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Choosing a Forex Broker

25/8/2007


Just as in any other trading market, there are numerous brokers in the FOREX market to choose from. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for one:Choose a broker that has lower spreads. The spread is the difference between the price which currency can be bought and the price at which it can be sold at any given point in time. FOREX brokers don't charge commissions, so this difference is how they make their money; therefore, the lower the better for you.Make sure that the broker is backed by a reliable financial institution. FOREX brokers are usually affiliated with large banks or lending institutions because of the vast amounts of leverage, or capital, that they need to provide. The broker should also be registered with the Futures Commission Merchants (FCM) and regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). This information should be found on the broker’s website or that of the parent institution.The broker should provide market tools and research. FOREX brokers usually offer many different trading platforms for their clients. These platforms often include real-time charts, technical analysis tools, real-time news and other data. Brokers also usually provide technical commentaries, economic calendars and other research information.The broker should offer a wide range of leverage options. Leverage is the amount of money that a broker will lend you for trading. It’s expressed as a ratio of the total capital available to the actual capital invested; for example, a ratio of 100:1 means your broker is lending you $100 for every $1 of actual capital that you put up. Leverage is necessary in FOREX because the price deviations, which are the sources of profit, are so small, merely fractions of a cent. Lower leverage means lower risk of a margin call, but also a lower degree of profit. A variety of leverage options allows you to vary the amount of risk that you’re willing to take.Make sure the broker you choose offers the tools and services that are right for the amount of capital that you have. Many brokers offer two or more types of accounts. The smallest is known as a mini account; requires you to trade with a minimum of, perhaps, $250, and offers a high degree of leverage (which you’ll need in order to make money with such a small amount of initial capital). The standard account lets you trade at a variety of different leverages, but the minimum initial capital required is around $2,000. Premium accounts, which often require significant amounts of capital, allow you to use different amounts of leverage and often offer additional tools and services.Beware of Sniping and Hunting. This refers to brokers prematurely buying or selling near preset points in order to underhandedly increase profits. Of course, no broker is going to admit doing this. And since there are no blacklists or organizations that report such activity, the only way to determine which brokers do and which ones don't is to talk to other traders.Make sure the broker follows strict margin rules. When you are trading with borrowed money, your broker has a say in how much risk you take. This is because you are required to sign a margin agreement when you open an account. This agreement states that since you are trading with borrowed money, the brokerage has the right to interfere with your trades, at its discretion, in order to protect its interests. Depending on your position in the market, this could cost you a great deal of money. Again, talk to other traders or visit online discussion forums to find out who the honest brokers are.

 

25/8/2007

 

Terminology and Market Conventions

Terminology and Market Conventions

If you are going to trade forex you need to understand the terms and quoting conventions used, especially in regards to the spot market.

Notational Conventions

The forex market uses 3-letter codes for all currencies. These are commonly known as SWIFT or ISO codes. For example, USD is the code for the US Dollar. Here are the codes for the other primary currencies:

AUD: Australian Dollar
CAD: Canadian Dollar
CHF: Swiss Franc
EUR: European Euro
GBP: British Pound
JPY: Japanese Yen

( For a complete listing of all currency SWIFT codes, click here. )

Expressing a relational value between two currencies is done by combining two currency abbreviations in the fashion of XXX/YYY. This indicates the amount of YYY currency (the "quote" currency) equivalent to one unit of XXX ("base" currency). For example if the exchange rate for USD/JPY - the US Dollar to Japanese Yen rate - was 100 it would mean that each USD is worth 100 JPY.

Using this convention, changes up or down in the quoted exchange rate indicate changes up or down in the value of the base currency. Using the USD/JPY example again, if the rate went from 100 to 101 it would mean a 1% increase in the value of the USD against the JPY. Similarly, a decline from 100 to 99 would represent a 1% fall in the USD value vs. the JPY.

In theory, one could quote the exchange rates either way around - meaning if USD/JPY is 100 it is the same as saying JPY/USD is 0.01 (one JPY is worth $0.01). In practice, however, the forex market has specific conventions for the traded pairs. In most cases, USD is the base currency, with the other currency in question being the quote currency. USD/JPY is an example.

