Tuesday, July 6, 2010
All speculation-based markets are full of uncertainty, and none more so than the forex market. A currency might be strong and vibrant today, weak and sickly a month from now. One way to guard against major fluctuations like that is through forex option trading.
A forex option is when you buy the right -- but not the obligation -- to buy or sell a particular currency at a particular rate any time between now and the expiration date of the option.
Let’s say you’re worried that the Japanese yen is going to drop in value sometime in the next six months. You might buy an option that basically locks in the current exchange rate for whatever period of time the option seller allows, usually anywhere from 30 days to six months. You set a number of yen, too. Say you choose 10,000 yen at a rate of 116 yen per U.S. dollar for three months. The option basically says, “I may want to sell 10,000 yen sometime in the next three months, but I’m worried the yen is going to devalue in that time. So I’ve locked in this rate of USD/JPY 116.”
Then three months pass. If your prediction was correct and the yen has weakened in that time -- say it’s now USD/JPY 122 -- then you exercise your right to sell 10,000 yen at the rate you bought three months earlier. Everyone else selling yen today (everyone who didn’t have a forex option, that is) is selling it at 122 per U.S. dollar, and you get to sell it at 116.
If, on the other hand, the yen has stayed the same or gotten stronger, you are under no obligation to actually sell that 10,000 yen your option talked about. You can simply do nothing, and all you’ve lost is the premium you originally paid for the option.
Ah yes, there is a premium. Brokers who sell forex options charge a fee for the privilege. Think of it as insurance; calling it a “premium” certainly fits. The price of a forex option for 10,000 yen for three months might be $200, which you must pay up front. If the yen drops enough in value, you’ll hopefully turn enough of a profit to make up for the $200 you had to pay. If it increases in value, and you wind up not exercising the option, all you’ve lost is the $200 premium.
Forex option trading used to be done only by major banks and corporations, but now many brokers who cater to individual traders offer the service, too. If you’re a heavy-duty trader, a forex option is definitely something to consider to guard against future setbacks in the currency you hold.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The world of forex trading can be baffling, especially for someone who’s new to it. While it has similarities to the stock market, there are many differences, too. And what’s even more confusing, some terminology means one thing in the forex world and something else in the stock market. So even veteran stock traders have to learn new vocabulary when they move into the foreign exchange!
Luckily, many companies offer forex seminars to help newcomers understand the complex but lucrative world they’re jumping into. Some seminars are held free of charge (in the hopes you’ll sign on with that broker) and last an hour. Others are more intensive, last longer, and require a registration fee, though obviously the training goes a bit more in depth at those particular seminars.
At a forex seminar you can expect to learn:
- The basics of forex trading -- what it is, how it works, etc.
- The differences between forex and the stock market.
- How to know when to buy and sell currencies.
To find a seminar, search the Internet for forex brokers and browse their pages until you find one offering live seminars. Most major cities host forex seminars fairly regularly, though you may be out of luck if you don’t live near a major city. In some cases, the firms offering seminars aren’t brokerage companies at all, but are simply financial training firms that teach you how to do trading and then leave it to you to find a broker to actually do it.
At a forex seminar you’ll find a variety of people. Some will have had experience in the stock market or took business classes in college. Others will be complete novices interested in diversifying their investments. Still others might not have a lot of income but are looking for a way to use the money they do have more wisely.
One of the latest innovations in forex seminars is to hold them exclusively online. This is much cheaper for the company offering the seminar, obviously, as they don’t need to rent a hotel conference room. It also allows people from all over the world to participate. Hosting online makes the seminar more useful to more people, and since anyone can ask a question, you don’t have to worry about being lost in the crowd.
Whether in person or online, a forex seminar can be an invaluable tool as you start your forex market experience.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
A forex quote consists of a currency pair -- forex deals always involve simultaneously selling one currency and buying another -- a bid price and an ask price. For example, one quote might be this:
The first currency is the base currency, and the other one is the quote currency. The value of the base currency is always 1 -- in this case, 1 U.S. dollar. The number tells you how many of the quote currency (the Japanese yen, in this case) you can buy with $1.
