Foreign exchange market

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The foreign exchange market (Forex, FX, or currency market) is a global decentralized or over-the-counter (OTC) market for the trading of currencies. This market determines foreign exchange rates for every currency. It includes all aspects of buying, selling and exchanging currencies at current or determined prices. In terms of trading volume, it is by far the largest market in the world, followed by the credit market. [1]

Decentralization is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group. Concepts of decentralization have been applied to group dynamics and management science in private businesses and organizations, political science, law and public administration, economics, money and technology.

Over-the-counter (finance) trading done directly between two parties

Over-the-counter (OTC) or off-exchange trading is done directly between two parties, without the supervision of an exchange. It is contrasted with exchange trading, which occurs via exchanges. A stock exchange has the benefit of facilitating liquidity, providing transparency, and maintaining the current market price. In an OTC trade, the price is not necessarily publicly disclosed.

A currency, in the most specific sense is money in any form when in use or circulation as a medium of exchange, especially circulating banknotes and coins. A more general definition is that a currency is a system of money in common use, especially for people in a nation. Under this definition, U.S. dollars (US$), pounds sterling (£), Australian dollars (A$), European euros (€), Russian rubles (₽) and Indian rupees (₹) are examples of currencies. These various currencies are recognized as stores of value and are traded between nations in foreign exchange markets, which determine the relative values of the different currencies. Currencies in this sense are defined by governments, and each type has limited boundaries of acceptance.

Contents

The main participants in this market are the larger international banks. Financial centers around the world function as anchors of trading between a wide range of multiple types of buyers and sellers around the clock, with the exception of weekends. Since currencies are always traded in pairs, the foreign exchange market does not set a currency's absolute value but rather determines its relative value by setting the market price of one currency if paid for with another. Ex: US$1 is worth X CAD, or CHF, or JPY, etc.

Financial centre Locations which are centres of financial activity

A financial centre is defined by the IMF as encompassing: International Financial Centres (IFCs), such as New York City, London and Tokyo; Regional Financial Centres (RFCs), such as Frankfurt, Chicago and Sydney; and Offshore Financial Centres (OFCs), such as Cayman Islands, Dublin, and Singapore.

A buyer is any person who contracts to acquire an asset or service in return for some form of consideration.

The foreign exchange market works through financial institutions and operates on several levels. Behind the scenes, banks turn to a smaller number of financial firms known as "dealers", who are involved in large quantities of foreign exchange trading. Most foreign exchange dealers are banks, so this behind-the-scenes market is sometimes called the "interbank market" (although a few insurance companies and other kinds of financial firms are involved). Trades between foreign exchange dealers can be very large, involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of the sovereignty issue when involving two currencies, Forex has little (if any) supervisory entity regulating its actions.

Financial institution institution that provides financial services for its clients or members

Financial institutions, otherwise known as banking institutions, are corporations that provide services as intermediaries of financial markets. Broadly speaking, there are three major types of financial institutions:

  1. Depository institutions – deposit-taking institutions that accept and manage deposits and make loans, including banks, building societies, credit unions, trust companies, and mortgage loan companies;
  2. Contractual institutions – insurance companies and pension funds
  3. Investment institutions – investment banks, underwriters, brokerage firms.

The interbank market is the top-level foreign exchange market where banks exchange different currencies. The banks can either deal with one another directly, or through electronic brokering platforms. The Electronic Broking Services (EBS) and Thomson Reuters Dealing are the two competitors in the electronic brokering platform business and together connect over 1000 banks. The currencies of most developed countries have floating exchange rates. These currencies do not have fixed values but, rather, values that fluctuate relative to other currencies.

