What do you expect to get from forex trading?
A lot of people will think of “easy money” or “instant riches”, but that’s not the way it goes. Of course, there is money to be made – that’s why FX is the biggest marketplace in the world – but success is in no way guaranteed, nor does it happen overnight. To be a successful long-term trader takes skill, patience, education and application.
That’s why, before you go anywhere near making that first forex trade, you need to be aware of the key facts about the forex market to help you navigate it.
In this article, we’ll cover all the forex basics and give you useful, actionable, and accurate information about:
Knowing the basics of the forex market will give you a solid foundation from which to build your skills, trading strategies and even work towards a successful FX trading journey – so let’s dive in!
The forex market is recognised as the largest and most liquid financial market in the world. The average daily forex transaction is now estimated at around $6.6 trillion, according to the most recent Bank for International Settlements Triennial Central Bank Survey of the foreign exchange market.
If you’re new to the markets and want to know what forex trading is and exactly how it works, one feature you will quickly notice when trading currencies is that you trade them in pairs. Unlike share trading where you buy or sell the same stock, trading forex means selling one currency and buying another currency in return.
The best example to illustrate this is when you’re going on an overseas trip. You will need to buy the local currency of the country you’re visiting, so what you do is buy that currency using the currency of your home country.
For example, you live in USA and are travelling to Europe, so you will buy the Euro (EUR) using the US Dollar (USD). This transaction is represented in the symbol EUR/USD.
Further reading: What is forex trading?
Forex trading is the buying and selling of currencies, and the place where it all happens is in the forex market. The forex market is made up of forex brokers, investors, banks, central banks, investment management firms, commercial companies and hedge funds. There are a lot of forex market participants.
The foreign exchange market is a global network of brokers and computers from all over the globe, made up of two tiers of liquidity:
The first tier of liquidity providers in the foreign exchange market is made up of the largest banks in the world with large forex departments. These large banking corporations are responsible for making price quotes for all currency pairs, as well as making markets for forex brokers and retail clients who use the ECN platforms.
These tier 1 providers will offer prices to market maker brokers who then offer a marked up price to their retail clients, using the initial liquidity providers as the benchmark. These companies will make their money from the spread difference between the buy and sell prices on currency pairs, as well as the commissions on either side of the trades as the second source of income.
Some examples of tier 1 liquidity providers include: Deutsche Bank, Citibank, HSBC, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citadel, Royal Bank of Scotland, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.
The second tier of liquidity operates at the level of the interbank forex market. This tier functions as market makers to provide retail clients with currency pair pricing and most forex brokers operate in this space with services as full-fledged market makers.
Market makers are considered the intermediaries between retail investors and the tier 1 liquidity providers. Their role in the market greatly enhances liquidity, and increased liquidity leads to cheaper costs for traders, lower spreads and a larger volume of trades.
Trading activity in the forex market works by speculating on the rise or fall of a currency pair to try and make a profit, which in this process can sometimes end in a loss. There are also market participants who are participating in the market only for hedging purposes, i.e. they don't intend to achieve a profit.
Historically, traders had to carry out a trade with a traditional broker but today online trading platforms make it simple to invest in FX from anywhere in the world. All you need is a computer and internet, and you can access the market 24 hours a day, 5 days a week to place a trade.
There are three different types of forex markets to trade in:
The forex spot market is the largest market in the world – and you may have even been a part of it without knowing. Any time someone goes to a bank to exchange currencies, they have participated in the forex spot market.
Futures contracts work by buying or selling a currency pair at a set time, date and size. This market operates on futures exchanges around the world, where the contracts are traded. These are legally binding contracts allowing the seller to risk that the currency will become cheaper in the spot market, before the contract end date.
The forwards market operates between a customer and a bank, or bank to bank. Unlike futures, where they have standardised features in size and age, forwards contracts are flexible and customised to fit a trader’s requirements.
Regulating a global market that is trading 24 hours, 5 days a week seems like a huge feat. Due to the size of this task there is no global centralised body governing the currency trading market. A group of supervisory bodies from some of the major countries around the world regulate forex by setting standards which all brokers under their jurisdiction must comply with.
|Australia||ASIC - Australian Securities and Investments Commission|
|Canada||IIROC - Investment Industry Regulatory Organisation of Canada|
|Cyprus||CySec - Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission|
|Germany||BaFIN - The Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht|
|Japan||FSA - Financial Services Agency|
|New Zealand||FMA - Financial Markets Authority|
|Singapore||MAS - The Monetary Authority of Singapore|
|South Africa||FSCA - Financial Sector Conduct Authority of South Africa|
|United Kingdom||FCA - Financial Conduct Authority|
|United States||CFTC - Commodities and Futures Trading Commission|
In today’s world of an interconnected and globalised economy, prices of trading instruments including forex pairs are constantly moving and fluctuating.
