Now that we've reviewed basic terminology, let's look at some of the differences between trading stocks vs. currencies. In currency trading you are always comparing one currency to another so forex is always quoted in pairs. Sometimes authors of currency research will refer to only one half of the currency pair. For example if an article is referring to the euro (EUR) trading at 1.3332 it's assumed the other currency is the U.S. dollar (USD).
When learning about Forex trading, many beginners tend to focus on major currency pairs because of their daily volatility and tight spreads. But there are numerous other opportunities – from exotic FX pairs, to CFD trading opportunities on stocks, commodities, energy futures, to indices. There are even indices that track groups of indices, and you can trade them as well.
There are actually three ways that institutions, corporations and individuals trade forex: the spot market, the forwards market and the futures market. The forex trading in the spot market always has been the largest market because it is the "underlying" real asset that the forwards and futures markets are based on. In the past, the futures market was the most popular venue for traders because it was available to individual investors for a longer period of time. However, with the advent of electronic trading and numerous forex brokers, the spot market has witnessed a huge surge in activity and now surpasses the futures market as the preferred trading market for individual investors and speculators. When people refer to the forex market, they usually are referring to the spot market. The forwards and futures markets tend to be more popular with companies that need to hedge their foreign exchange risks out to a specific date in the future.
Currencies are traded as pairs, and the movement of currency pairs measure the value of one currency against another. For instance, the EURUSD currency pair measures the value of the Euro against the US dollar. When the value of the pair increases, this means the value of the Euro has increased against the value of the US dollar. When the value of the pair decreases, this means the value of the US dollar has increased (or the value of the Euro has fallen).
The challenge is assessing which outcome is the most likely, and then opening a trade accordingly. A good starting point for this trading approach is first being aware of upcoming events that may affect the Forex market (refer to our live Forex calendar for the latest events) and second, looking at the effect similar announcements had on different currency pairs in the past. You can learn more about fundamental analysis in our Introduction to Fundamental Analysis article.
The foreign exchange market is the "place" where currencies are traded. Currencies are important to most people around the world, whether they realize it or not, because currencies need to be exchanged in order to conduct foreign trade and business. If you are living in the U.S. and want to buy cheese from France, either you or the company that you buy the cheese from has to pay the French for the cheese in euros (EUR). This means that the U.S. importer would have to exchange the equivalent value of U.S. dollars (USD) into euros. The same goes for traveling. A French tourist in Egypt can't pay in euros to see the pyramids because it's not the locally accepted currency. As such, the tourist has to exchange the euros for the local currency, in this case the Egyptian pound, at the current exchange rate.
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