There might be many reasons why you are reading this article. It could be that your friend or acquaintance mentioned about how they trade and perhaps even make a living by trading forex. Whatever your reasons may be; this article will give you an overview of the forex markets and How to start trading Forex … and perhaps make money for yourself.

Step 1. What is Forex?

Step 2. Learn Forex Basics

Step 3: Find a Forex Broker

Step 4: Start Trading

Step 1. What is Forex?

Forex, or Foreign Exchange is an unregulated market, also known as OTC (Over-the-counter) and is the biggest market with average daily turn-over that runs into billions. It is even bigger than the US stock markets. Although due to its OTC nature, no one can really give the correct numbers as to the forex turnover. But nonetheless, forex is indeed a big market and thus allows many market participants. From your neighborhood bank to specialized investment companies, to your friend; the forex markets always offers a piece of the action whoever you are and wherever you are (even from your home).

The basic concept of trading forex is very simple. You trade or speculate against other traders on the direction of a currency.

So, if you believe that the Euro is going to rise, you would BUY the Euro, or SELL the Euro if you think the Euro would fall. It’s as simple as that.

Step 2. Learn Forex Basics

Before you get ready to deposit your funds and start trading there are some important points you must understand, each of which are outlined below.

Forex Brokers: In order to start trading forex, you will need to trade with the help of a forex broker. There are many forex brokers out there today who allow you to open a forex trading account for as little as $5. The forex broker is the one who facilitates your buy and sell orders and also allows you to research into the markets (also known as technical or fundamental analysis) to help you make more informed decisions… and of course allows you deposit more funds or withdraw your profits when you want to. ( Click here to see our Forex brokers rating )

Trading Platform:You need a trading platform from which you can place your trades, which are then sent to the broker for settlement. Also, a trading platform is essential for you to conduct your technical analysis and also to see the current market prices. Most retail brokers offer the MT4 (short for MetaTrader 4) trading platform, which is free of cost. You can also open a demo trading account and practice trading with virtual money to gain the experience required before trading with real money.

Forex Trading Hours:While you might have heard that the forex markets never sleeps, it actually does. Firstly, you won’t be able to trade on weekends (Saturday and Sundays). But for the rest of the week, the forex market operates 24 hours a day. This is due to the fact that forex trading is global. At any point in time, you will always find an overlap of a new market session while the previous market closes. What time of the day or which market session you trade plays a big role if you are an intra-day trader or a scalper. This is another vast topic, which we will cover at a later stage. ( Click here to learn more about forex trading hours . )

Now that you have a basic overview of the forex markets, here are some final pointers to remember before you start trading for yourself.

What is a pip?:Pip is a measure of change in a currency pair’s value and is the 5 th decimal. For example, if EURUSD changes from 1.31428 to 1.31429, the change is denoted as 1Pip (1.31428 – 1.31429 = 0.00001). When you trade, the more pips you make, the more profit you have. Ex: Buying EURUSD at 1.31428 and selling (or closing your trade) at 1.31528 would give you 100Pips in profit. ( Read more about Forex PIP )

Reading quotes: Forex quotes are presented in a Bid and Ask price (both of which vary by a few pips and from one broker to another). The Bid price is the price at which you can buy and the Ask price is the price as which you can sell. So, a EURUSD quote would look like this 1.31428(Bid)/1.31420(Ask).

What is a Spread?: Spread is nothing but the difference between the Bid and Ask price. So in the above example, for 1.31428/1.31420, the spread would be 8 Pips. ( Read more about Forex Spread)

What is a Leverage?: Leverage is the amount by which you can request your broker to magnify (or increase) your trade value. Leverage is often quoted in ratios such as 1:50, which means that when trading on a 1:50 leverage, your $100 is magnified to $50000. Leverage is a big topic in itself and it is recommended to read this article to learn more. Leverage is important both in terms of making profits as well as managing risks and therefore, your trades.

What is a Lot?: A lot is a unit by which you place your trade. In financial terms, a lot is also referred to as a contract. There are preset lots (or contract sizes) that you can trade. For example a standard lot is nothing but 100,000 units (known as 1 lot). ( Read more about Lot)

Reading charts: The ability to understand and read the charts is very essential to trading. Depending on your approach, you can choose between a line, bar or candlestick charts and trade accordingly (for example trading based on candlestick patterns). ( Read more How to read forex charts)

Placing Orders (How to buy and sell): In forex trading, it is possible to either buy or sell any currency pair. Most trading platforms, give you this option. You Buy when you think that price will go up and you sell when you think that price will fall. There is a common terminology used in forex trading, which is Buy Low, Sell High; which is an important point to remember. ( Read more How to place orders with MT4 )

Order Types: Besides buy and sell, another point to remember the types of orders. There are two basic order types: Market orders and pending orders. When you click on ‘Buy’ or ‘Sell’ you are basically buying (or selling) at the current market price. A limit order on the other hand tells the broker that you want to buy or sell only at a particular price. ( Read more about Types of Forex orders)

Step 3. Find a Forex Broker

As mentioned, there are many forex brokers today and therefore it can get confusing on how to choose the forex broker that is right for you. To briefly summarize, remember the following points while choosing a forex broker:

  • Look for a forex broker that is regulated
  • See if the forex broker offers a minimum deposit amount
  • What is the leverage that the broker offers
  • What is the minimum contract size that you can trade
  • Bonuses and the terms and conditions (see on our site list of Forex Deposit bonuses and Forex No Deposit bonuses)
  • Deposit and Withdrawal types as well as the terms and conditions
  • Trading methods that are allowed by the broker

We can also help you choose a forex broker by reading our article How to choose forex broker

Step 4. Start Trading

Finally, now that you have selected a forex broker to trade with it is recommended to first open a demo trading or a practice account. Most forex brokers offer unlimited demo trading account (but will be deactivated if not used for 30 days). This is a good way to get acquainted with the forex markets and also help you to understand your trading style (scalper or intra day trading, swing trading, etc) and approach (fundamental or technical analysis). You can search for various trading methods and systems or you can develop one yourself when you have a good understanding of technical or fundamental indicators.

Conclusion:

Forex trading is one of the most active and dynamic ways to trade the financial markets. At the heart of everything, it is the basic fluctuations in currency values which drives everything else. Learning to trade forex and understanding the forex markets can give a good foundation to trading other markets such as derivatives or equities.

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