For those new to forex trading, the sheer amount of jargon and terminology can be overwhelming. Terms like pips, leverage, lots, and spreads may sound complex and confusing. This comprehensive beginner’s guide aims to demystify the most common forex terms in simple, easy-to-understand language. Read on to learn the ABCs of forex vocabulary and gain the knowledge needed to trade currencies with confidence.
An Introduction to Forex Trading
The foreign exchange (forex) market is the largest financial market in the world with over $5 trillion traded daily. Also known as foreign currency exchange or FX, forex trading involves speculating on the value of one currency against another. For example, trading the EUR/USD currency pair involves exchanging euros for US dollars. The goal is to profit from the rise and fall of these currency values.
Forex appeals to retail traders due to its 24-hour trading availability, high liquidity, and use of leverage to maximize profits. However, understanding the terminology involved is key to navigating the forex landscape successfully as a beginner. This definitive guide covers the key terms and concepts in straightforward language. Let’s get started.
Key Players in the Forex Market
There are several major participants in the decentralized forex market:
- Banks – The interbank market is comprised of large commercial and investment banks that trade currency between each other and for large clients. This accounts for the majority of forex transactions.
- Central Banks – Central banks of different nations play a key role in controlling money supply and exchange rates. Their actions have a significant influence on currency valuations.
- Retail Forex Brokers – Regulated brokers with online trading platforms provide individual traders with access to the forex market. They act as intermediaries for retail transactions.
- Individual Traders – From hobbyists to seasoned professionals, millions of small individual traders speculate on forex price movements. This constitutes about 5% of daily forex volume.
- Businesses – Companies involved in international business convert currencies to pay for foreign goods and services. Their transactions amount to significant forex trading volume.
- Hedge Funds – These professionally managed funds trade massive forex positions to speculate on global macroeconomic trends. They account for a sizeable amount of forex transactions.
Now that we’ve covered the main actors, let’s define some common terminology.
Forex Terms and Jargon Defined
A pip (percentage in point) is the smallest increment of price movement for any currency pair. For most major pairs, one pip is 0.0001. So for EUR/USD at 1.1200, a one pip movement would be to either 1.1201 or 1.1199. Pip movements reflect profits and losses.
The spread refers to the difference between the bid (sell) and ask (buy) prices quoted for a forex pair. This is effectively the commission paid to the broker per trade. Spreads are typically 1-3 pips but can be larger depending on volatility.
Standardized units used to specify transaction amounts in forex are called lots. A standard lot is 100,000 units of a currency. Mini lots are 10,000 units, while micro lots are 1,000 units.
Leverage allows forex traders to gain greater exposure to the market without needing the full capital required. Leverage is expressed as a ratio, such as 1:50 or 1:100. At 1:100 leverage for $1,000, you get $100,000 of buying power.
Margin refers to the amount of capital required in your account to open and maintain a leveraged forex position. For example, 1% margin means you can trade with 100x leverage since you only need 1% of the position size.
This refers to the first currency quoted in a forex pair, such as the EUR in EUR/USD. Also called the transaction currency. It represents the “base” from which the exchange rate is calculated.
The second currency quoted in a currency pair is called the quote or counter currency, such as the USD in EUR/USD. It indicates how much of the quote currency is needed to buy one unit of the base currency.
The exchange rate between two currencies specifies how much one unit of a currency (the quote) is worth in the other currency (the base). An exchange rate of EUR/USD 1.1200 means 1 euro can buy 1.12 US dollars.
Bid and Ask
The bid price represents how much you can sell a currency for. The ask price is how much you can buy it for. The difference between the two is the spread.
Position size indicates the amount or volume of currency units the trader will buy or sell. Position sizes are calculated using lots, margin, and account balance. Proper position sizing manages risk.
Going long means buying a currency pair with the expectation the base currency will rise vs the quote currency. Going short means selling the pair, expecting the base will fall vs the quote.
Close a Position
Closing out a position means exiting or squaring off an existing trade for a profit or loss. This involves buying back a short position or selling a long position.
The account currency is the money denomination used in your trading account, such as USD, EUR, GBP etc. All profits/losses and account balances are reflected in the account currency.
A currency pair quotes the relative value of one currency against another, such as EUR/USD or USD/JPY. The first listed currency (EUR) is called the base, while the second (USD) is the quote.