The foreign exchange market assists international trade and investments by enabling currency conversion. For example, it permits a business in the United States to import goods from European Union member states, especially Eurozone members, and pay Euros, even though its income is in United States dollars. It also supports direct speculation and evaluation relative to the value of currencies and the carry trade speculation, based on the differential interest rate between two currencies. [2]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

European Union Economic and political union of European states

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. Its members have a combined area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

Eurozone Area in which the euro is the official currency

The eurozone, officially called the euro area, is a monetary union of 19 of the 28 European Union (EU) member states which have adopted the euro (€) as their common currency and sole legal tender. The monetary authority of the eurozone is the Eurosystem. The other nine members of the European Union continue to use their own national currencies, although most of them are obliged to adopt the euro in the future.

In a typical foreign exchange transaction, a party purchases some quantity of one currency by paying with some quantity of another currency.

The modern foreign exchange market began forming during the 1970s. This followed three decades of government restrictions on foreign exchange transactions under the Bretton Woods system of monetary management, which set out the rules for commercial and financial relations among the world's major industrial states after World War II. Countries gradually switched to floating exchange rates from the previous exchange rate regime, which remained fixed per the Bretton Woods system.

Bretton Woods system former system of monetary management

The Bretton Woods system of monetary management established the rules for commercial and financial relations among the United States, Canada, Western European countries, Australia, and Japan after the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement. The Bretton Woods system was the first example of a fully negotiated monetary order intended to govern monetary relations among independent states. The chief features of the Bretton Woods system were an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained its external exchange rates within 1 percent by tying its currency to gold and the ability of the IMF to bridge temporary imbalances of payments. Also, there was a need to address the lack of cooperation among other countries and to prevent competitive devaluation of the currencies as well.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Floating exchange rate

A floating exchange rate is a type of exchange rate regime in which a currency's value is allowed to fluctuate in response to foreign exchange market events. A currency that uses a floating exchange rate is known as a floating currency. A floating currency is contrasted with a fixed currency whose value is tied to that of another currency, material goods or to a currency basket.

The foreign exchange market is unique because of the following characteristics:

Sydney Metropolis in Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,230,330 and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

Exchange rate rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another

In finance, an exchange rate is the rate at which one currency will be exchanged for another. It is also regarded as the value of one country's currency in relation to another currency. For example, an interbank exchange rate of 114 Japanese yen to the United States dollar means that ¥114 will be exchanged for each US$1 or that US$1 will be exchanged for each ¥114. In this case it is said that the price of a dollar in relation to yen is ¥114, or equivalently that the price of a yen in relation to dollars is $1/114.The government has the authority to change exchange rate when needed.

In finance, leverage is any technique involving the use of debt rather than fresh equity in the purchase of an asset, with the expectation that the after-tax profit to equity holders from the transaction will exceed the borrowing cost, frequently by several multiples⁠ ⁠— hence the provenance of the word from the effect of a lever in physics, a simple machine which amplifies the application of a comparatively small input force into a correspondingly greater output force. Normally, the lender will set a limit on how much risk it is prepared to take and will set a limit on how much leverage it will permit, and would require the acquired asset to be provided as collateral security for the loan. For example, for a residential property the finance provider may lend up to, say, 80% of the property's market value, for a commercial property it may be 70%, while on shares it may lend up to, say, 60% or none at all on certain volatile shares.

As such, it has been referred to as the market closest to the ideal of perfect competition, notwithstanding currency intervention by central banks.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, the preliminary global results from the 2019 Triennial Central Bank Survey of Foreign Exchange and OTC Derivatives Markets Activity show that trading in foreign exchange markets averaged $6.6 trillion per day in April 2019. This is up from $5.1 trillion in April 2016. Measured by value, foreign exchange swaps were traded more than any other instrument in April 2019, at $3.2 trillion per day, followed by spot trading at $2 trillion. [3]

The $6.6 trillion break-down is as follows:

History

Ancient

Currency trading and exchange first occurred in ancient times. [4] Money-changers (people helping others to change money and also taking a commission or charging a fee) were living in the Holy Land in the times of the Talmudic writings (Biblical times). These people (sometimes called "kollybistẻs") used city stalls, and at feast times the Temple's Court of the Gentiles instead. [5] Money-changers were also the silversmiths and/or goldsmiths [6] of more recent ancient times.