Trading volume and transactions in the FX markets are always affected by supply and demand and, like any other financial markets, the higher the demand for a currency the higher its price will move. But there are also many other factors that can affect the prices of currency pairs.
Here are some of the key factors to look out for when trading FX:
Central bank decisions – Central banks across the globe are responsible for setting interest rate levels for each country. When trading in the forex market, traders are generally attracted to currencies with high-interest rates compared to other currencies. If you want to trade the forex markets, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the major central banks including:
Economic data – Employment numbers, gross domestic product (GDP) levels, inflation, business and consumer sentiments tend to affect the movement in currency pairs. Monitor the economic calendar and market trends on your online trading platform to ensure that you’re up-to-date with major economic data releases.
FX trading time zones – It’s commonly known that trading volumes and activities can be thin or slow during the market open in the Japan/Asia time zone. Trading volumes and activities usually increase when the UK/Europe session begins, then liquidity will be at its peak towards the close of the UK and open of the US session. The London and New York sessions are usually the most active due to the time overlap of these major financial hubs.
During certain forex market hours some currencies are more liquid e.g. JPY during the Tokyo session or GBP during the London session.
Geopolitical factors – Wars, political crises, global unrest and other related events can also impact the foreign exchange markets. Some currencies tend to do well when there’s a high level of uncertainty in the markets, while other currencies go in the opposite direction.
The global forex market is also known as a market that never sleeps. This is because forex markets operate on a 24-hour, 5-day cycle that covers three major forex centres – Japan/Asia, UK/Europe and the US (North America). So, wherever you are in the world, you can trade forex almost any time of the day as long as you have access to an online trading platform and a reliable internet connection. For a full overview, check out our page on the forex market hours and review the table below.
While hundreds of forex pairs are represented in the global FX market, there are five main FX groups that are essential to know as they tend to be the most liquid and heavily traded forex pairs.
Forex majors represent the most traded currency pairs and are responsible for an estimated 85 per cent of global FX market transactions. FX majors are identified with the world’s largest and most stable economies like the US, Great Britain, Japan, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The 7 forex majors include:
Forex minors refers to FX pairs where the US dollar is not involved. You may have noted that in the forex majors group, the US dollar is always included in the pair. The forex crosses bypass the US dollar. Some of the main forex minors include:
Exotic currencies refer to thinly traded currencies with low liquidity and low transaction volumes. These currencies are usually associated with emerging markets or developing economies and their currencies are not in great demand nor traded globally. Some of the more prominent exotic currencies include:
Further reading: Exotic currency pairs to trade in the forex market
Commodity bloc currencies refer to a group of currencies from countries that are rich in natural resources, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This forex group is usually affected by the price fluctuation in commodity markets. Whether you’re a forex, commodities or CFD trader, it’s wise to monitor the correlation and price movements of the commodity bloc of currencies and the associated commodities that affect them.
While this is not an official or formal FX group, a few currencies are considered “safe haven” when trading the foreign exchange markets. Safe haven currencies in this group include the Japanese Yen (JPY), the Pound Sterling (GBP), the US dollar (USD), the Euro (EUR) and the Swiss Franc (CHF).
Why safe haven? Traders view these currencies as stable and will most likely retain their value compared to other currencies during volatile market conditions. Similar to gold, which is considered a safe haven asset, currencies in this group will attract more trading activity – particularly when there’s a high level of market volatility.
Now that you've gone through part one of forex trading for beginners and know how the forex market operates, it’s important to get to know the common forex terminology you will start seeing a lot.
A broker (or brokerage) is an individual or firm that arranges transactions between a trader and an exchange. There are different types of brokers, but at it’s core the broker is a third-person facilitator between a buyer and a seller.
The main reason brokers exist is to provide you with easy access to the forex market. Thus, the biggest advantage to choosing a local forex broker is that they will understand the market and be in a great position to adapt and respond quickly to any changes.
However, do not just choose any broker. It’s important to do your research and choose a reputable broker with a license, good reviews, and a strong community to prove legitimacy as there are risks of scams.
Forex traders use currency unit prices, known in the forex market as currency pairs. Made up of two different currencies, the base currency (also known as the transaction currency) is the first currency that appears in the pair while the second part of the pair is the quote currency or counter currency.
The base currency indicates how much of the quote currency is required for you to get one unit of the base currency. For example, in the EUR/USD currency pair the Euro is the base currency while the United States Dollar is the quote currency. If the price of the EUR/USD pair is 1.1302, it shows that you would need $1.1302 USD to buy a single Euro.
