The exchange of different world currencies is what takes place in the Foreign Exchange markets. Sometimes referred to as the FX Markets or Forex Markets, they account for the highest volume of trading when compared to any other market. Nearly $4 trillion dollars changes hands daily on the Forex Markets.
The principle is easy enough to understand. In fact, any traveler has experienced it upon arrival in a foreign country. In order to obtain local currency, one must sell one currency and buy the other. FX traders operate on the same system, though on a much grander scale.
To take a closer look at FX Markets in action, it is useful to peruse the financial section of any newspaper. Where the currencies are listed, readers will notice a “bid” price listed along with an “ask” price. Since banks set the “ask” price, it will be slightly marked up in order to accommodate a transaction fee. If a person wished to sell the same currency, they would be offered the “bid” price by the bank, which is lower. The spread between these figures is one of the methods used by large banks to profit in Forex trading, which is a volume-dominated market.
In terms of investment strategies for FX Markets, there are several different ways to approach it. For investors who like to read more extended trends of a national currency, the goal is to find the direction early. On the other hand, there is a lot of money to be made in short speculation, and the key is to guess right while laying down the maximum amount possible.
Forex markets are not a common item in the typical private investment portfolio. Because the control is in the hands of the banks which set the spread between the bid and ask price, these banks get a price available only to the top players in the financial world. In fact, with all of the trading which takes place on a daily basis, nearly 80% is done by the world’s top ten in the banking industry. Deutsche Bank leads the way, with outfits like Barclay’s and JP Morgan close behind.
Speculation in the FX Markets is rampant. Hedge funds – known for the aggressive style of investment – have been a major force in FX since the mid-1990s. One of the advantages of such an aggressive style is the ability to counteract influence made on behalf of a currency by its government. While financial ministers may be able to control devaluation using a country’s central bank funds, investors can overwhelm a market with volume.
There are many factors which can have an effect on the strength of a country’s currency. Investors always look to government budget deficits and the ability to maintain surpluses. Inflation levels and GDP growth statistics are also vital information to FX investors, along with factors as diverse as unemployment levels. Political developments also play a major role.
An interesting feature of the FX is the fact that they never close between Monday and Friday. After the close of business in New York, traders can continue on in Europe and finally Asia before New York markets open once again in the morning.