There are a few exceptions, though. When it was introduced in 1999, the market authorities decided the Euro would always be the base currency in all traded pairs. Before that, the Pound (GBP) held that distinction. Thus, when traded against either of those, the USD is the quote currency (EUR/USD, GBP/USD). The same also holds for former British Commonwealth currencies the Australian Dollar (AUD/USD) and the New Zealand Dollar (NZD/USD).

It is worth noting that forex futures contracts involving currencies as quoted against the US Dollar do not hold to the spot market convention. Instead they all use the USD as the quote currency.

Majors and Crosses

In the forex you will here the terms "majors" and "crosses" when traders refer to different categories of currency pairs. In general terms, the "majors" are the pairs which include the USD quoted against the other primary industrialized currencies. Those include the ones listed above. So the majors are as follows:

AUD/USD
EUR/USD
GBP/USD
USD/CAD
USD/CHF
USD/JPY

While technically every currency pairing is a cross-rate, the term "cross" is most commonly used to refer to currency pairings which do not include the USD. For example, EUR/JPY is the Euro-Yen exchange rate. That would be considered a cross.

Forex Price Quotes

With an understanding of what we are looking at, now we can turn out focus to the actual price quotes. The graphic shows a sample table of quotes for an array of currency pairs - majors and crosses.

One thing you will notice in the table is that some pairs are quoted to four decimal places, while others only go out two places. In general terms, those pairs with values of about 10 or less will go out to four places, while those with higher values will be quoted only at two places.

Regardless of how many decimal places a currency pair is quote to, though, the term "pip" is used to define a single price movement value. So, for a two decimal place pair, a pip would be .01, while for a four decimal place pair a pip would be .0001.

We can see this in the quotes on the chart, especially when looking at the bid/offer spreads. AUD/JPY is quoted at 79.60-79.64, which is a 4 pip spread, while AUD/USD is quoted 0.7648-0.7650 for a 2 pip spread.

In recent times there has been introduced the "pipette", which is a fraction of a pip. In essence, some of the more popular pairs like EUR/USD are trading at five decimal places now, which is why you can see a spread of 1.5 listed on the chart (column to the right of the price quote itself). That means the bid-offer spread is 1 and 5/10 pips.

One will sometimes here the term "figure" in spot forex trading. That is used to refer to a price level which is a round 100 pip figure. In USD/JPY that would be a multiple of 1 full JPY (such as 104), while in GBP/USD the figure would be a $0.01 multiple (like 1.8800).

The term "yard" sometimes comes up as well. That is used to refer to a one billion base currency transaction. So a yard of USD/JPY would be $1 billion.

Getting in to the Trading

Opening an Account

It is quite easy to start trading forex. There are a great many forex brokers available and opening an account is pretty straightforward. Some things you should consider as you look to identify the one best suited to you are:

  • Account minimum deposit (if any)

  • Transaction size flexibility

  • Spreads

  • Execution

  • Commissions (if any)

  • Security of deposited funds

  • Allowable leverage

  • Currency pairs available for trading

  • Usability of the trading platform

The great thing is that nowadays the vast majority of brokers have available demo trading platforms you can use to *******uate their system. Be sure, though, to make note of any differences there are between the real platform and the demo one. Some brokers' platforms are both the same across the board, but some have noticeable differences in things like execution speeds. It wouldn't hurt to check around the discussion boards to see what others are saying.

Actually, if you are new to forex trading it is well worth it to spend a while trading via a demo platform first. It will help you develop and understanding of how it all works. That way, when you do go live, you will be more confident and ready for action.

Making Trades

Forex market trading is really little different from an execution perspective than most other markets. You can buy or sell. In most cases, the same types of orders (stops, limits, etc.) are available. The trading platforms are very modern and trades can be done very quickly. Anyone who has ever used an online trading platform for any other market will have no trouble making the move to forex and executing trades with ease. For that matter, even those new to trading will find entering and exiting forex positions a breeze.

 

Advantages of Forex

25/8/2007

 

Advantages of Forex

Trade on Your Schedule

The single biggest advantage the forex market has over other markets is its 24-hour nature. A trader can put on or take off positions literally any time of day or night, regardless of their base of operations. That opens the game up to a great many individuals who might not otherwise have the time available to trade.