But what kind of number is 118.71/75? It’s actually forex shorthand for two numbers: 118.71 and 118.75. The lower number is the bid price, the other is the ask price. The bid price is the price that dealers will buy the base currency for. The ask price is what dealers will sell it for.
So if the above were the current quote, it would mean right now, you could SELL U.S. dollars in exchange for 118.71 yen per dollar. Or, if you preferred, you could BUY U.S. dollars at a rate of 118.75 yen per dollar.
The difference between the bid price and the ask price in a forex quote is called the “spread,” and those tiny units are called “pips.” In our example, the spread for USD/JPY was four pips. The spread is usually that small for the most commonly traded currencies, which means anything involving the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, Great British pound, the euro, Swiss franc or Australian dollar. In fact, thanks to the great competition in the forex trading market, some quotes will have spread of as little as one pip.
Of course, for less commonly traded currencies, the spread can be much greater. And even when the quote delivers a small spread, it adds up when you’re trading hundreds of thousands of units. If you were dealing with 100 U.S. dollars, the difference between selling them for 11,871 yen and buying them for 11,875 yen wouldn’t be much at all -- just four yen. But if it were 100,000 U.S. dollars, suddenly that four-pip spread means a 4,000-yen difference. So the spread in a quote is more important than its smallness would suggest.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
If you plan to get involved in forex trading, reading and understanding the forex rates is absolutely vital to your success, like learning the basics of addition before becoming a mathematician.
A forex rate is always expressed in pairs, followed by a number. The number is how many of the second currency you’d get for one of the first one. For example, you might see USD/EUR: 0.7928. That means that one U.S. dollar is currently worth .7928 euros. If you were to exchange $100, you’d get 79.28 euros for it. Since the number in this rate (0.7928) is less than 1, that means the second currency is currently stronger than the first one -- that is, the euro is stronger than the U.S. dollar.
Forex traders look at rates constantly throughout the day. They carefully examine trends in various currencies’ performance, noting which are going up and which are going down. If a rate suggests, say, that the British pound is starting to increase in value compared to the euro, a trader might swap his euros for pounds. Then, when new rates show the pound has become very strong, he can swap back again, turning a profit because the pound is now worth more than he “paid” for it.
Forex rates are available everywhere on the Internet. Casual observers to the forex trading industry might glance at them for reference on hundreds of different Web sites. Regular traders, though, usually own software that keeps them up to date on rates throughout the day, without having to visit a particular site to get them.
This is important, because rates change constantly, and can be influenced by a wide variety of economic and political factors. The overall change over the course of a day usually isn’t more than a few percentage points either way, but there are minor changes regularly, and those minor changes add up in the long run. Experienced traders watch the rates for those tiny fluctuations, carefully observing whether there is a general upward or downward trend that requires their attention.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The preeminent forex broker for day traders (i.e., average Joes) is Advanced Currency Markets, or ACM. To many people, the Swiss company, founded in 2002, is synonymous with “forex broker,” trading about $70 billion a month.
There are dozens of other brokers, though, who service day traders. It’s done almost exclusively online, and in fact ordinary citizens rarely got involved with forex trading at all until the computer boom of the 1980s, and then exponentially more with the advent of the Internet in the 1990s. Since then, forex brokers have proliferated.
As you might expect, levels of reliability and competence vary from one broker to another. The Internet is rife with unsavory types seeking to take advantage of suckers, so you would do well to investigate thoroughly any broker you’re planning to use. Does their Web site look professional and reassuring, or is it riddled with dead links and spelling errors? Google the broker to see if they’ve been mentioned in news articles. Ask about their track record. And above all, avoid anyone who promises things that sound too good to be true, or who downplay the financial risk involved in forex trading.