During the 4th century AD, the Byzantine government kept a monopoly on the exchange of currency. [7]

Papyri PCZ I 59021 (c.259/8 BC), shows the occurrences of exchange of coinage in Ancient Egypt. [8]

Currency and exchange were important elements of trade in the ancient world, enabling people to buy and sell items like food, pottery, and raw materials. [9] If a Greek coin held more gold than an Egyptian coin due to its size or content, then a merchant could barter fewer Greek gold coins for more Egyptian ones, or for more material goods. This is why, at some point in their history, most world currencies in circulation today had a value fixed to a specific quantity of a recognized standard like silver and gold.

Medieval and later

During the 15th century, the Medici family were required to open banks at foreign locations in order to exchange currencies to act on behalf of textile merchants. [10] [11] To facilitate trade, the bank created the nostro (from Italian, this translates to "ours") account book which contained two columned entries showing amounts of foreign and local currencies; information pertaining to the keeping of an account with a foreign bank. [12] [13] [14] [15] During the 17th (or 18th) century, Amsterdam maintained an active Forex market. [16] In 1704, foreign exchange took place between agents acting in the interests of the Kingdom of England and the County of Holland. [17]

Early modern

Alex. Brown & Sons traded foreign currencies around 1850 and was a leading currency trader in the USA. [18] In 1880, J.M. do Espírito Santo de Silva (Banco Espírito Santo) applied for and was given permission to engage in a foreign exchange trading business. [19] [20]

The year 1880 is considered by at least one source to be the beginning of modern foreign exchange: the gold standard began in that year. [21]

Prior to the First World War, there was a much more limited control of international trade. Motivated by the onset of war, countries abandoned the gold standard monetary system. [22]

Modern to post-modern

From 1899 to 1913, holdings of countries' foreign exchange increased at an annual rate of 10.8%, while holdings of gold increased at an annual rate of 6.3% between 1903 and 1913. [23]

At the end of 1913, nearly half of the world's foreign exchange was conducted using the pound sterling. [24] The number of foreign banks operating within the boundaries of London increased from 3 in 1860, to 71 in 1913. In 1902, there were just two London foreign exchange brokers. [25] At the start of the 20th century, trades in currencies was most active in Paris, New York City and Berlin; Britain remained largely uninvolved until 1914. Between 1919 and 1922, the number of foreign exchange brokers in London increased to 17; and in 1924, there were 40 firms operating for the purposes of exchange. [26]

During the 1920s, the Kleinwort family were known as the leaders of the foreign exchange market, while Japheth, Montagu & Co. and Seligman still warrant recognition as significant FX traders. [27] The trade in London began to resemble its modern manifestation. By 1928, Forex trade was integral to the financial functioning of the city. Continental exchange controls, plus other factors in Europe and Latin America, hampered any attempt at wholesale prosperity from trade[ clarification needed ] for those of 1930s London. [28]

After World War II

In 1944, the Bretton Woods Accord was signed, allowing currencies to fluctuate within a range of ±1% from the currency's par exchange rate. [29] In Japan, the Foreign Exchange Bank Law was introduced in 1954. As a result, the Bank of Tokyo became the center of foreign exchange by September 1954. Between 1954 and 1959, Japanese law was changed to allow foreign exchange dealings in many more Western currencies. [30]

U.S. President, Richard Nixon is credited with ending the Bretton Woods Accord and fixed rates of exchange, eventually resulting in a free-floating currency system. After the Accord ended in 1971, [31] the Smithsonian Agreement allowed rates to fluctuate by up to ±2%. In 1961–62, the volume of foreign operations by the U.S. Federal Reserve was relatively low. [32] [33] Those involved in controlling exchange rates found the boundaries of the Agreement were not realistic and so ceased this[ clarification needed ] in March 1973, when sometime afterward[ clarification needed ] none of the major currencies were maintained with a capacity for conversion to gold,[ clarification needed ] organizations relied instead on reserves of currency. [34] [35] From 1970 to 1973, the volume of trading in the market increased three-fold. [36] [37] [38] At some time (according to Gandolfo during February–March 1973) some of the markets were "split", and a two-tier currency market[ clarification needed ] was subsequently introduced, with dual currency rates. This was abolished in March 1974. [39] [40] [41]