Consider, for example, the working person with a 9 to 5 type of job. Most folks like that cannot be expected to operate effectively as day traders in a market such as stocks. They just can't spend the requisite time watching the market during trading hours. With forex, though, one could theoretically day trade in the evenings after work, or in the mornings beforehand. The forex market is never really closed (yes, in some cases you can even trade on the weekend!).

No (or low) Transaction Costs

For most traders, the forex market also offers the benefit of no transaction costs. For the most part, forex brokers do not charge commissions (if they do, they are relatively small). There is, of course, the bid/offer spread, which can be viewed as a transaction cost, but the reality of the situation is that most traders buy at the offer and sell at the bid in whatever other market they trade, so that's really no different. Actually, the forex spreads can be quite small in the major currency pairs.

Low (or no) Account Minimums

Forex trading is also open to a wider trading demographic in that there are many opportunities to open smaller accounts than is the case in other markets. In fact, there is at least one broker which has no minimum account size. What's more, they also have no minimum trade size. That sort of flexibility opens the door to essentially anyone who wants to explore forex trading. This isn't to say that all brokers are that flexible. There are, however, a great many which offer so-called mini-contracts.

Multiple Trading Vehicles

Additionally, forex trading can be done in a number of fashions. Many folks tend to think strictly of the spot market. While that is certainly the largest of the components, it is not the only one. The futures market has become a bit more attractive with the expansion of e-mini currency contracts. There are futures options as well. What's more, an array of other option trading alternatives have been popping up, providing traders even more ways to take positions in the forex market.

Always Moving

One of the biggest attractions to forex trading is that there's just about always something moving. There are a number of primary currencies involved, each of which is continuously interacting with all the others. Chances are, at any given time, there is movement in at least one of those exchange rates based simply on the sheer volume of trading and the number of global news events providing impetus to action.

Easily Trade Long or Short

In the stock market there are restrictions imposed on selling short. In forex there is nothing of the sort. It is just as easy to taking a short position as it is to take a long one.

Disadvantages of Forex

No Exchange

The disadvantage to forex, some would say, is in the lack of an exchange system in forex trading. Some traders find comfort in knowing that there is a regulated mechanism backing their market participation. What's more, the lack of a centralized data point means the spot forex market does not have all the great add-on information stock and futures are used to seeing (volume, for example).

Complex Nature

In terms of market analysis techniques, technical analysis is just as useful in forex trading as in any other market - some might say more so. The thing that gives some traders concern. however, is the complexity of the fundamental side of the forex market. Currency exchange rates are influenced by a wide variety of factors, which can fluctuate over time.

Two-Sides to Every Position

By it's very nature, there are always two sides to the forex market, because currencies are quoted in terms of their value against each other. That means for any given exchange rate there are two countries (or region's) to take in to consideration. Sometimes issues related to one of the countries will dominate, while sometimes the other will. It can be quite fluid in that regard, which can sometimes lead to quite confusing reactions to news and events.

While these issues may seem like significant barriers to trading forex for some, the fact of the matter is that for most folks they are easily overcome. Just like any market, forex requires some getting used to. Once you do, though, it provides a wide array of opportunity.

 

What is Forex?

22/8/2007

 

What is FOREX?

FOREX (FOReign EXchange market) is an international foreign exchange market, where money is sold and bought freely. In its present condition FOREX was launched in the 1970s, when free exchange rates were introduced, and only the participants of the market determine the price of one currency against the other proceeding from supply and demand.

As far as the freedom from any external control and free competition are concerned, FOREX is a perfect market. It is also the biggest liquid financial market. According to various assessments, money masses in the market constitute from 1 to 1.5 trillion US dollars a day. (It is impossible to determine an absolutely exact number because trading is not centralized on an exchange.) Transactions are conducted all over the world via telecommunications 24 hours a day from 00:00 GMT on Monday to 10:00 pm GMT on Friday. Practically in every time zone (that is, in Frankfurt-on-Main, London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc.) there are dealers who will quote currencies.

FOREX is a more objective market, because if some of its participants would like to change prices, for some manipulative purpose, they would have to operate with tens of billions dollars. That is why any influence by a single participants in the market is practically out of the question. The superior liquidity allows the traders to open and/or close positions within a few seconds. The time of keeping a position is arbitrary and has no limits: from several seconds to many years. It depends only on your trading strategies. Although the daily fluctuations of currencies are rather insignificant, you may use the credit lines, that are accessible even to currency speculators with small capitals ($ 1,000 - 5,000), where the profit may be impressive. (You can learn more about it in the section: The main principles of trading.)

