The foreign exchange market Forex , FX , or currency market is a global decentralized or over-the-counter OTC market for the trading of currencies. This market determines the foreign exchange rate. It includes all aspects of buying, selling and exchanging currencies at current or determined prices.
In terms of trading volume, it is by far the largest market in the world, followed by the Credit market. The main participants in this market are the larger international banks.
Financial centers around the world function as anchors of trading between a wide range of multiple types of buyers and sellers around the clock, with the exception of weekends. Since currencies are always traded in pairs, the foreign exchange market does not set a currency's absolute value but rather determines its relative value by setting the market price of one currency if paid for with another.
The foreign exchange market works through financial institutions , and operates on several levels. Behind the scenes, banks turn to a smaller number of financial firms known as "dealers", who are involved in large quantities of foreign exchange trading.
Most foreign exchange dealers are banks, so this behind-the-scenes market is sometimes called the " interbank market" although a few insurance companies and other kinds of financial firms are involved. Trades between foreign exchange dealers can be very large, involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of the sovereignty issue when involving two currencies, Forex has little if any supervisory entity regulating its actions. The foreign exchange market assists international trade and investments by enabling currency conversion.
For example, it permits a business in the United States to import goods from European Union member states, especially Eurozone members, and pay Euros , even though its income is in United States dollars. It also supports direct speculation and evaluation relative to the value of currencies and the carry trade speculation, based on the differential interest rate between two currencies.
In a typical foreign exchange transaction, a party purchases some quantity of one currency by paying with some quantity of another currency. The modern foreign exchange market began forming during the s.
This followed three decades of government restrictions on foreign exchange transactions under the Bretton Woods system of monetary management, which set out the rules for commercial and financial relations among the world's major industrial states after World War II. Countries gradually switched to floating exchange rates from the previous exchange rate regime , which remained fixed per the Bretton Woods system. As such, it has been referred to as the market closest to the ideal of perfect competition , notwithstanding currency intervention by central banks.
Currency trading and exchange first occurred in ancient times. During the 4th century AD, the Byzantine government kept a monopoly on the exchange of currency. Papyri PCZ I c. Currency and exchange were important elements of trade in the ancient world, enabling people to buy and sell items like food, pottery and raw materials. This is why, at some point in their history, most world currencies in circulation today had a value fixed to a specific quantity of a recognized standard like silver and gold.
During the 15th century, the Medici family were required to open banks at foreign locations in order to exchange currencies to act on behalf of textile merchants. The year is considered by at least one source to be the beginning of modern foreign exchange: Prior to the First World War, there was a much more limited control of international trade.
Motivated by the onset of war, countries abandoned the gold standard monetary system. From to , holdings of countries' foreign exchange increased at an annual rate of At the end of , nearly half of the world's foreign exchange was conducted using the pound sterling.
In , there were just two London foreign exchange brokers. Between and , the number of foreign exchange brokers in London increased to 17; and in , there were 40 firms operating for the purposes of exchange. By , Forex trade was integral to the financial functioning of the city. Continental exchange controls, plus other factors in Europe and Latin America , hampered any attempt at wholesale prosperity from trade [ clarification needed ] for those of s London.
As a result, the Bank of Tokyo became the center of foreign exchange by September Between and , Japanese law was changed to allow foreign exchange dealings in many more Western currencies. President, Richard Nixon is credited with ending the Bretton Woods Accord and fixed rates of exchange, eventually resulting in a free-floating currency system.
In —62, the volume of foreign operations by the U. Federal Reserve was relatively low. This was abolished in March Reuters introduced computer monitors during June , replacing the telephones and telex used previously for trading quotes. Due to the ultimate ineffectiveness of the Bretton Woods Accord and the European Joint Float, the forex markets were forced to close [ clarification needed ] sometime during and March Volume 18 , this event indicated the impossibility of the balancing of exchange stabilities by the measures of control used at the time and the monetary system and the foreign exchange markets in "West" Germany and other countries within Europe closed for two weeks during February and, or, March Exchange markets had to be closed.
March 1 " that is a large purchase occurred after the close. In developed nations, the state control of the foreign exchange trading ended in when complete floating and relatively free market conditions of modern times began.