Reuters introduced computer monitors during June 1973, replacing the telephones and telex used previously for trading quotes. [42]

Markets close

Due to the ultimate ineffectiveness of the Bretton Woods Accord and the European Joint Float, the forex markets were forced to close[ clarification needed ] sometime during 1972 and March 1973. [43] The largest purchase of US dollars in the history of 1976[ clarification needed ] was when the West German government achieved an almost 3 billion dollar acquisition (a figure is given as 2.75 billion in total by The Statesman: Volume 18 1974). This event indicated the impossibility of balancing of exchange rates by the measures of control used at the time, and the monetary system and the foreign exchange markets in West Germany and other countries within Europe closed for two weeks (during February and, or, March 1973. Giersch, Paqué, & Schmieding state closed after purchase of "7.5 million Dmarks" Brawley states "... Exchange markets had to be closed. When they re-opened ... March 1 " that is a large purchase occurred after the close). [44] [45] [46] [47]

After 1973

In developed nations, the state control of the foreign exchange trading ended in 1973 when complete floating and relatively free market conditions of modern times began. [48] Other sources claim that the first time a currency pair was traded by U.S. retail customers was during 1982, with additional currency pairs becoming available by the next year. [49] [50]

On 1 January 1981, as part of changes beginning during 1978, the People's Bank of China allowed certain domestic "enterprises" to participate in foreign exchange trading. [51] [52] Sometime during 1981, the South Korean government ended Forex controls and allowed free trade to occur for the first time. During 1988, the country's government accepted the IMF quota for international trade. [53]

Intervention by European banks (especially the Bundesbank) influenced the Forex market on 27 February 1985. [54] The greatest proportion of all trades worldwide during 1987 were within the United Kingdom (slightly over one quarter). The United States had the second highest involvement in trading. [55]

During 1991, Iran changed international agreements with some countries from oil-barter to foreign exchange. [56]

Market size and liquidity

Main foreign exchange market turnover, 1988-2007, measured in billions of USD. G foreign exchange market turnover.gif
Main foreign exchange market turnover, 1988–2007, measured in billions of USD.

The foreign exchange market is the most liquid financial market in the world. Traders include governments and central banks, commercial banks, other institutional investors and financial institutions, currency speculators, other commercial corporations, and individuals. According to the 2019 Triennial Central Bank Survey, coordinated by the Bank for International Settlements, average daily turnover was $6.6 trillion in April 2019 (compared to $1.9 trillion in 2004). [3] Of this $6.6 trillion, $2 trillion was spot transactions and $4.6 trillion was traded in outright forwards, swaps, and other derivatives.

Foreign exchange is traded in an over-the-counter market where brokers/dealers negotiate directly with one another, so there is no central exchange or clearing house. The biggest geographic trading center is the United Kingdom, primarily London. In April 2019, trading in the United Kingdom accounted for 43.1% of the total, making it by far the most important center for foreign exchange trading in the world. Owing to London's dominance in the market, a particular currency's quoted price is usually the London market price. For instance, when the International Monetary Fund calculates the value of its special drawing rights every day, they use the London market prices at noon that day. Trading in the United States accounted for 16.5%, Singapore and Hong Kong account for 7.6% and Japan accounted for 4.5%. [3]

Turnover of exchange-traded foreign exchange futures and options was growing rapidly in 2004-2013, reaching $145 billion in April 2013 (double the turnover recorded in April 2007). [57] As of April 2019, exchange-traded currency derivatives represent 2% of OTC foreign exchange turnover. Foreign exchange futures contracts were introduced in 1972 at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and are traded more than to most other futures contracts.

