Friday, August 31, 2007

Forex Market Overview

The foreign exchange market exists wherever one currency is traded for another. Individuals are currently a very small part of this market and may only participate indirectly through brokers. It is by far the largest market in the world, in terms of cash value traded. It includes trading between large banks, central banks, multinational corporations, governments, and other financial institutions.

The forex market is a cash inter-bank established in 1971 when floating exchange rates began to appear. The average daily trading volume of US Treasury Bonds is $300 billion and the US stock market has an average daily volume of less than $10 billion.

The foreign exchange market is unique because of:

The extreme liquidity of the market,
Its geographical dispersion,
Its trading volume,
The large number of traders in the market,
Its long trading hours - 24 hours a day

There are several types of financial instruments commonly used:-

Forward transaction: A buyer and seller agree on an exchange rate for any date in the future, and the transaction occurs on that date, regardless of what the market rates are then.

Futures: Futures are standardized and are usually traded on an exchange created for this purpose. The average contract length is roughly 3 months. Futures contracts are usually inclusive of any interest amounts.

Swap: In a swap, two parties exchange currencies for a certain length of time and agree to reverse the transaction at a later date.

Spot: A spot transaction is a two-day delivery transaction, as opposed to the Futures contracts, which are usually three months.

One difference between Futures and Spot is how interest is credited. Each currency in a Forex transaction has an inherent interest rate attached to it. This interest is added every single day whether the market is trading or not. Interest cannot take a vacation; money and its loaning value are still important even if the financial world has stopped dealing. In Futures, the interest is built into the price of the contract. In Spot, however, interest is not taken into account in the offering price because the Spot market is a cash market, not a contract market.

The main trading centers are in London, New York, and Tokyo, but banks throughout the world participate. As the Asian trading session ends, the European session begins, then the US session, and then the Asian begin in their turns.

Unlike a stock market, where all participants have access to the same prices, the Forex market is divided into levels of access. At the top is the inter-bank market, which is made up of the largest investment banking firms. The top-tier inter-bank market accounts for 53% of all transactions.

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