Look for a broker that seems to genuinely want your business. Does the firm have customer service representatives available? Is there a phone number you can call to speak to a live person? The Web site should explain things clearly. If the site is full of language that seems designed to go over your head, look for a different broker.
If you set up an account with an online forex broker, it will work like this. First, you must apply for an account, which most brokers allow you to do online. This is to verify your identity and the validity of your bank accounts and financial records. Some brokers also require you to download their forex trading software, while others let you use whatever software you prefer. You will also have to transfer a minimum deposit to your account with your new broker. The minimum can be anywhere from $100 to $2,500.
Ideally, the broker you choose should offer service and support when you need it but should mostly simply stay out of the way and let you conduct your business. If you can find a forex broker who is professional and helpful, your experience in the forex market should be full of smooth sailing.
Monday, November 12, 2007
1. The first thing you need to do is open a forex account. You will have to fill an application form which includes a margin agreement stating if the broker will be allowed to intervene with any trade when it appears too risky. Since most trades are done using the broker's money, it is only logical that he protect his interests. However, once you have established an account, you can fund it and begin trading in the forex market.
2. Adopt a trading strategy, that has proven to be successful for you. Remember that strategies will work differently for different traders, so don't try to adopt a strategy that works well for another trader. It might backfire on you. The two available approaches are either technical analysis or fundamental analysis. A combination of the two is a more preferred choice for experienced traders.
3.Understand that prices move by trends. Forex has a popular saying, “The trend is your friend.” There are certain movements that have been studied over many years in order to identify a pattern in the trend. These trends need to be understood in order to understand a good trading strategy. For small accounts that are $25,000 and under, trading with a trend may help improving your odds when compared to bi-directional trading. Most newbie’s will look to trade in any direction, when they should be trading with a trend.
4. Ensure you know which are the top five currencies pairs in the foreign exchange. These are USD/Yen, Swiss franc/USD, Euro/Yen, Euro/USD and Pound/USD. For newbies, it is advisable to maintain two accounts to ensure you learn to play the trading game. Keep one real account, one that you will actually use to trade real money; and the second account should be a demo, one that you can use to test alternative moves in the trading game. You can easily use your demo account to shadow the trades in your real account so you can widen your stops to see if you are being too conservative or not.
5. Always examine the one hour, four hour and daily charts that concern your trades. Although you can trade at 15 and 30 minute time intervals, doing so requires a handful of dexterity.
Every forex chart will be labeled with a currency pair: EUR/USD, USD/GBP, etc. Remember, all forex trading deals with different countries’ currency in relation to each other. The EUR/USD chart, for example, tells you how the euro and the U.S. dollar compare.
Along the bottom of the chart is the timeline -- 15 minutes, an hour, a day, a week, or some other period. Going up the right-hand side are incremental amounts. For the EUR/USD chart, the amounts might be 1.2531 at the bottom, going up to 1.2561 at the top. And of course the middle of the chart shows what position the EUR/USD pair held at what time.
The forex chart is useful because it shows in graphic terms how a currency par is doing. You can see at a glance whether a currency is getting stronger or weaker, and you can act accordingly. Choosing the time frame helps you see very minor trends (in a 15-minute period, say) or more long-term ones (over the course of several days, perhaps).
You can find forex charts all over the Internet, on Web sites for forex brokers, tutors, and on other forex-related sites. Those are fine for glancing at trends now and then. But to be a serious trader, you need to have access to charts much more readily, without having to go to a Web site. That’s why trading software gives you forex charts, too (you need to have broadband Internet so you can be “always connected”). Obviously, if you’re going to be trading, you need to have convenient access to the very latest charts.
With dozens of world currencies, there are far too many possible currency pairs for anyone to keep track of mentally. Forex charts show at a glance what any currency pair is up to, and good software allows you to save multiple charts as “favorites.” Naturally you’ll want to keep an eye on the charts representing investments you’ve already made, and it’s smart to have a few additional ones saved, too, so you can watch for trends in currencies you haven’t traded yet. You never know when a lucrative new opportunity is going to be revealed.