Most developed countries permit the trading of derivative products (such as futures and options on futures) on their exchanges. All these developed countries already have fully convertible capital accounts. Some governments of emerging markets do not allow foreign exchange derivative products on their exchanges because they have capital controls. The use of derivatives is growing in many emerging economies. [58] Countries such as South Korea, South Africa, and India have established currency futures exchanges, despite having some capital controls.

Foreign exchange trading increased by 20% between April 2007 and April 2010 and has more than doubled since 2004. [59] The increase in turnover is due to a number of factors: the growing importance of foreign exchange as an asset class, the increased trading activity of high-frequency traders, and the emergence of retail investors as an important market segment. The growth of electronic execution and the diverse selection of execution venues has lowered transaction costs, increased market liquidity, and attracted greater participation from many customer types. In particular, electronic trading via online portals has made it easier for retail traders to trade in the foreign exchange market. By 2010, retail trading was estimated to account for up to 10% of spot turnover, or $150 billion per day (see below: Retail foreign exchange traders).

Market participants

Top 10 currency traders [60]
% of overall volume, May 2016
RankNameMarket share
1 Flag of the United States.svg Citi 12.9 %
2 Flag of the United States.svg JP Morgan 8.8%
3 Flag of Switzerland.svg UBS 8.8%
4 Flag of Germany.svg Deutsche Bank 7.9%
5 Flag of the United States.svg Bank of America Merrill Lynch 6.4%
6 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Barclays 5.7%
7 Flag of the United States.svg Goldman Sachs 4.7%
8 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg HSBC 4.6%
9 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg XTX Markets 3.9%
10 Flag of the United States.svg Morgan Stanley 3.2%

Unlike a stock market, the foreign exchange market is divided into levels of access. At the top is the interbank foreign exchange market, which is made up of the largest commercial banks and securities dealers. Within the interbank market, spreads, which are the difference between the bid and ask prices, are razor sharp and not known to players outside the inner circle. The difference between the bid and ask prices widens (for example from 0 to 1 pip to 1–2 pips for currencies such as the EUR) as you go down the levels of access. This is due to volume. If a trader can guarantee large numbers of transactions for large amounts, they can demand a smaller difference between the bid and ask price, which is referred to as a better spread. The levels of access that make up the foreign exchange market are determined by the size of the "line" (the amount of money with which they are trading). The top-tier interbank market accounts for 51% of all transactions. [61] From there, smaller banks, followed by large multi-national corporations (which need to hedge risk and pay employees in different countries), large hedge funds, and even some of the retail market makers. According to Galati and Melvin, “Pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, and other institutional investors have played an increasingly important role in financial markets in general, and in FX markets in particular, since the early 2000s.” (2004) In addition, he notes, “Hedge funds have grown markedly over the 2001–2004 period in terms of both number and overall size”. [62] Central banks also participate in the foreign exchange market to align currencies to their economic needs.

Commercial companies

An important part of the foreign exchange market comes from the financial activities of companies seeking foreign exchange to pay for goods or services. Commercial companies often trade fairly small amounts compared to those of banks or speculators, and their trades often have a little short-term impact on market rates. Nevertheless, trade flows are an important factor in the long-term direction of a currency's exchange rate. Some multinational corporations (MNCs) can have an unpredictable impact when very large positions are covered due to exposures that are not widely known by other market participants.

Central banks

National central banks play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They try to control the money supply, inflation, and/or interest rates and often have official or unofficial target rates for their currencies. They can use their often substantial foreign exchange reserves to stabilize the market. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of central bank "stabilizing speculation" is doubtful because central banks do not go bankrupt if they make large losses as other traders would. There is also no convincing evidence that they actually make a profit from trading.

Foreign exchange fixing

Foreign exchange fixing is the daily monetary exchange rate fixed by the national bank of each country. The idea is that central banks use the fixing time and exchange rate to evaluate the behavior of their currency. Fixing exchange rates reflect the real value of equilibrium in the market. Banks, dealers, and traders use fixing rates as a market trend indicator.

The mere expectation or rumor of a central bank foreign exchange intervention might be enough to stabilize the currency. However, aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime. Central banks do not always achieve their objectives. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. [63] Several scenarios of this nature were seen in the 1992–93 European Exchange Rate Mechanism collapse, and in more recent times in Asia.

