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Liquidity

Is Your Forex Broker Working For You?

People new to foreign exchange trading may be surprised to find that their forex broker may operate in some surprising ways. In fact, some companies offering forex trading services are not brokers in the traditional sense at all.

Traditionally a broker would work for you as a client, placing your buy and sell orders for you through their dealing desk and charging commission (for stock exchange transactions) or making their money from the spread (the difference between bid and ask prices) for forex trading. At one time orders would be placed by telephone. Now they are placed online, with you in full control of your account.

But standard forex accounts require significant investment. Typically the minimum deposit is anything from $10,000 to $50,000. Now that forex trading can be done from home, there are many new services springing up with lower deposit requirements, offering forex mini accounts. But their business model is not necessarily the same as traditional brokers, and this can have implications for you.

So these days, there are other types of companies that operate in different ways in order to provide services to the smaller investor. Most of these do not have dealing desks of their own.

Forex NDD (No Dealing Desk)

Brokers without a dealing desk communicate with external liquidity providers to provide prices and match clients’ trades. Because there is a range of liquidity providers, the real spread tends to be small but the broker may increase the spread to give themselves a reasonable profit margin.

Forex ECN (Electronic Communications Network)

ECN brokers provide a marketplace where many market users including banks, market makers and regular traders can see to have their trades filled. Trades will be entered in the name of your ECN provider for anonymity. Spread is generally small but the ECN will often charge a matching fee per trade.

Forex Market Makers

When you have an account with a market maker, your trades are not being matched by external providers but by the market maker themselves. This means that they take the opposite position and offer their prices to you, although of course these prices relate to the current price in the market. They will then offset their risk by taking an equivalent position to yours in an ECN or other environment.

Since they are not actually placing your order in the market, market makers are not brokers in the true sense of the word although most traders use the term forex broker loosely and include them. Others consider that the difference between market makers and bucket shops is not clear and prefer to avoid them.

Forex Bucket Shops

Bucket shops work a little like market makers but they do not offset their risk and may have very little connection to the real spot forex market. When you deal with a bucket shop you could be said to be betting against them. They oppose your trade and they profit by your loss. Like commercial bet takers, if you are successful they tend not to want your business and will probably close your account, returning your funds to you.

Bucket shops are illegal in some jurisdictions, and even if they are legal in your country, they are best avoided, certainly for beginners. A bucket shop is working against you, not for you, and is not a forex broker at all.

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Saturday, November 27th, 2010 Brokers, Strategy No Comments

The FX Market: The Facts

The forex or FX market is the currency trading market where foreign currencies are exchanged. It is not located in just one place. By its very nature it is a global market and trading happens all over the world.

In a sense there is a separate market for each currency pair. Every possible combination of currencies has its own price. Although these are related in some ways there is not necessarily a direct connection between them. Obviously if a country is doing very badly in economic terms, then its currency is likely to fall in comparison with most other countries. But another country might be doing even worse and then the opposite would show on that particular currency pair market. For example the dollar could be falling against the euro while at the same time it is rising against the yen.

The biggest participants in the FX market are banks and other large financial institutions who have a lot of money to invest. They employ professional currency traders who do this for their job. But the markets are so huge and access is so easy that anybody can get involved these days.

All you need is a computer with a high speed internet connection. Do not try trading over a dial up connection! You will find it very frustrating. Prices will change too fast for you to act and you will probably lose money.

You will also need access to a broker who will cover your trades by offering you leverage. This means that with say $100 of your funds you can control $10,000. The broker handles this amount, but you can get started with just a few hundred dollars in a mini FX trading account.

The forex market is highly liquid and very volatile. Liquidity is a measure of how easy it is to turn an investment to cash. Currency is already cash so it has high liquidity. What this means for you is that you can buy and sell at any time. You do not have to wait to find a buyer as you often do with stocks.

The high volatility of the forex market means that prices are constantly changing. This makes it a very risky investment but also potentially very profitable. The possibility of gaining or losing a lot of money in a short time is very attractive for people who are prepared to take the risks. Forex trading is exciting and can be very lucrative for the skilful trader.

Traders use charts and graphs to indicate trends in the movement of the prices. The aim of course is to predict whether the price will continue to move in its current direction or when there will be a reversal. These charts and graphs are normally provided by your broker.

At the same time it is important to stay alert to world events that might affect the financial markets. Many brokers also provide a live feed of forex news. This can be very useful if only to remind you to leave the FX market by closing your trades before major financial announcements are expected.

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Sunday, June 28th, 2009 Introduction No Comments

Forex Pairs: What Is The Best Currency Pair To Trade?

Forex pairs are always involved in currency trading. The pair is the two currencies involved in your trade. For example if you are exchanging US dollars for Swiss francs, the currency pair is USD/CHF.

Theoretically you could trade any two currencies of the world, but in practice most foreign exchange trading is limited to the currencies of the larger financial powers. This does not necessarily mean the biggest or most politically powerful countries. Switzerland for example is only a small country but is a major player in the financial markets because of the global importance of the Swiss banks.

There are 6 major forex pairs which between them account for 90% of the funds traded on the forex markets. These are:

- EUR/USD: the euro and US dollar.

- GBP/USD: the British pound and US dollar, nicknamed Cable because it used to be synchronized on both sides of the Atlantic by a cable running under the ocean.

- USD/JPY: the US dollar and Japanese yen.

- USD/CHF: the US dollar and Swiss franc.

- AUD/USD: the Australian dollar and US dollar.

- USD/CAD: the US dollar and Canadian dollar.

Some traders do get involved in other combinations of these major currencies or pairs that include other currencies such as the New Zealand dollar. But in the beginning it is best to stick with the majors.

The US dollar is the most significant single currency and is involved in 85% of trades according to a 2007 study. The euro is second at 37%. Next come the yen, pound, Swiss franc, AUD and CAD in that order. If you are wondering why these add up to more than 100%, it is because there are always two currencies in every trade.

What Is The Best Currency Pair For A Beginner?

If you are just starting out in forex, most experts advise beginning with the EUR/USD pair. This is because there is a lot of information about these currencies and the high liquidity results in a smaller spread, so your costs will be lower.

Some of the other currencies have particular characteristics which make most newbies avoid them unless they have special knowledge. For example the value of the Canadian dollar is strongly influenced by the price of oil because Canada is an oil exporter. The Japanese yen can also be affected by the price of oil in the opposite direction because Japan is a large consumer and importer of oil.

You will not want to get involved in a lot of different currencies when you are starting out. The best thing to do is probably to take the EUR/USD market and stay with that for the first few months at least. GBP/USD would be the second choice of the major forex pairs for most new traders.

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Thursday, June 4th, 2009 Strategy No Comments