Every day, the world’s many currencies are traded in Foreign Exchange Markets, sometimes referred to as “Forex” or “FX” Markets. The largest and most liquid of all financial markets, the amount of volume in trading on FX Markets daily is staggering – close to $4 trillion dollars U.S., one-third of which takes place in London.

Anyone who has ever changed money in a foreign country has gotten a taste of this system on its most basic level. Over the course of an extended visit in a foreign country, a traveler is sure to notice the rises and falls in the exchange rate.

A look through the financial section of any newspaper will offer further insight to any interested parties. In the exchange rate listings, readers will notice a “bid” price listed along with the “ask” price for the same currency. The ask price will be slightly higher than that which could be obtained by the average customer, as transaction fees are in effect included in these quotes. If the same customer wished to sell the currency back to a bank, the “bid’ price would be the one quoted, at a slightly lower rate. This difference – which always exists between the bid and ask quotes and is known as the “spread” – makes the FX Markets consistently lucrative for major banks.

In terms of investment strategies for FX Markets, there are several different ways to approach it. For investors who like to read more extended trends of a national currency, the goal is to find the direction early. On the other hand, there is a lot of money to be made in short speculation, and the key is to guess right while laying down the maximum amount possible.

Forex markets are not a common item in the typical private investment portfolio. Because the control is in the hands of the banks which set the spread between the bid and ask price, these banks get a price available only to the top players in the financial world. In fact, with all of the trading which takes place on a daily basis, nearly 80% is done by the world’s top ten in the banking industry. Deutsche Bank leads the way, with outfits like Barclay’s and JP Morgan close behind.

Speculation is behind much of the trading in the Foreign Exchange Market and for this reason it is a popular place for hedge funds to do business on a daily basis. The aggressive investment strategy typical of hedge funds is effective in Forex trading because it can outweigh other factors affecting the rates, such as government intervention on behalf of a plunging currency.

The factors which have an effect on a currency’s strength around the world are numerous: government budget deficits, as well as trade deficits, are key indicators, along with inflation levels, overall GDP movement, unemployment levels and government credit rating. In addition, political factors may also have an effect on the strength of a nation’s currency, as when a nation’s citizens begin to sell local currency off rapidly in favor of an international alternative.

One unique characteristic of the FX Markets is they never close during weekdays. Trading goes from New York to Europe to Asia, until the New York markets resume in the morning.

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