Investment management firms

Investment management firms (who typically manage large accounts on behalf of customers such as pension funds and endowments) use the foreign exchange market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager bearing an international equity portfolio needs to purchase and sell several pairs of foreign currencies to pay for foreign securities purchases.

Some investment management firms also have more speculative specialist currency overlay operations, which manage clients' currency exposures with the aim of generating profits as well as limiting risk. While the number of this type of specialist firms is quite small, many have a large value of assets under management and can, therefore, generate large trades.

Retail foreign exchange traders

Individual retail speculative traders constitute a growing segment of this market. Currently, they participate indirectly through brokers or banks. Retail brokers, while largely controlled and regulated in the US by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and National Futures Association, have previously been subjected to periodic foreign exchange fraud. [64] [65] To deal with the issue, in 2010 the NFA required its members that deal in the Forex markets to register as such (I.e., Forex CTA instead of a CTA). Those NFA members that would traditionally be subject to minimum net capital requirements, FCMs and IBs, are subject to greater minimum net capital requirements if they deal in Forex. A number of the foreign exchange brokers operate from the UK under Financial Services Authority regulations where foreign exchange trading using margin is part of the wider over-the-counter derivatives trading industry that includes contracts for difference and financial spread betting.

There are two main types of retail FX brokers offering the opportunity for speculative currency trading: brokers and dealers or market makers. Brokers serve as an agent of the customer in the broader FX market, by seeking the best price in the market for a retail order and dealing on behalf of the retail customer. They charge a commission or "mark-up" in addition to the price obtained in the market. Dealers or market makers, by contrast, typically act as principals in the transaction versus the retail customer, and quote a price they are willing to deal at.

Non-bank foreign exchange companies

Non-bank foreign exchange companies offer currency exchange and international payments to private individuals and companies. These are also known as "foreign exchange brokers" but are distinct in that they do not offer speculative trading but rather currency exchange with payments (i.e., there is usually a physical delivery of currency to a bank account).

It is estimated that in the UK, 14% of currency transfers/payments are made via Foreign Exchange Companies. [66] These companies' selling point is usually that they will offer better exchange rates or cheaper payments than the customer's bank. [67] These companies differ from Money Transfer/Remittance Companies in that they generally offer higher-value services. The volume of transactions done through Foreign Exchange Companies in India amounts to about US$2 billion [68] per day This does not compete favorably with any well developed foreign exchange market of international repute, but with the entry of online Foreign Exchange Companies the market is steadily growing. Around 25% of currency transfers/payments in India are made via non-bank Foreign Exchange Companies. [69] Most of these companies use the USP of better exchange rates than the banks. They are regulated by FEDAI and any transaction in foreign Exchange is governed by the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA).

Money transfer/remittance companies and bureaux de change

Money transfer companies/remittance companies perform high-volume low-value transfers generally by economic migrants back to their home country. In 2007, the Aite Group estimated that there were $369 billion of remittances (an increase of 8% on the previous year). The four largest foreign markets (India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines) receive $95 billion. The largest and best-known provider is Western Union with 345,000 agents globally, followed by UAE Exchange.[ citation needed ] Bureaux de change or currency transfer companies provide low-value foreign exchange services for travelers. These are typically located at airports and stations or at tourist locations and allow physical notes to be exchanged from one currency to another. They access foreign exchange markets via banks or non-bank foreign exchange companies.

