Why trade forex?

Advantages Of Forex Trading

There are many benefits and advantages of trading forex. Here are just a few reasons why so many people are choosing this market:

No commissions

No clearing fees, no exchange fees, no government fees, no brokerage fees. Most retail brokers are compensated for their services through something called the “bid-ask spread“.

No middlemen

Spot currency trading eliminates the middlemen and allows you to trade directly with the market responsible for the pricing on a particular currency pair.

No fixed lot size

In the futures markets, lot or contract sizes are determined by the exchanges. A standard-size contract for silver futures is 5,000 ounces. In spot forex, you determine your own lot, or position size. This allows traders to participate with accounts as small as $25 (although we’ll explain later why a $25 account is a bad idea).

Low transaction costs

The retail transaction cost (the bid/ask spread) is typically less than 0.1% under normal market conditions. At larger dealers, the spread could be as low as 0.07%. Of course this depends on your leverage and all will be explained later.

A 24-hour market

There is no waiting for the opening bell. From the Monday morning opening in Australia to the afternoon close in New York, the forex market never sleeps. This is awesome for those who want to trade on a part-time basis, because you can choose when you want to trade: morning, noon, night, during breakfast, or in your sleep.

No one can corner the market

The foreign exchange market is so huge and has so many participants that no single entity (not even a central bank or the mighty Chuck Norris himself) can control the market price for an extended period of time.

Leverage

In forex trading, a small deposit can control a much larger total contract value. Leverage gives the trader the ability to make nice profits, and at the same time keep risk capital to a minimum.

For example, a forex broker may offer 50-to-1 leverage, which means that a $50 dollar margin deposit would enable a trader to buy or sell $2,500 worth of currencies. Similarly, with $500 dollars, one could trade with $25,000 dollars and so on. While this is all gravy, let’s remember that leverage is a double-edged sword. Without proper risk management, this high degree of leverage can lead to large losses as well as gains.

High Liquidity.

Because the forex market is so enormous, it is also extremely liquid. This is an advantage because it means that under normal market conditions, with a click of a mouse you can instantaneously buy and sell at will as there will usually be someone in the market willing to take the other side of your trade. You are never “stuck” in a trade. You can even set your online trading platform to automatically close your position once your desired profit level (a limit order) has been reached, and/or close a trade if a trade is going against you (a stop loss order).

Low Barriers to Entry

You would think that getting started as a currency trader would cost a ton of money. The fact is, when compared to trading stocks, options or futures, it doesn’t. Online forex brokers offer “mini” and “micro” trading accounts, some with a minimum account deposit of $25.

We’re not saying you should open an account with the bare minimum, but it does make forex trading much more accessible to the average individual who doesn’t have a lot of start-up trading capital.

Forex Market Structure

For the sake of comparison, let us first examine a market that you are probably very familiar with: the stock market. This is how the structure of the stock market looks like:

By its very nature, the stock market tends to be very monopolistic. There is only one entity, one specialist that controls prices. All trades must go through this specialist. Because of this, prices can easily be altered to benefit the specialist, and not traders.

How does this happen?

In the stock market, the specialist is forced to fulfill the order of its clients. Now, let’s say the number of sellers suddenly exceed the number of buyers. The specialist, which is forced to fulfill the order of its clients, the sellers in this case, is left with a bunch of stock that he cannot sell-off to the buyer side.

In order to prevent this from happening, the specialist will simply widen the spread or increase the transaction cost to prevent sellers from entering the market. In other words, the specialists can manipulate the quotes it is offering to accommodate its needs.

Trading Spot FX is Decentralized

Unlike in trading stocks or futures, you don’t need to go through a centralized exchange like the New York Stock Exchange with just one price. In the forex market, there is no single price that for a given currency at any time, which means quotes from different currency dealers vary.


This might be overwhelming at first, but this is what makes the forex market so freakin’ awesome! The market is so huge and the competition between dealers is so fierce that you get the best deal almost every single time. And tell me, who does not want that?

