Foreign Exchange Explained in detail

Is your high street bank ripping you off

Foreign Exchange Explained in detail

Listed below are common questions which are asked by consumers about the advantage of Foreign Exchange Trading, Just click on the question to find a jargon-free answer by compare money transfer. Still not sure send us an email and we will provide an answer.

Introduction to foreign exchange

What is Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange (FX or Forex) is one of the largest and most liquid financial markets in the world. According to the authoritative Triennial Central Bank Survey from Bank for International Settlements, Basel, average daily turnover in April 2007 exceeded the US $3.2 trillion, and evidence suggests that the market is still expanding. The spot market accounts for around a third of activity in the Forex market.

FX is simple to understand once it is realised that a currency is effectively a commodity whose value can change against other currencies, as well as other assets, such as gold and oil.

Back to top

What is Foreign Exchange Trading

In a Foreign Exchange transaction, one currency is sold in exchange for another one. The rate expresses the relative value between the two currencies. Currencies are normally identified by a three-digit ‘Swift' code. For instance, EUR = the euro, USD = the US dollar, CHF = the Swiss franc and so on. An EUR/USD rate of 1.5000 means that €1 is worth $1.5.

Sometimes, EUR/USD is referred to as a currency pair. The rate can be inverted. So an EUR/USD rate of 1.5000 is the same as a USD/EUR rate of 0.6666. In other words, $1 is worth €0.6666. The market convention is that most currencies tend to be quoted against the dollar, but there are notable exceptions, such as with the EUR/USD already mentioned, GBP/USD (UK sterling) and AUD/USD (the Australian dollar).

Back to top

Foreign Exchange Rate Systems

There are basically two types of exchange rate systems, a flexible exchange rate system and a fixed exchange rate system.

Back to top

Flexible Exchange Rate System

In a flexible exchange rate system, a currency is ‘free' to float and its value is determined by market forces.

Back to top

Fixed Exchange Rate System

In a fixed exchange rate system, a currency is not allowed to fluctuate freely. Instead, its value is fixed either against a single currency, such as the USD, at a specific rate, or a basket of currencies. In a fixed system, the local central bank will use its currency reserves to prevent rate movements.

Back to top

Major Influences on Foreign Exchange Prices

There are numerous factors that determine a free-floating currency's worth in the market, from international trade flow, economic and political conditions, the level of interest rates to simple short-term supply and demand. Unlike many other assets, Foreign Exchange is a pure market and rates move freely both up and down.

Back to top

Over the Counter Markets

The Forex market is an 'over the counter market, which means that there is no physical location and no central exchange and clearing hours where orders are matched. Instead, it operates 24-hours a day via an electronic network of banks, corporations and individuals trading one currency for another.

Foreign Exchange traders constantly negotiate prices between one another and the resulting market bid/ask prices are then fed into computers and displayed on official quote screens. Forex exchange rates quoted between banks are referred to as Inter-bank Rates.

Back to top

Foreign Exchange Market Players

There are numerous different types of participants in the Foreign Exchange market and frequently they are looking for very different outcomes when they trade.

Traditionally, banks have been the main participants in the Foreign Exchange market. They still remain the largest players in terms of market share, but transparency has made the Foreign Exchange market far more democratic. Now virtually everyone has access to the same, extremely narrow prices that are quoted in the interbank market.

Foreign Exchange Explained in detail

Banks remain the main players in the Foreign Exchange market, but a new breed of market makers, such as hedge funds and commodity trading advisors, has emerged over the past decade.

Central Banks can also play an important role in the Foreign Exchange market, while international corporations have a natural interest to trade on account of their exposure to Foreign Exchange risk.

Retail Foreign Exchange has expanded rapidly over the past decade and while precise figures are hard to come by, this sector is believed to represent as much as 20% of the Foreign Exchange market.

Back to top

Spot Foreign Exchange Versus Currency Futures

Typically, spot Foreign Exchange prices are for T+2 settlement. That means trades which are not closed out are settled in 2-working days. Futures tend to have a maturity of 3 months and so are settled quarterly, normally in March, June, September and December. This is why futures prices often look different from the spot. In reality, they are almost 100% correlated. The Foreign Exchange market is too efficient not to arbitrage out any price discrepancies. The futures price includes the forward rates of currency pairs.

Generally, futures prices are quoted as the US dollar versus the currency – in other words, a futures price is the inversion of the spot rate, plus the swap price to the maturity date.

Back to top

Foreign Exchange is a 24 Hour Market

Foreign Exchange is a global market that never sleeps. It is active 24-hours a day for almost 7-days a week. Most activity takes place between the time the New Zealand market opens on Monday, which is Sunday evening in Europe until the US market closes on Friday evening.

Back to top


The Foreign Exchange market is huge and it is still expanding. Daily average volume now exceeds US$ 3.2 trillion. Technology has made this market accessible to almost anyone and retail traders have flocked to Foreign Exchange.

Back to top


Foreign Exchange margin ratios tend to be higher than those available in equity because it is more liquid – there is nearly always a price in Foreign Exchange and it tends to be less volatile.

Back to top

Narrow Spreads

Spreads, the difference between the bid and offer price, in Foreign Exchange are minuscule. Just compare a 2-pip price in EUR/USD with a price in even the most active and liquid equity issue. Furthermore, Foreign Exchange prices are typically ‘good' for far larger amounts than in equity. The spread is the hidden, ‘intrinsic' cost of dealing and in Foreign Exchange it is minimal. Technology has made these tight prices available to almost everyone.

Back to top

No Commission or Transaction Costs

The majority of Foreign Exchange businesses are commission free and with such narrow spreads, the intrinsic cost of trading is far lower than in other assets, such as equity.

Back to top

Profit Potential Regardless of Market Direction

Foreign Exchange is a pure market. Prices can just as easily go up as down. If a trader believes a currency is about to depreciate, there are seldom restrictions on selling it although if the position is held for more than one day, there is a cost of carrying to consider. Profit potential exists in Foreign Exchange regardless of whether a trader is buying or selling and regardless of whether the market is moving up or down.

Back to top

Equal Access to Market Information

Despite the introduction of best execution regulations in Europe and the US, few would disagree that professional traders and analysts in the equity market have a huge competitive advantage in comparison to individual traders. In Foreign Exchange, perhaps the only advantage the big banks have is flowing information. But Foreign Exchange is a democratic market where virtually all participants have access to the same market-moving information as everyone else.

Back to top

Company Details

Foreign Exchange Explained

Get a quick quote

Open Account with FC Exchange

FC Exchange are located at:
Salisbury House, Finsbury Circus, Greater London, EC2M 4QQ, United Kingdom

Get a Quick Quote

Newsletter Signup to CMT

Sign up to our foreign exchange newsletter to receive news updates directly by email

Compare Money Transfer will not Share your details!

Bank Exchange Rates Comparison

High St Bank Exchange Rate

All Rights Reserved: Copyright 2006 - 2018 Compare Money Transfer Limited offering FCA Regulated Suppliers - 34 New House, 67-68 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8JY. +44 (0) 843 357 4882