Foreign exchange is a claim for payment in a foreign currency – mostly in the form of credit balances on accounts with foreign banks or as other foreign currency claims. Cash in foreign currency that is in circulation outside the country of origin is referred to as denominations. In general usage, however, a distinction is often not made between currencies and varieties. Here “forex” generally stands for money in a foreign currency.
Global currency trading on Forex
Foreign exchange is traded on the global foreign exchange market – also known as the Foreign Exchange Market or Forex for short. Currencies are exchanged on the foreign exchange market. With a daily trading volume of several trillion dollars, Forex is the largest global financial market. Trading no longer takes place on physical stock exchanges, but via electronic trading systems to which the market participants are directly connected. Important players in Forex are banks, large companies, private foreign exchange dealers, foreign exchange brokers, and trading houses, as well as the central banks – for example, the European Central Bank (ECB).
Private individuals do not have direct access to the market but have been able to participate in foreign exchange trading through high leverage brokers in the forex market for a number of years. This business is highly speculative. It takes place preferably via contracts for difference – CFDs – in order to benefit from the short-term exchange rate volatility. Chart technique and chart analysis play a major role. Professional foreign exchange trading is not purely speculative. This is often also about hedging against currency risks. Central bank actions on the foreign exchange market are usually motivated by monetary and currency policy.
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Different types of foreign exchange transactions
The following types of foreign exchange transactions are distinguished:
- Spot foreign exchange transactions: Buying and selling foreign exchange takes place at the spot rate with very real-time booking of the equivalent value (“real-time currency exchange”). One also speaks of spot transactions (“on the spot” = “on the spot”);
- Forward foreign exchange transactions: buying and selling foreign exchange forward (in the future) at an exchange rate agreed today;
- Currency swap transactions: Combination of a currency spot transaction and a currency forward transaction. Spot purchase and forward sale are swapped or vice versa.
- Currency options: give the right (but not the obligation) to buy or sell currency at a specified price within a specified period or on a specified date.
The Central Role of the US Dollar
The US dollar is of central importance in global currency trading. It is still considered the most important reserve currency in the world. The six most traded currency pairs on Forex have the US dollar as a part. The currency pair US dollar/Euro achieves the greatest turnover. His share of Forex trading is between a quarter and a third. Other important exchange currencies are the Japanese yen, the British pound, the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar, and the Swiss franc.
The exchange rate as the price of currency
The “price” of foreign exchange is the exchange rate. It expresses how much a unit of the domestic currency is worth in units of the foreign currency (volume quotation). An exchange rate of €1 = US$1.13 for the euro means that one euro is worth $1.13. The reverse quotation (price quotation) is also possible, but less common. In the example, it would be: 1 US$ = 1/1.13 = 0.884956 €.
In the case of international money transfers, financial institutions, online banks, and online payment services often do not use the “officially” calculated exchange rate, the so-called exchange rate, as a basis, but calculate premiums or discounts. These represent an indirect – because not obvious – fee.
There are various theories to explain exchange rates and exchange rate changes in floating currencies. Interest rate differences, different purchasing power, current account imbalances or different economic developments are then important factors that can be responsible for more fundamental exchange rate changes. In addition, there are always short-term influences.