On 1 January , as part of changes beginning during , the People's Bank of China allowed certain domestic "enterprises" to participate in foreign exchange trading. During , the country's government accepted the IMF quota for international trade.
Intervention by European banks especially the Bundesbank influenced the Forex market on 27 February The United States had the second amount of places involved in trading. During , Iran changed international agreements with some countries from oil-barter to foreign exchange. The foreign exchange market is the most liquid financial market in the world.
Traders include governments and central banks, commercial banks, other institutional investors and financial institutions, currency speculators , other commercial corporations, and individuals. The average daily turnover in the global foreign exchange and related markets is continuously [ citation needed ] growing.
In April , trading in the United Kingdom accounted for Trading in the United States accounted for So the order became: Foreign exchange futures contracts were introduced in at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and are traded more than to most other futures contracts.
Most developed countries permit the trading of derivative products such as futures and options on futures on their exchanges. All these developed countries already have fully convertible capital accounts. Some governments of emerging markets do not allow foreign exchange derivative products on their exchanges because they have capital controls. The use of derivatives is growing in many emerging economies.
The growth of electronic execution and the diverse selection of execution venues has lowered transaction costs, increased market liquidity, and attracted greater participation from many customer types. In particular, electronic trading via online portals has made it easier for retail traders to trade in the foreign exchange market.
Retail foreign exchange traders. The biggest geographic trading center is the United Kingdom, primarily London. According to TheCityUK , it is estimated that London increased its share of global turnover in traditional transactions from Due to London's dominance in the market, a particular currency's quoted price is usually the London market price.
For instance, when the International Monetary Fund calculates the value of its special drawing rights every day, they use the London market prices at noon that day. Unlike a stock market, the foreign exchange market is divided into levels of access. At the top is the interbank foreign exchange market , which is made up of the largest commercial banks and securities dealers.
Within the interbank market, spreads, which are the difference between the bid and ask prices, are razor sharp and not known to players outside the inner circle.
The difference between the bid and ask prices widens for example from 0 to 1 pip to 1—2 pips for currencies such as the EUR as you go down the levels of access.
This is due to volume. If a trader can guarantee large numbers of transactions for large amounts, they can demand a smaller difference between the bid and ask price, which is referred to as a better spread.
The levels of access that make up the foreign exchange market are determined by the size of the "line" the amount of money with which they are trading. An important part of the foreign exchange market comes from the financial activities of companies seeking foreign exchange to pay for goods or services.
Commercial companies often trade fairly small amounts compared to those of banks or speculators, and their trades often have little short-term impact on market rates. Nevertheless, trade flows are an important factor in the long-term direction of a currency's exchange rate. Some multinational corporations MNCs can have an unpredictable impact when very large positions are covered due to exposures that are not widely known by other market participants.
National central banks play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They can use their often substantial foreign exchange reserves to stabilize the market. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of central bank "stabilizing speculation" is doubtful because central banks do not go bankrupt if they make large losses, like other traders would. There is also no convincing evidence that they actually make a profit from trading. Foreign exchange fixing is the daily monetary exchange rate fixed by the national bank of each country.
The idea is that central banks use the fixing time and exchange rate to evaluate the behavior of their currency. Fixing exchange rates reflect the real value of equilibrium in the market. Banks, dealers and traders use fixing rates as a market trend indicator. The mere expectation or rumor of a central bank foreign exchange intervention might be enough to stabilize a currency. However, aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime.
Central banks do not always achieve their objectives. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. Investment management firms who typically manage large accounts on behalf of customers such as pension funds and endowments use the foreign exchange market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities.
For example, an investment manager bearing an international equity portfolio needs to purchase and sell several pairs of foreign currencies to pay for foreign securities purchases. Some investment management firms also have more speculative specialist currency overlay operations, which manage clients' currency exposures with the aim of generating profits as well as limiting risk. While the number of this type of specialist firms is quite small, many have a large value of assets under management and can therefore generate large trades.
Individual retail speculative traders constitute a growing segment of this market with the advent of retail foreign exchange trading , both in size and importance. Currently, they participate indirectly through brokers or banks.More...