Trading characteristics

Most traded currencies by value
Currency distribution of global foreign exchange market turnover [70]
RankCurrency ISO 4217 code
(symbol)
% of daily trades
(bought or sold)
(April 2019)
1
Flag of the United States.svgUnited States dollar
USD (US$)
88.3%
2
Flag of Europe.svgEuro
EUR (€)
32.3%
3
Flag of Japan.svgJapanese yen
JPY (¥)
16.8%
4
Flag of the United Kingdom.svgPound sterling
GBP (£)
12.8%
5
Flag of Australia (converted).svgAustralian dollar
AUD (A$)
6.8%
6
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svgCanadian dollar
CAD (C$)
5.0%
7
Flag of Switzerland.svgSwiss franc
CHF (CHF)
5.0%
8
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svgRenminbi
CNY (元)
4.3%
9
Flag of Hong Kong.svgHong Kong dollar
HKD (HK$)
3.5%
10
Flag of New Zealand.svgNew Zealand dollar
NZD (NZ$)
2.1%
11
Flag of Sweden.svgSwedish krona
SEK (kr)
2.0%
12
Flag of South Korea.svg South Korean won
KRW (₩)
2.0%
13
Flag of Singapore.svgSingapore dollar
SGD (S$)
1.8%
14
Flag of Norway.svg Norwegian krone
NOK (kr)
1.8%
15
Flag of Mexico.svgMexican peso
MXN ($)
1.7%
16
Flag of India.svg Indian rupee
INR (₹)
1.7%
17
Flag of Russia.svgRussian ruble
RUB (₽)
1.1%
18
Flag of South Africa.svg South African rand
ZAR (R)
1.1%
19
Flag of Turkey.svgTurkish lira
TRY (₺)
1.1%
20
Flag of Brazil.svg Brazilian real
BRL (R$)
1.1%
21
Flag of the Republic of China.svg New Taiwan dollar
TWD (NT$)
0.9%
22
Flag of Denmark.svg Danish krone
DKK (kr)
0.6%
23
Flag of Poland.svg Polish zloty
PLN (zł)
0.6%
24
Flag of Thailand.svg Thai baht
THB (฿)
0.5%
25
Flag of Indonesia.svg Indonesian rupiah
IDR (Rp)
0.4%
26
Flag of Hungary.svg Hungarian forint
HUF (Ft)
0.4%
27
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czech koruna
CZK (Kč)
0.4%
28
Flag of Israel.svg Israeli new shekel
ILS (₪)
0.3%
29
Flag of Chile.svg Chilean peso
CLP (CLP$)
0.3%
30
Flag of the Philippines.svg Philippine peso
PHP (₱)
0.3%
31
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg UAE dirham
AED (د.إ)
0.2%
32
Flag of Colombia.svg Colombian peso
COP (COL$)
0.2%
33
Flag of Saudi Arabia.svg Saudi riyal
SAR (﷼)
0.2%
34
Flag of Malaysia.svg Malaysian ringgit
MYR (RM)
0.1%
35
Flag of Romania.svg Romanian leu
RON (L)
0.1%
Other2.2%
Total [71] 200.0%

There is no unified or centrally cleared market for the majority of trades, and there is very little cross-border regulation. Due to the over-the-counter (OTC) nature of currency markets, there are rather a number of interconnected marketplaces, where different currencies instruments are traded. This implies that there is not a single exchange rate but rather a number of different rates (prices), depending on what bank or market maker is trading, and where it is. In practice, the rates are quite close due to arbitrage. Due to London's dominance in the market, a particular currency's quoted price is usually the London market price. Major trading exchanges include Electronic Broking Services (EBS) and Thomson Reuters Dealing, while major banks also offer trading systems. A joint venture of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Reuters, called Fxmarketspace opened in 2007 and aspired but failed to the role of a central market clearing mechanism.[ citation needed ]

The main trading centers are London and New York City, though Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore are all important centers as well. Banks throughout the world participate. Currency trading happens continuously throughout the day; as the Asian trading session ends, the European session begins, followed by the North American session and then back to the Asian session.

Fluctuations in exchange rates are usually caused by actual monetary flows as well as by expectations of changes in monetary flows. These are caused by changes in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, inflation (purchasing power parity theory), interest rates (interest rate parity, Domestic Fisher effect, International Fisher effect), budget and trade deficits or surpluses, large cross-border M&A deals and other macroeconomic conditions. Major news is released publicly, often on scheduled dates, so many people have access to the same news at the same time. However, large banks have an important advantage; they can see their customers' order flow.

