Friday, January 15, 2010

What Is Forex The Market?

The foreign exchange market — most often called the forex market, or simply the FX market — is the most traded financial market in the world. We like to think of the forex market as the “Big Kahuna” of financial markets. The forex market is the crossroads for international capital, the intersection through which global commercial and investment flows have to move. International trade flows, such as when a Swiss electronics company purchases Japanese-made components, were the original basis for the development of the forex markets.

Today, however, global financial and investment flows dominate trade as the primary non-speculative source of forex market volume. Whether it’s an Australian pension fund investing in U.S. Treasury bonds, or a British insurer allocating assets to the Japanese equity market, or a German conglomerate purchasing a Canadian manufacturing facility, each cross-border transaction passes through the forex market at some stage. More than anything else, the forex market is a trader’s market.

It’s a market that’s open around the clock six days a week, enabling traders to act on news and events as they happen. It’s a market where half-billion-dollar trades can be executed in a matter of seconds and may not even move prices noticeably. Try buying or selling a half billion of anything in another market and see how prices react.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trading in the European/London session

About midway through the Asian trading day, European financial centers begin to open up and the market gets into its full swing. European financial centers and London account for over 50 percent of total daily global trading volume, with London alone accounting for about one-third of total daily global volume, according to the 2004 survey.

The European session overlaps with half of the Asian trading day and half of the North American trading session, which means that market interest and liquidity is at its absolute peak during this session.

News and data events from the Euro zone (and individual countries like Germany and France), Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are typically released in the early-morning hours of the European session. As a result, some of the biggest moves and most active trading takes place in the European currencies (EUR, GBP, and CHF) and the euro cross currency pairs (EUR/CHF and EUR/GBP).

Asian trading centers begin to wind down in the late-morning hours of the European session, and North American financial centers come in a few hours later, around 7 a.m. ET.

Trading in the Asia-Pacific session

Currency trading volumes in the Asia-Pacific session account for about 21 percent of total daily global volume, according to a 2004 survey. The principal financial trading centers are Wellington, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia; Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong; and Singapore. In terms of the most actively traded currency pairs, that means news and data reports from New Zealand, Australia, and Japan are going to be hitting the market during this session.

Because of the size of the Japanese market and the importance of Japanese data to the market, much of the action during the Asia-Pacific session is focused on the Japanese yen currency pairs (explained more in Chapter 2), such as USD/JPY – forex speak for the U.S. dollar/Japanese yen -- and the JPY crosses, like  UR/JPY and AUD/JPY. Of course, Japanese financial institutions are also most active during this session, so you can frequently get a sense of what the Japanese market is doing based on price movements.

For individual traders, overall liquidity in the major currency pairs is more than sufficient, with generally orderly price movements. In some less liquid, non-regional currencies, like GBP/USD or USD/CAD, price movements may be more erratic or nonexistent, depending on the environment.

Opening of the Trading Week

There is no officially designated starting time to the trading day or week, but for all intents the market action kicks off when Wellington, New Zealand, the first financial center west of the international dateline, opens on Monday morning local time. Depending on whether daylight saving time is in effect in your own time zone, it roughly corresponds to early Sunday afternoon in North America, Sunday evening in Europe, and very early Monday morning in Asia.

The Sunday open represents the starting point where currency markets resume trading after the Friday close of trading in North America (5 p.m. Eastern time). This is the first chance for the forex market to react to news and events that may have happened over the weekend. Prices may have closed New York trading at one level, but depending on the circumstances, they may start trading at different levels at the Sunday open.

Trading Day Around The World

The forex market is open and active 24 hours a day from the start of business hours on Monday morning in the Asia-Pacific time zone straight through to the Friday close of business hours in New York. At any given moment, depending on the time zone, dozens of global financial centers — such as Sydney, Tokyo, or London — are open, and currency trading desks in those financial centers are active in the market.

Currency trading doesn’t even stop for holidays when other financial markets, like stocks or futures exchanges, may be closed. Even though it’s a holiday in Japan, for example, Sydney, Singapore, and Hong Kong may still be open. It might be the Fourth of July in the United States, but if it’s a business day, Tokyo, London, Toronto, and other financial centers will still be trading currencies. About the only holiday in common around the world is New Year’s Day, and even that depends on what day of the week it falls on.
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