Also, one cool thing about forex trading is that you can do it anywhere. It’s just like trading baseball cards. You want that mint condition Mickey Mantle rookie card, so it is up to you to find the best deal out there. Your colleague might give up his Mickey Mantle card for just a Babe Ruth card, but your best friend will only part with his Mickey Mantle rookie card for your soul.


Forex Market Players

Now that you know the overall structure of the forex market, let’s delve in a little deeper to find out who exactly these people in the ladder are. It is essential for you that you understand the nature of the spot forex market and who are the main forex market players.

Until the late 1990s, only the “big guys” could play this game. The initial requirement was that you could trade only if you had about ten to fifty million bucks to start with! Forex was originally intended to be used by bankers and large institutions, and not by us “little guys.” However, because of the rise of the internet, online forex brokers are now able to offer trading accounts to “retail” traders like us.

Without further ado, here are the major forex market players:

1. The Super Banks

Since the forex spot market is decentralized, it is the largest banks in the world that determine the exchange rates. Based on the supply and demand for currencies, they are generally the ones that make the bid/ask spread that we all love (or hate, for that matter).

These large banks, collectively known as the interbank market, take on a ridonkulous amount of forex transactions each day for both their customers and themselves. A couple of these super banks include UBS, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, and Citigroup. You could say that the interbank market is THE foreign exchange market.

2. Large Commercial Companies

Companies take part in the foreign exchange market for the purpose of doing business. For instance, Apple must first exchange its U.S. dollars for the Japanese yen when purchasing electronic parts from Japan for their products. Since the volume they trade is much smaller than those in the interbank market, this type of market player typically deals with commercial banks for their transactions.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) between large companies can also create currency exchange rate fluctuations. In international cross-border M&As, a lot of currency conversations happens that could move prices around.

3. Governments and Central Banks

Governments and central banks, such as the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the Federal Reserve, are regularly involved in the forex market too. Just like companies, national governments participate in the forex market for their operations, international trade payments, and handling their foreign exchange reserves.

Meanwhile, central banks affect the forex market when they adjust interest rates to control inflation. By doing this, they can affect currency valuation. There are also instances when central banks intervene, either directly or verbally, in the forex market when they want to realign exchange rates. Sometimes, central banks think that their currency is priced too high or too low, so they start massive sell/buy operations to alter exchange rates.

4. The Speculators

“In it to win it!”

This is probably the mantra of the speculators. Comprising close to 90% of all trading volume, speculators as forex market players come in all shapes and sizes. Some have fat pockets, some roll thin, but all of them engage in the forex simply to make bucket loads of cash.

Don’t worry… Once you graduate from the School of Pipsology, you can be part of this cool crowd! Of course, how can you be one of the cool cats if you don’t even know your forex history?

Know Your Forex History!

At the end of the World War II, the whole world was experiencing so much chaos that the major Western governments felt the need to create a system to stabilize the global economy.

Known as the “Bretton Woods System,” the agreement set the exchange rate of all currencies against gold. This stabilized exchange rates for a while, but as the major economies of the world started to change and grow at different speeds, the rules of the system soon became obsolete and limiting.

Soon enough, come 1971, the Bretton Woods Agreement was abolished and replaced by a different currency valuation system. With the United States in the pilot’s seat, the currency market evolved to a free-floating one, where exchange rates were determined by supply and demand.

At first, it was difficult to determine fair exchange rates, but advances in technology and communication eventually made things easier.

Once the 1990s came along, thanks to computer nerds and the booming growth of the internet (cheers to you Mr. Al Gore), banks began creating their own trading platforms. These platforms were designed to stream live quotes to their clients so that they could instantly execute trades themselves.

Meanwhile, some smart business-minded marketing machines introduced internet-based trading platforms for individual traders.

Known as “retail forex brokers”, these entities made it easy for individuals to trade by allowing smaller trade sizes. Unlike in the interbank market where the standard trade size is one million units, retail brokers allowed individuals to trade as little as 1000 units!