A pip represents the change in value between two currencies. For example, if the EUR/USD moves from 1.2250 to 1.2251 it has moved by 0.0001 or one pip.
A tick is similar to a pip, but it may not measure every increment equally. For example, a tick on one instrument may be measured in increments of 0.0001, whereas another instrument may be measured in increments of 0.25. A useful way to remember this is that a Tick is simply the smallest increment a particular instrument can move in.
Further reading: Pips and pipettes explained
If you’re trading the currency market, spreads refer to the price difference between the currencies you are buying and selling – the 'ask' and the 'bid' price. The size of the spread is a very important consideration in your trading decisions because it can represent the difference between making a profit, a smaller profit, or even a loss.
Technically, the spread is the cost that you pay the FX broker to make the transaction: the tighter the spread, the less you pay. Another thing worth remembering is that the wider the spread, the more the price has to move in order to result in a profit or loss on a trade. That’s why traders prefer brokers with consistently low or tight spreads.
In trading, leverage means you only put a percentage of your trading capital up front to open a trade. In practice, this means you don’t need a lot of capital to get started – an amount as low as $10 in your trading account, combined with sufficient leverage, can be enough to get you going.
At Axi you can get access to various levels of leverage, up to 500:1 (depending on the jurisdiction you are trading in) which means that for every $1 in your trading account, you can open a position of up to $500.
While that opens the potential to make a lot of money in a short space of time, you must remember that higher leverage also means a higher risk of losing money if the trade goes against you.
As a beginner you won’t want to be trading at such high levels of leverage straight away because, on balance, the level of risk is too high compared to your market knowledge and trading ability. Instead, you might prefer to minimise your exposure by trading micro or mini positions:
To get a feel for how this works in action, use a demo trading account and try some test trades.
Margin is used in forex trading to allow a trader to take positions of a higher value than the amount of funds in their trading account. The two main margin terms you need to become aware of are: initial margin and variation margin.
Initial margin is the minimum amount you need to have in your account in order to open a position, while variation margin is based on the current value of all open positions. Find out more about how margin trading works.
When traders go ‘long’ on a currency pair they are buying the base currency first and selling the quote currency. In the same USD/JPY currency pair example above, we would be buying the US dollar and selling the Japanese Yen.
If you want a short position in forex the opposite happens, selling the US dollar and buying the Japanese Yen. To put it simply, long means to buy, and short means to sell.
A bull market is a common term used in investing when conditions are considered positive and prices are going up. Bullish markets mean that investors have higher confidence and higher acceptance of risk when they are looking to invest money into the market.
A bear market is another common term to describe when conditions are considered negative and prices are going down. The downward trend in bearish markets is due to investors selling their assets and trying to enter back into the market when they think it’s hit its peak.
There are many different types of charts used when analysing the forex market. Deciding which chart to use will usually depend on the trading style or type of analysis. For a deeper dive into these charts, see our article on how to read forex charts.
Line charts are the easiest to read. It simply shows the close price at the given time period – typically represented by a continuous curved line that connects dots that represent the changes in price over certain intervals of time.
Line charts give a clear, simplified view of the current market situation and work best for people who want a quick glimpse of where the market is heading.
Bar charts (or OHLC charts) are an upgraded version of the line chart, offering information on the Open, High Low and Close prices – hence the abbreviation.
Although candlestick charts look complicated at first, they are actually very simple to read.
Candlesticks represent four main price points within a particular time period. This period can usually be set to 1 minute, 5 minutes, 30 minutes 1 hour, daily, weekly, monthly etc.
The main body of the candle will be coloured in green (or be empty) if the closing price is higher than the opening price of that time period (i.e. the price has increased). If the body is coloured red (or filled in black) the price has decreased within the period. The ability to read candlestick charts is the first step before using more advanced analysis tools used by many successful traders.
Forex trading always involves a currency pair, so when you trade forex you’re effectively exchanging one currency for another. For example, if you trade long EUR/USD, you’re buying the EUR and selling the USD. Find out more about how to trade forex with Axi.
Being the largest globally traded market with an immense daily trading volume helps give the forex market some unique benefits over other markets, including:
Read our article 17 Benefits of forex trading to discover more unique characteristics the forex market has.
Like any business, trading requires some capital to get started. Similarly, like any business, simply investing that capital doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to make you more money.
However, one of the benefits of trading forex in the global market is that you can start trading with a relatively small amount of capital. This is particularly important if you’re new to trading and want to test strategies or learn more about the markets without a significant outlay.