The idea of marginal trading stems from the fact that in FOREX speculative interests can be satisfied without a real money supply. This decreases overhead expenses for transferring money and gives an opportunity to open positions with a small account in US dollars, buying and selling a lot of other currencies. That is, on can conduct transactions very quickly, getting a big profit, when the exchange rates go up or down. Many speculative transactions in the international financial markets are made on the principles of marginal trading.

Margin trading is trading with a borrowed capital. Marginal trading in an exchange market uses lots. 1 lot equals approximately $100,000, but to open it it is necessary to have only from 0.5% to 4% of the sum.

For example, you have analyzed the situation in the market and come to the conclusion that the pound will go up against the dollar. You open 1 lot for buying the pound (GBP) with the margin 1% (1:1000 leverage) at the price of 1.49889 and wait for the exchange rate to go up. Some time later your expectations become true. You close the position at 1.5050 and earn 61 pips (about $ 405). For the calculation of 1 pip click here.

Everyday fluctuations of currencies constitute about 100 to 150 pips, giving FX traders an opportunity to make money on these changes.

In FOREX, it's not obligatory to buy some currency first in order to sell it later. It's possible to open positions for buying and selling any currency without actually having it. Usually Internet-brokers establish the minimum deposit such as $ 2000, for working in the FOREX market, and grant a leverage of 1:100. That is, opening the position at $100,000, a trader invests $1,000 and receives $99.000 as a credit. The major currencies traded in FOREX, are Euro (EUR), Japanese yen (JPY), British Pound (GBP), and Swiss Franc (CHF). All of them are traded against the US dollar (USD).

In order to assess the situation in the market a trader has to be able to use fundamental and/or technical analysis, as well as to make decisions in the constantly changing current of information about political and economic character. Most small and medium players in financial markets use technical analysis. Technical analysis presupposes that all the information about the market and its further fluctuations is contained in the price chain. Any factor, that has some influence on the price, be it economic, political or psychological, has already been considered by the market and included in the price. The initial data for a technical analysis are prices: the highest and the lowest prices, the price of opening and closing within a certain period of time, and the volume of transactions.

A technical analysis is founded on three suppositions:
  • Movement of the market considers everything;
  • Movement of prices is purposeful;
  • History repeats itself.
That is, technical analysis is a statistical and mathematical analysis of previous quotes and a prognosis of coming prices.

A number of technical indicators have been installed into the PRO-CHARTS trading system. Analyzing the indicators one can come to the conclusion about further movements of the quoted currencies. For a more detailed de******ion of the indicators, analyzing price charts and volumes of trading, click here.

Fundamental analysis is an analysis of current situations in the country of the currency, such as its economy, political events, and rumors. The country's economy depends on the rate of inflation and unemployment, on the interest rate of its Central Bank, and on tax policy. Political stability also influences the exchange rate. Policy of the Central Bank has a special role, as concentrated interventions or refusal from them greatly influence the exchange rate.

At the same time one should not consider fundamental analysis just as an analysis of the economic situation in the country itself. A far bigger role in the FOREX market belongs to the expectations of the market participants and their assessment of these expectations. Various prognoses and bulletins, issued by the participants, have a strong influence on the expectations. Very often an effect of the so-called self-filfilling prophecy occurs when market players raise or lower the exchange rates according to the prognosis. But a deep and thorough fundamental analysis is available only for big banks with a staff of professional analysts and constant access to a wide field of information.

In spite of these different approaches, both forms of analyses complement one another. Traders who act on the basis of a fundamental analysis, have to consider some technical characteristics of the market (the main rates of support, such as resistance and resale), and supporters of the technical approach to the market must track the main news (interest rates, important political events).


The main merits of the FOREX market are:
  • The biggest number of participants and the largest volumes of transactions;
  • Superior liquidity and speed of the market: transactions are conducted within a few seconds according to online quotes;
  • The market works 24 hours a day, every working days;
  • A trader can open a position for any period of time he wants;
  • No fees, except for the difference between buying and selling prices;
  • An opportunity to get a bigger profit that the invested sum;
  • Qualified work in the FOREX market can become your main professional activity;
  • You can make deals any time you like.
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