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What is currency exchange?

Currencies can be exchanged for other currencies, and there are more reasons to do this than most people realize. People are familiar with the currency exchange in the context of tourists stopping by a currency exchange kiosk so that they can buy trinkets at the local tourist traps, but the Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, where currencies are traded, is the largest market in the world by far. Currencies are exchanged for each other on a massive scale on the international Forex market. Thousands of banks connect through electronic trading systems which are part of the interbank forex market. Millions of smaller-scale traders and individuals also engage in Forex trading, either over-the-counter or on regulated international exchanges. Continue reading...

What is the currency carry trade?

Assets that are held are sometimes analyzed in terms of the cost of carrying them, called the cost of carry. In certain situations, there may be a potential for profit if an asset that might otherwise have a cost of carry could be traded for an asset that actually generates profit. The arbitrage opportunity that exists in that space, and the market formed by it, is sometimes called the carry trade, or the currency carry trade where it applies to currency. Continue reading...

What is “contango?”

Contango is when the price of a futures contract is higher than the current spot price of a commodity, and the expected future spot price. Some contango falls within the normal range, but too much is generally unfavorable. Contango means that the price of a futures contract has become inflated beyond the expected price range of a commodity. Backwardation is the word for the opposite of contango, in which futures contracts are being sold for less than the current spot price and below the probable future spot price. Some backwardation and contango is part of life and considered normal, but contango markets can have a particularly negative impact on some ETFs. Continue reading...

What is foreign exchange?

The Foreign Exchange is abbreviated Forex, and it refers to the global network of 24/7 currency trading which is the largest and most liquid market in the world economy. Several of the largest Foreign Exchange markets are in London, New York, Singapore, and Tokyo, but there are other market centers and over-the-counter transactions which are part of what is known as the Forex. All currency exchanged for another currency is considered a Forex transaction, including currency exchanges by tourists at kiosks, but it gets much larger than that. Continue reading...

What are currency futures?

Currency futures are derivative contracts that trade on regulated exchanges around the world. Like forward contracts, they name a specific amount of one currency which is to be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Futures name a specific amount of one currency which will be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Like other derivative contracts that trade on exchanges (e.g., options), futures are transferable and are traded as the market calls for up until their expiration. Investors can short them (sell to open) and hold them long (buy to open), and can close their positions as they see fit without riding out the contract to the expiration date. Continue reading...

Who is a commodity trader?

Commodity traders must at least pass the FINRA Series 3 exam, which focuses on the commodities market exclusively. The term “trader” is often used in reference to the people at an investment firm who work on the actual trading desk, sometimes executing trade orders from the front office but also trading for the account of the firm and sometimes giving investment advice. Traders often have a role to seek out and engage in trades that will improve the portfolio of the firm at which they are employed and benefit the clients of the firm. Commodity traders could work for a commodity pool or they could be a commodity specialist at a firm focused on a wider variety of investing. Continue reading...

What is FOREX?

Forex is the common name for the Foreign Exchange market, an international network of currency trading that is active 24/7. Forex is by far the most active and highest-volume market in the world, because it involves large trades between international institutions in an effort to diversify or consolidate their exposure to various currencies. Individual traders can also participate, usually by trading nano-lots, which are 100-unit increments of currency. Continue reading...

What is a currency basket?

Currency baskets are composed of weighted amounts of certain currencies. The most common use of a currency basket is as a benchmark for certain economic analysis, but it can also be used as a unit of account where an international organization has constituents that use various currencies. A basket of currencies is a weighted index of various currencies which serves a specific purpose as a benchmark or as a unit of account. Continue reading...

What is a currency symbol?

Currency symbols are characters written or typed in a specific arrangement alongside the numerical values of a currency amount, to denote the kind of currency in which the amount of money is held. An example would be the dollar sign ($), which is placed at the beginning of the numbers which describe the amount of currency in question, despite the fact that in most languages the word “dollars” follows the numbers when spoken. Many currencies have their own symbol but not necessarily all do. Continue reading...

What is an FX swap?

A Foreign Exchange (FX) Swap is a short-term arrangement where a company or institution swaps domestic currency for another, then swaps it back after a short time - this may involve the use of a Forward contract. If a company sells something internationally, and they now hold a significant amount of foreign currency, they may want to exchange it for their domestic currency. If, however, they already have a payment obligation in the foreign currency within the next few months, they may use an FX Swap arrangement. Continue reading...

What are forward contracts?