But it’s also important to understand that the amount of trading capital you have to use will play an important role in the way you trade and help determine the viability of your long-term strategy.
Trading forex with any significant success takes more than money. You need patience, skill, emotional control and an ability to look at your mistakes and improve on them (yes, there will be mistakes!). But when it comes to considering the bottom line, there are some fundamental things to consider, including leverage, spreads and other trading costs.
A bottom line figure to start trading could be as low as $50 or even $10 but we would recommend atleast starting with $500 in your trading account.
For standard forex and commodity trading, commission fees are either waived or already built into the spread price you pay on an individual trade. This helps make trading a transparent process.
There are, however, certain products such as futures that incur additional “swap” or “rollover” fees due to their longer timeframes. If you choose to trade these types of products, be sure to find out exactly what extra costs, if any, you would be required to pay on open positions.
For more information on costs involved, refer to the product schedule.
The most important forex trading tools, when you’re first getting started, relate to research. You need to learn all the ins and outs of the market so you can develop your own unique trading style.
Here are some recommended tools you will need to look out for in the beginning:
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of forex trading and show you how some deeper knowledge can turn a hobby into a second income.
Trading any market, including the forex markets, involves risk. That’s partly why most of the professional and successful traders in the world believe risk management is one of the most important factors in their trading success.
One good rule of thumb, especially for new traders, is to never risk more than 1% of your trading capital while in learning mode.
Let’s walk through the top 5 components of a risk management strategy that can help you with your forex trading.
Now that you’ve got your head wrapped around the concept of forex trading, and you understand how the market works, it is time to talk forex trading strategies.
Everyone takes a unique approach but there are strategies that often share some common features. Here are some popular FX strategies you might like to consider:
Technical analysis is the use of a collection of methods that look for patterns in the chart that may predict future behaviour. Technical analysis assumes that all the information related to a currency pair available is already priced in. Therefore, the theory is that if a particular pattern is repeated in the past, recognising that pattern can help the trader predict the immediate future.
Fundamental analysis is when the FX trader considers underlying economic or policy reasons for a currency’s price fluctuations. The main idea behind the analysis is if the currency’s underlying economy is predicted to do better compared to other countries, the price of that currency will go up and vice versa.
Further reading: What is fundamental analysis?
Trading forex involves daily learning and education. As markets move and present limitless trading opportunities, you as a trader need to be equipped with the right trading tools, information and strategies that can help you take advantage of any trading opportunity.
The beauty of today’s technology driven world is the availability of a wide range of free online education and information at your fingertips.
At Axi, we offer access to an extensive range of trading resources to enhance your trading skills. Access all our available educational resources including video tutorials, webinars, online trading courses, eBooks and trading guides.
When you start trading the forex market, the economic calendar will become a great resource to implement into your trading strategy. Learning how to read the economic calendar properly is essential to your success.
To maximise your chances of success in forex trading, you should follow the most important releases and international events on the forex calendar. The calendar will show you all scheduled economic news and events happening across the world by default. You can customise the timeframe you want to review by selecting a custom date range and also select specific market conditions, volatility levels and countries you wish to monitor.
Whether you’re learning the fundamentals of forex, trialling new strategies or looking for expert trading tips, our eBook series will help improve your trading knowledge.
Download a forex eBook and develop your trading edge.
We have published helpful resources and tips, including MetaTrader 4 video tutorials and forex video content. With over 20 videos to learn from, start with the basics and then move onto the advanced tutorials, focusing on things like understanding support and resistance levels and how to analyse economic data.
For further learning, sign up for free forex trading webinars held by our expert market analysts. Professional trader Desmond Leong covers the basics of forex to more advanced techniques like using a price action trading strategy and even helping you to design your own strategy.
There’s no limit to what you can learn about trading and it can be hard to know where to start, but there’s no substitute for actually doing it!
Axi offers a free demo trading account where you can practice trading using virtual funds, with no obligation to trade your own money.
Just like our live trading account, you can trade 140+ forex and CFD products – including metals, commodities and indices – with spreads as low as 0.2 pips and leverage up to 30:1 (depending on the jurisdiction you are trading in).
You've now read the most comprehensive guide on forex trading for beginners. When you’re ready to trade, choose a trusted, regulated and multi-award winning broker and jump into the foreign exchange arena.
The information is not to be construed as a recommendation; or an offer to buy or sell; or the solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security, financial product, or instrument; or to participate in any trading strategy. Readers should seek their own advice. Reproduction or redistribution of this information is not permitted.
Volatile currency pairs can provide both positive and negative trading opportunities. Learn more about forex volatility and the most volatile currency pairs, taking advantage of their price movements.