Forex trading (also known as Forex, or FX) is a term that describes the practice of trading between different currencies across the world. It is unlike trading on the stock market in that the interaction takes place directly between the two parties doing the trading. This practice is dubbed the OTC market (Over The Counter).
When currency is traded, it is always between two different currencies, which produces what is known as a cross. The cross consists of the currency being traded and the currency it is being exchanged for (for example: the euro/US dollar is a cross, as is a Japanese Yen/Us Dollar, etc). Within the Forex market, the most volume is in the spot market, named as such because trades are settled «on the spot» (though technically, this means two banking days).
When currencies are traded, they are usually sold only when the broker expects the currency it is being bought for to increase in value relative to the currency being sold. Once the currency being purchased does increase in value, the only way to obtain profit is to sell back the other currency being traded. When only one half of the deal has been done it is referred to as an open position, meaning a specific currency cross has been brought or sold but the trader has not yet sold or bought back the other end of the deal required to «close» the trade.
Interestingly, much of Forex trading is speculative, meaning the party trading the currency does not ever take delivery of the actual currency. The trading, therefore, was based on the speculation of price shifts of that currency.
Forex trading has many advantages. For one, it can be traded 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. It is also such a large market and so liquid that there are always available buyers and sellers. Because of its liquidity, Forex trading tends to be stable in its pricing.
Forex is usually traded without commission, which broadens its appeal. Higher leverage is allowed with Forex, which means large trades can be conducted with minimal actual investments, creating potential for large profits. And speaking of profits, another big appeal of Forex trading is that it can be profitable even in failing markets, as currency is constantly changing and shifting, with each shift equating to a potential for a profitable trade.
by Terri Polk