Trading 101: Intro to Forex Trading
When you are first getting introduced to the world of forex trading, things can seem a bit overwhelming. There is so much information available online, but very little of it is aimed at beginners who may not be familiar with the terms and concepts they refer to. In this article we will cover the basics of forex trading, explain the most important terminology, and tell you how you can get started trading forex for yourself.
To start off, let’s define some terms. Forex stands for “Foreign exchange” and is the name often used for this market where traders can buy one currency by paying with another currency. Other names used for this is the “FX market” or the “currency market.”
A pip, often referred to as “point in price”, is simply the smallest price move that is possible in a given currency, also known as a basis point. Forex traders often talk about their gains and losses in terms of pips instead of percentages or monetary values.
Long/short are confusing terms that often get tossed around by forex traders as well as other traders. To put it simply, long means that you are buying an asset and will make a profit if that asset goes up in price. Short, on the other hand, means that you are trying to make a profit from declining prices. The way it works is that you sell an asset that is borrowed from another market participant. After the price has dropped, you can then buy back the asset in the market for a lower price than you sold it for, and thus make a profit.
Stop-loss is the level a trader decides on where he would like to exit his trade if it is not working out for him. In other words, it is the maximum loss the trader is willing to take on one particular trade. Alternatively, a stop-loss order can be used to secure a profit on a profitable trade in case the market turns.
Leverage is the practice of taking a larger position in the market than your trading account size would otherwise allow. Basically you are borrowing money from your broker in order to boost your buying power in the market. Leverage offered in the forex market is often in the range of 200-400:1
Spread, also known as bid-ask spread, is the difference between the buying and selling price of an asset in the market. The broker will offer you to buy a currency at a slightly higher price than they will let you sell that currency. This is where brokers make most of their money, and it is important to compare spreads when choosing a forex broker.
Since the forex market works by participants buying one currency with another currency, the price of a currency must always be quoted in another currency. For example, when you see that EUR/USD is trading at 1.20, it means that you need 1.20 US dollar to buy 1 euro.
The worlds largest market
The forex market is known as the largest of the world’s financial markets. Approximately $5 trillion changes hands in the forex market every day, far surpassing the global stock markets and commodities markets.
It is important to understand that the trading activity that retail traders (traders like you and me) account for is just a small, but rapidly growing, share of the total activity in the forex market.
Fundamental or Technical Analysis
When you are deciding to become a trader, you also need to decide on what type of trader you want to be. Broadly speaking, there are three types of traders; fundamental traders, technical traders, or a combination of the two.
Fundamentals take into account news, valuation, interest rates, etc. when trying to determine what price a currency pair “should” be trading at.
Technicals, on the other hand, focus strictly on what the price of the currency pair is doing. Technical traders study and analyze price charts to try to determine the future direction of the price.
Majors and Minors
Forex traders often talk about majors and minors when referring to currencies. Majors is a list of the most actively traded currency pairs in the world, and it consists of these pairs:
- EUR/USD: The euro and the US dollar.
- USD/JPY: The US dollar and the Japanese yen.
- GBP/USD: The British pound and the US dollar.
- USD/CHF: The US dollar and the Swiss franc.
Forex majors often have the lowest spreads in the forex market and they are also among the most liquid instruments you can trade in the financial markets.
Forex minors is a list of the next most actively traded currencies. This list includes currencies such as the British pound (GBP), Canadian dollar (CAD, aka “Loonie”), Australian dollar (AUD, aka “Aussie”), and New Zealand dollar (NZD, aka “Kiwi”).
Lastly, there are the exotic currency pairs. These include the remaining currencies from European countries outside the Eurozone (NOK, SEK, DKK) and smaller yet important Asian currencies like the Singapore dollar (SGD) and Hong Kong dollar (HKD). The exotics have less trading activity and the spreads are usually higher than for the majors and minors.
Benefits of Forex Trading vs. Stock Trading
A benefit of trading in the forex market rather than the stock market is that the forex market is trading 24 hours a day, from Monday morning in Australia until Friday evening in North America. The great thing about the market being open 24 hours is that there are no overnight “gaps” like you can find in the stock market.
A gap simply means that the market opens at another price in the morning than it closed the night before. For traders, gaps are considered a big risk, since the trader cannot control what is happening with his trade while the market is closed.
A market that is open 24/5, like the forex market is, opens up great opportunities for medium-term traders (swing traders) to for example take positions during the beginning of the week and exit those same positions before the week is over. That way, the trader takes no risk over the weekend when the market is closed.
Additionally, the forex market is much more liquid than most stocks, and it’s easy to find technical and fundamental analysis of this market everywhere on the Internet.
Choose a Forex Broker
Once you have decided to give forex trading a try, you need to choose a good broker that you trust with your money. This is the first, but still a critical step, on your way to become a successful trader. Pay particularly close attention to regulation, withdrawal policies, spreads, and trading platforms offered when choosing your broker. Fore more on this, read our earlier article on how to choose a forex broker.
Featured image from Pixabay.