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Foreign exchange, commonly known as ‘Forex’ or ‘FX’, is the exchange of one currency for another at an agreed exchange price on the over-the-counter (OTC) market. Forex is the world’s most traded market, with an average turnover in excess of US$5.3 trillion per day.
In general, how much money you make will depend on what currencies you trade, what leverage you use, and how much capital you have.
A pip is a very small measure of change in a currency pair in the forex market. It can be measured in terms of the quote or in terms of the underlying currency. A pip is a standardized unit and is the smallest amount by which a currency quote can change, which is usually $0.0001 for U.S.-dollar related currency pairs, which is more commonly referred to as 1/100th of 1%, or one basis point. This standardized size helps to protect investors from huge losses. For example, if a pip was 10 basis points, a one-pip change would cause more extreme volatility in currency values. Assume that we have a USD/EUR direct quote of 0.7747. What this quote means is that for US$1, you can buy about 0.7747 euros. If there was a one-pip increase in this quote (to 0.7748), the value of the U.S. dollar would rise relative to the euro, as US$1 would allow you to buy slightly more euros. The effect that a one-pip change has on the dollar amount, or pip value, depends on the amount of euros purchased. If an investor buys 10,000 euros with U.S. dollars, the price paid will be US$12,908.22 ([1/0.7747] x 10,000). If the exchange rate for this pair experiences a one-pip increase, the price paid would be $12,906.56 ([1/0.7748] x 10,000). In that case, the pip value on a lot of 10,000 euros will be US$1.66 ($12,908.22 – $12,906.56). If, on the other hand, the same investor purchases 100,000 euros at the same initial price, the pip value will be US$16.6. As this example demonstrates, the pip value increases depending on the amount of the underlying currency (in this case euros) that is purchased.
Forex is not a scam, but there are plenty of scams associated with forex. However, regulators have significantly caught up to the scammers over the years making them increasingly rare. Scams are a big problem faced by everyone in the forex industry. As with any new industry, there are plenty of people out there looking to take advantage of newcomers. Forex itself is a legitimate endeavor. Forex trading is a real business that can be profitable, but it must be treated as such. It is not a get rich overnight business, no matter what you may read elsewhere, however, it is possible to have a profitable legitimate forex business. Like any other real business, though, there is no free lunch.
A forex brokerage is an entity that connects retail forex traders with the forex market. The Forex market is traded on the “interbank” which is a fancy way of saying banks trade electronically with each other at various prices that may change from bank to bank. A forex trading account is something like a bank account where you can purchase currencies and hold them. Currencies are specifically purchased in pairs. If you buy the EUR/USD, you are holding for the US Dollar to become worth less per Euro over time. The Euro must become worth more money in dollars, for you to make a profit. A forex brokerage offers you a way to get into the mix with the banking network and purchase a currency pair to hold in an easy manner. Before there were forex brokers, people wishing to trade in foreign currency needed to have a large amount of money and a special relationship with a bank to buy foreign currencies.
You are buying and selling money. In the forex market, think of money as a commodity, you are buying a currency hoping that its value will increase, and if you are selling you are betting that it will decrease. Like any other commodity, the price of currencies is displayed in quotes in the spot market, and traded in currency pairs; like the US dollar and the Canadian dollar (USD/CAD) or the US dollar and Japanese yen (USD/JPY). Also, although you are buying another country’s currency, you are not buying anything ‘physical’, and thus no physical exchange of money ever takes place. This can be confusing, but think of it like buying shares of a publicly traded company where everything is done electronically inside your trading account. But unlike the stock market, the forex market doesn’t have a central exchange like the New York Stock Exchange for instance. Instead the forex market is an interbank market, which means it’s all connected together in a network of banks and institutions. You can also think of buying currencies as buying shares in a country, you are betting on the success or failure of a particular country’s economy.
FULL RISK DISCLOSURE: Trading contains substantial risk and is not for every investor. An investor could potentially lose all or more than the initial investment. Risk capital is money that can be lost without jeopardizing ones financial security or life style. Only risk capital should be used for trading and only those with sufficient risk capital should consider trading. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.