Forex Market or Foreign Exchange Market

Foreign exchange refers to money denominated in the currency of another nation or group of nations. Foreign exchange can be cash, bank deposits or other short-term claims. But in the foreign exchange market as the network of major foreign exchange dealers engaged in high-volume trading, foreign exchange almost always take the form of an exchange of bank deposits of different national currency denominations. A Foreign exchange market or Forex market is a market in which currencies are bought and sold. It is to be distinguished from a financial market where currencies are borrowed and lent.

Short History of the Foreign Exchange Market

Foreign exchange markets mainly established to make easy cross border trade in which there is involvement of different currencies by governments, companies and individual investors. More ever these markets generally existed to supply for the international movement of capital and money, even the initial markets had speculators. Today, a great part of Foreign Exchange market working is being determined by assumption, arbitrage and professional dealing, in which currencies are traded like any other commodity. The Retail Investors only means of gaining contact to the foreign exchange market was through banks that transacted in a huge amount of currencies for commercial and speculation purposes. After exchange rates were allowed to float freely in 1971, the volume of trade has been increased over the time. Most of the world’s major currencies were pegged to the US dollar due to an agreement that is called the Bretton Woods Agreement. The participating countries try to maintain the value of their currencies against US Dollar also with the rate of the gold. These countries are bounded to devalue their currencies for the purpose of gaining advantage.

Foreign Exchange Market Characteristics

The foreign exchange market place is a twenty-four hour market with exchange rates and market conditions changing constantly. However, foreign exchange activity does not flow evenly. Over the course of a day, there is a cycle characterized by periods of very heavy activity and other periods or relatively light activity. Business is most heavy when two or more market places are active at the same time such as Asia and Europe or Europe and America. Give this uneven flow of business around the clock, market participants often will respond less aggressively to an exchange rate development that occurs at a relative inactive time of day, and will wait to see whether the development is confirmed when the major markets open. Nonetheless, the twenty-four hour market does provide a continuous “real-time” market assessment of the currencies’ values.

The market consists of a limited number of major dealer institutions that are particularly active in foreign exchange, trading with customers and (more often) with each other. Most, but not all, are commercial banks and investment banks. The institutions are linked each other through telephones, computers and other electronic means. There are estimated 2,000 dealer institutions in the world, making up the global exchange market.

Each nation’s market has its own infrastructure. For foreign exchange market operations as well as for other matters, each country enforces its own laws, banking regulations, accounting rules, and tax codes. They also have different national financial systems and infrastructures through which transactions are executed and within the currencies are held. With access to all of the foreign exchange markets generally open to participants from all countries, and with its vast amounts of market information transmitted simultaneously and almost instantly to dealers throughout the world, there is an enormous amount of cross-border foreign exchange trading amongst dealers as well as between dealers and their customers. At any moment, the exchange rates of major currencies tend to be virtually identical in all of the financial centers. Rarely are there such substantial price differences among these centers as to provide major opportunities for arbitrage.

Over-the-Counter vs. Exchange-Traded Segment

There are generally two different market segments within the foreign exchange market: “over-the-counter” (OTC) and “exchange-trade”.

In the OTC market, banks indifferent locations make deals via telephone or computer systems. The market is largely unregulated. Thus, a bank in a country such the USA does not need any special authority to trade or deal in foreign exchange. Transactions can be carried out on whatever terms and with whatever provisions are permitted by law and acceptable to the two counter-parties, subject to the standard commercial law governing business transactions in the respective countries. However, there are “best practice recommendations” such from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with respects to trading activities, relationships, and other matters.

Trading practices on the organized exchanges and the regulatory arrangements covering the exchanges, are markedly different from those in the OTC market. In the exchange, trading takes place publicly in a centralized location and products are standardized. There are margin payments, daily marking to market, and a cash settlement through a central clearinghouse. With respects to regulations in the USA, exchanges at which currency futures are traded are under the jurisdiction of the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation (CFTC). Steps are being taken internationally to harmonize trade regulations and to improve the risk management practices of dealers in the foreign exchange market and to encourage greater transparency and disclosure.

Various Parties involved in Foreign Exchange Market

Today, commercial banks and investment banks serve as the major dealers by executing transactions and providing foreign exchange services. Some, but not all, are market makers, that regularly quote both bids and offers for one ore more particular currencies thus standing ready to make a two-sided market for its customers. Dealers also trade foreign exchange as part of the bank’s proprietary trading activities, where the firm’s own capital is put at risk on various strategies. A proprietary trader is looking for a larger profit margin based on a directional view about a currency, volatility, an interest rate that is about to change, a trend or a major policy move. .

Payment and Settlement Systems

Executing a foreign exchange transaction requires two transfers of money value, in opposite directions, since it involves the exchange of one national currency for another. Execution of the transaction engages the payment and settlement systems of both nations. “Payment” is the transmission of an instruction to transfer value that results from a transaction in the economy, and “settlement” is the final and unconditional transfer of the value specified in a payment instruction.

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