Unlike indices spreads where the spread is fixed, forex spreads are variable. So, when the bid and ask prices of the currency pair changes, the spread will change too. This change is measured in pips.
A pip is the unit of measurement used to show the change in value of two currencies, and is usually the last decimal place of a price quote. While Japanese Yen pairings go out to two decimal places, most currency pairs will go out to 4 decimal places.
More widely traded currency pairs, like the forex majors (see above), have much smaller spreads due to the high volume of trades happening in the market. Exotic currency pairs will see higher spreads because their volume of trading is much lower.
The price of forex spreads can fluctuate throughout the day so traders need to be aware of the things that can influence them. The most common factors include market news, liquidity and volatility.
A simple way to stay up to date on market news and major economic events is the economic calendar. Being aware of important news updates hours or days before they happen can help with your decision-making and finding the best spreads available.
Major currency pairs have the highest trading volume on a daily basis. These pairs usually have very narrow spreads as they are traded 24 hours a day and are highly liquid. Examples of major currency pairs include EUR/USD, USD/JPY and GBP/USD.
Minor currency pairs, or ‘crosses’ as they are sometimes called, are pairings that don't include the US dollar and are traded much less frequently then the majors. Examples of minor currency pairs include EUR/AUD, EUR/CHD and GBP/AUD.
Exotic currency pairs include one of the major currencies, paired up with another from a small or emerging economy. Exotic pairs are traded much less then majors and minors, and can have a high spread. Examples of exotic currency pairs include USD/SGD, USD/TRY and EUR/TRY.
Find out more about exactly what is forex trading.