What is Forex and how to trade?

What Am I Doing When I Trade Forex?

Forex is a commonly used abbreviation for “foreign exchange,” and it is typically used to describe trading in the foreign exchange market by investors and speculators.

Concept of forex trading

For example, imagine a situation where the U.S. dollar is expected to weaken in value relative to the euro. A forex trader in this situation will sell dollars and buy euros. If the euro strengthens, the purchasing power to buy dollars has now increased. The trader can now buy back more dollars than they had to begin with, making a profit.

This is similar to stock trading. A stock trader will buy a stock if they think its price will rise in the future and sell a stock if they think its price will fall in the future. Similarly, a forex trader will buy a currency pair if they expect its exchange rate will rise in the future and sell a currency pair if they expect its exchange rate will fall in the future.

What Is An Exchange Rate?

The foreign exchange market is a global decentralized marketplace that determines the relative values of different currencies. Unlike other markets, there is no centralized depository or exchange where transactions are conducted.Instead, these transactions are conducted by several market participants in several locations.It is rare that any two currencies will be identical to one another in value, and it’s also rare that any two currencies will maintain the same relative value for more than a short period of time. In forex, the exchange rate between two currencies constantly changes.

For example, on January 3, 2011, one euro was worth about $1.33. By May 3, 2011, one euro was worth about $1.48. The euro increased in value by about 10% relative to the U.S. dollar during this time.

Why Do Exchange Rates Change?

Currencies trade on an open market, just like stocks, bonds, computers, cars, and many other goods and services. A currency’s value fluctuates as its supply and demand fluctuates, just like anything else.

  • An increase in supply or a decrease in demand for a currency can cause the value of that currency to fall.
  • A decrease in the supply or an increase in demand for a currency can cause the value of that currency to rise.

A big benefit to forex trading is that you can buy or sell any currency pair, at any time subject to available liquidity. So if you think the Eurozone is going to break apart, you can sell the euro and buy the dollar (sell EUR/USD). If you think the price of gold is going to go up, based on historical correlation patterns you can buy the Australian dollar and sell the U.S. dollar (buy AUD/USD).

This also means that there really is no such thing as a “bear market,” in the traditional sense. You can make (or lose) money when the market is trending up or down.

Why Trade Forex?

Online forex trading has become very popular in the past decade because it offers traders several advantages:

Forex never sleeps

Trading goes on all around the world during different countries’ business hours. You can, therefore, trade major currencies at any time, 24 hours per day, 5 days per week. Since there are no set exchange hours, it means that there is also something happening at almost any time of the day or night.[1]

Go long or short

Unlike many other financial markets, where it can be difficult to sell short, there are no limitations on shorting currencies. If you think a currency will go up, buy it. If you think it will fall, sell it. This means there is no such thing as a “bear market” in forex – you can make (or lose) money any time.

Low trading costs

Most forex accounts are made up of low, competitive commissions and super-tight spreads. You trade the direct quotes from our liquidity providers with no hidden markups.[2]

Unmatched liquidity

Because forex is a $4 trillion a day market, with most trading concentrated in only a few currencies, there are always a lot of people trading. This makes it typically very easy to get into and out of trades at any time, even in large sizes.

Available leverage

Because of the deep liquidity available in the forex market, you can trade forex with considerable leverage (typically 200:1). This can allow you to take advantage of even the smallest moves in the market. Leverage is a double-edged sword, of course, as it can significantly increase your losses as well as your gains.

International exposure

As the world becomes more and more global, investors hunt for opportunities anywhere they can. If you want to take a broad opinion and invest in another country (or sell it short!), forex is an easy way to gain exposure while avoiding vagaries such as foreign securities laws and financial statements in other languages.

Forex Training Basics

Learning to trade in a new market is like learning to speak a new language. It’s easier when you have a good vocabulary and understand some basic ideas and concepts. So let’s start with the basics of forex trading before moving on to learn how to use the Trading Station.

What is forex?

Forex is a commonly used abbreviation for “foreign exchange”. It typically describes the buying and selling of currency in the foreign exchange market, especially by investors and speculators. The familiar expression, “buy low and sell high,” certainly applies to currency trading. A forex trader purchases currencies that are undervalued and sells currencies that are overvalued; just as a stock trader purchases stock that is undervalued and sells stock that is overvalued.

How do you read a quote?

Because you are always comparing one currency to another, forex is quoted in pairs. This may seem confusing at first, but it is actually pretty straightforward. For example, the EUR/USD at 1.4022 shows how much one euro (EUR) is worth in us dollars (USD).

What is a lot?

A lot is the smallest trade size available. Forex accounts have a standard lot size of 1,000 units of currency. Account holders can however place trades of different sizes, so long as they are in increments of 1,000 units like, 2,000, 3,000, 15,000, 112,000 etc.

What is a pip?

A pip is the unit you count profit or loss in. Most currency pairs, except Japanese yen pairs, are quoted to four decimal places. This fourth spot after the decimal point (at one 100th of a cent) is typically what one watches to count “pips”. Every point that place in the quote moves is 1 pip of movement. For example, if the EUR/USD rises from 1.4022 to 1.4027, the EUR/USD has risen 5 pips.

What is leverage/margin?

As mentioned before, all trades are executed using borrowed money. This allows you to take advantage of leverage. Leverage of 200:1 allows you to trade with $1,000 in the market by setting aside only $5 as a security deposit. This means that you can take advantage of even the smallest movements in currencies by controlling more money in the market than you have in your account. On the other hand, leverage can significantly increase your losses. Trading foreign exchange with any level of leverage may not be suitable for all investors.

The specific amount that you are required to put aside to hold a position is referred to as your margin requirement. Margin can be thought of as a good faith deposit required to maintain open positions. This is not a fee or a transaction cost, it is simply a portion of your account equity set aside and allocated as a margin deposit.


[1] Subject to available liquidity, the trading desk opens on Sundays between 5:00 PM ET and 5:15 PM ET. The trading desk closes on Fridays at 4:55 PM ET. Orders placed prior may be filled until 5 pm (ET).

[2] Intermediary Markup:In some instances, accounts for clients of certain intermediaries are subject to a markup.

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