Forward contracts are agreements to exchange specific assets on a specific date, at a price determined at the outset. Forward contracts are similar to futures contracts, but they are over-the-counter private contracts drafted for specific purposes, quantities, and dates that satisfy the specific needs of the counter-parties. These contracts are mostly entered into by institutional investors seeking a hedge against risks such as interest rates and exchange rates. Continue reading...

What is a currency peg?

The currency pairs you are most familiar with, such as EUR/USD or USD/JPY, are floating currencies, meaning that their value changes freely with market forces. Some countries have chosen to peg their currency to another currency, most commonly the USD. The exchange rate between their currency and the peg currency never changes, unless policy makers tweak things slightly. Currencies can also be pegged to commodities or baskets of other currencies. Pegged currencies are not discussed often in the Forex market because their value is tied directly to the value of another, more liquid floating currency, or to a basket of currencies, or to a commodity. Continue reading...

Learn Forex Trading

FOREX is an international market which allows participants to exchange various currencies at the current rates of exchange and in the future. Forex trading can be profitable but it can also be risky. The daily volume of FOREX is about 3 trillion dollars, which dwarfs equity trading internationally in terms of daily volume, being somewhere around $30 billion. With so much movement and liquidity, it can also dwarf equity markets in terms of volatility. This can present a large amount of risk if investors are not knowledgeable and prepared to hedge or exit their positions. Nothing should be invested In Forex positions that an investor cannot stand to lose. Continue reading...

What is a currency swap?

In a currency swap, institutions will enter into an arrangement lasting anywhere from 1 to 30 years, in which they loan each other an equal principal amount at the current exchange rate, lending out their currency and taking a loan in a foreign currency, and paying an interest rate in foreign currency to their lending counter-party. Institutions that engage in a currency swap (also called a cross-currency swap) seek to increase their exposure or liquidity in a foreign currency, and in some cases seek to take advantage of favorable interest rates in the arrangement. In fact, a currency swap can be considered a variation on an interest rate swap, except that in this case, a notional principal is exchanged at the onset. Continue reading...

What is currency in circulation?

Currency in circulation tends to be defined as the currency held by commercial banks, and currency with the public, without including long-term deposits or investments. As much as 2/3rd of Currency in Circulation is held outside of the borders of the US, and is estimated to be around $1.5 trillion as of 2016. Currency in Circulation is one part of what’s known as the money supply. Money supply is divided into four levels: M0, M1, M2, and M3. Some might define currency in circulation as the larger part of M0, which is the money base, constituted by the currency held in commercial banking institutions and excluding central bank reserves / Federal funds. This definition disregards the Currency with Public, which is included in other definitions and is part of M1. Continue reading...

How do I get exposure to other currencies?

There are two main ways to get exposure to other currencies: you can buy them in the open market (FOREX), or you can buy instruments (such as ETFs) which reflect the currencies’ cross rates. For example, FXE reflects the rate of exchange between the US dollar and the Euro. It is trading in units of exchange rate times 100 (for example, if today, FXE is trading at $130, it means that the rate of exchange is $/Euro = $1.30). Continue reading...

What is currency risk?

Countries, investors, and international businesses have to frequently assess currency risk, which is the chance that exchange rates will change unfavorably at inopportune times. An investment in a foreign security or company, or income payments coming from foreign sources, can be at risk for exchange rate changes. If an investor or company has financial interests which are based in another currency, or if the investor engages in Forex trading, currency risk looms over the future value of the holdings, on top of any typical market risk. Continue reading...

What is currency substitution?

Currency Substitution can be an official or ad hoc occurrence in a country whose commerce is partially, or fully, conducted using the currency of another country. Some currencies which are pegged to another currency at a fixed rate (especially at whole integers) are domestically exchanged in the same manner that the local currency is. Many countries have completely adopted the currency of another country, and do not have a central bank of their own. Continue reading...

What is currency depreciation?

The value of a currency can depreciate in relation to the value of other currencies or to another benchmark. Currencies can have their value determined by the cost of a basket of consumer goods from one period to another, but this is really just a measure of inflation. Inflation (or “deflation”) is a subset of the appreciation/depreciation metric, but changes in the exchange rates between currencies are typically seen as the most relevant measure of a currency’s value. Continue reading...

What is a foreign currency swap?

These are generally referred to as currency swaps or cross-currency swaps , since “foreign” is a little redundant (currencies are from different countries anyway). Central banks and large institutions sometimes swap principal amounts and loan interest in their domestic currency in exchange for a foreign currency, to provide liquidity and a hedge. Currency swaps are where banking institutions, particularly central banks, exchange a loan in one currency for a loan in another currency. Continue reading...