Volatility refers to how much and how quickly prices fluctuate. Currency pairs with higher volatility see larger price swings and are riskier to trade. Low volatility pairs have more stable pricing.
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Fixed spreads remain constant throughout trading hours while variable spreads fluctuate according to market liquidity and volatility conditions.
Slippage occurs when a trade executes at a different price than expected due to rapid market movement between order placement and execution.
The rollover rate is the interest paid or earned for holding a currency position overnight. Each currency has an overnight interbank lending rate used to calculate rollover.
Contract for Difference (CFD)
A CFD is a derivative product that allows speculating on forex moves without actually owning the underlying asset. CFDs are traded on margin and used for short-term strategies.
Standardized forex contracts that trade on regulated exchanges rather than the spot forex market. Futures are used to hedge portfolios or speculate on long-term currency moves.
Analyzing historical price charts using technical indicators and patterns to inform trades and strategy. Identifies trend direction, key support/resistance areas, volatility, momentum, etc.
Examining economic and geopolitical events, news, data releases etc. that impact macro supply and demand forces underlying the currency market. Aims to predict future price direction.
Applying strategies to limit trading losses through stop losses, reducing position sizes, diversifying, using risk-reward ratios, and setting aside adequate trading capital.
Taking advantage of price discrepancies across different forex platforms and markets to lock in small, low-risk profits with no currency risk exposure.
Frequently Asked Questions
What moves forex prices?
Currency valuations fluctuate based on macroeconomic factors like monetary policy, growth, inflation, unemployment, wars, natural disasters, as well as micro factors like supply/demand and investor speculation. Central bank decisions in particular cause significant forex volatility.
What is the best currency pair for beginners?
The major pairs like EUR/USD, USD/JPY, GBP/USD and USD/CHF are ideal for beginners due to their lower spreads and higher liquidity. Exotic pairs have higher volatility and trading costs so should be avoided initially.
Can forex be a full time job?
Trading forex requires consistent refinement of strategies and risk management. While difficult, it is possible to trade forex profitably as a full time job with sufficient capital, the right mindset, proven strategy and persistence through losing periods.
What is the best time to trade forex?
The forex market is open 24 hours during weekdays. The most active trading times occur when major markets in London, New York, Sydney and Tokyo overlap as they account for over 75% of forex transactions.
Is forex trading legal in the US?
Yes, forex trading is legal in the United States provided brokers are properly registered and regulated. The NFA and CFTC regulate online forex brokers in the US. Trading should be done through regulated platforms like MetaTrader 4/5, cTrader etc.
What is scalping in forex?
Scalping is an active trading strategy that attempts to profit from small price movements. Scalpers open and close multiple positions within seconds or minutes to capture 5-10 pip profits per trade. Requires high leverage and fast execution.
Is algorithmic trading profitable in forex?
Algorithmic trading means using computer programs that follow predefined rules and patterns to automate trading decisions. Algo-trading offers advantages like emotionless decision-making, but requires extensive backtesting, refinement and monitoring. It can be profitable if done correctly.
How much money is needed to start forex trading?
Most brokers allow starting with mini and even micro lots to open positions with just $100-$500 account balance. But at least $1000 capital is recommended for effective risk management. With leverage, this allows properly funding a strategy.
Can I make money with forex demo accounts?
Demo accounts are meant for practice rather than profits. But refining your strategy and money management skills through extensive demo testing will certainly help you better prepare for live trading. Top traders spend months in demo before going live.
Who regulates forex brokers?
Forex brokers must be authorized and regulated in each country they operate. In the US, the NFA and CFTC regulate brokers. Other regulators include FCA (UK), CySEC (Cyprus), MAS (Singapore), ASIC (Australia), and IIROC (Canada).
Learning forex terminology is an essential first step for beginners exploring the currency markets. This guide covers the key terms and concepts needed to understand factors influencing exchange rates, how to analyze price trends, and strategies used to profit from forex trading. With demystified definitions and practical examples, new traders can build a firm foundation for trading success.
The next vital step is opening a practice account to apply these terms in a risk-free virtual environment. Slowly progress by developing a well-tested trading plan incorporating prudent risk and money management principles. Keep learning and stay up to date on forex fundamentals, technical analysis, and global economic developments. With the right knowledge, strategy, and discipline, trading currencies as a beginner can deliver attractive returns over time.
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