Currencies are traded against one another in pairs. Each currency pair thus constitutes an individual trading product and is traditionally noted XXXYYY or XXX/YYY, where XXX and YYY are the ISO 4217 international three-letter code of the currencies involved. The first currency (XXX) is the base currency that is quoted relative to the second currency (YYY), called the counter currency (or quote currency). For instance, the quotation EURUSD (EUR/USD) 1.5465 is the price of the Euro expressed in US dollars, meaning 1 euro = 1.5465 dollars. The market convention is to quote most exchange rates against the USD with the US dollar as the base currency (e.g. USDJPY, USDCAD, USDCHF). The exceptions are the British pound (GBP), Australian dollar (AUD), the New Zealand dollar (NZD) and the euro (EUR) where the USD is the counter currency (e.g. GBPUSD, AUDUSD, NZDUSD, EURUSD).

The factors affecting XXX will affect both XXXYYY and XXXZZZ. This causes a positive currency correlation between XXXYYY and XXXZZZ.

On the spot market, according to the 2019 Triennial Survey, the most heavily traded bilateral currency pairs were:

The U.S. currency was involved in 88.3% of transactions, followed by the euro (32.3%), the yen (16.8%), and sterling (12.8%) (see table). Volume percentages for all individual currencies should add up to 200%, as each transaction involves two currencies.

Trading in the euro has grown considerably since the currency's creation in January 1999, and how long the foreign exchange market will remain dollar-centered is open to debate. Until recently, trading the euro versus a non-European currency ZZZ would have usually involved two trades: EURUSD and USDZZZ. The exception to this is EURJPY, which is an established traded currency pair in the interbank spot market.

Determinants of exchange rates

In a fixed exchange rate regime, exchange rates are decided by the government, while a number of theories have been proposed to explain (and predict) the fluctuations in exchange rates in a floating exchange rate regime, including:

None of the models developed so far succeed to explain exchange rates and volatility in the longer time frames. For shorter time frames (less than a few days), algorithms can be devised to predict prices. It is understood from the above models that many macroeconomic factors affect the exchange rates and in the end currency prices are a result of dual forces of supply and demand. The world's currency markets can be viewed as a huge melting pot: in a large and ever-changing mix of current events, supply and demand factors are constantly shifting, and the price of one currency in relation to another shifts accordingly. No other market encompasses (and distills) as much of what is going on in the world at any given time as foreign exchange. [72]

Supply and demand for any given currency, and thus its value, are not influenced by any single element, but rather by several. These elements generally fall into three categories: economic factors, political conditions and market psychology.

Economic factors

Economic factors include: (a) economic policy, disseminated by government agencies and central banks, (b) economic conditions, generally revealed through economic reports, and other economic indicators.

Political conditions

Internal, regional, and international political conditions and events can have a profound effect on currency markets.

All exchange rates are susceptible to political instability and anticipations about the new ruling party. Political upheaval and instability can have a negative impact on a nation's economy. For example, destabilization of coalition governments in Pakistan and Thailand can negatively affect the value of their currencies. Similarly, in a country experiencing financial difficulties, the rise of a political faction that is perceived to be fiscally responsible can have the opposite effect. Also, events in one country in a region may spur positive/negative interest in a neighboring country and, in the process, affect its currency.

Market psychology

Market psychology and trader perceptions influence the foreign exchange market in a variety of ways:

Financial instruments

Spot

A spot transaction is a two-day delivery transaction (except in the case of trades between the US dollar, Canadian dollar, Turkish lira, euro and Russian ruble, which settle the next business day), as opposed to the futures contracts, which are usually three months. This trade represents a “direct exchange” between two currencies, has the shortest time frame, involves cash rather than a contract, and interest is not included in the agreed-upon transaction. Spot trading is one of the most common types of forex trading. Often, a forex broker will charge a small fee to the client to roll-over the expiring transaction into a new identical transaction for a continuation of the trade. This roll-over fee is known as the "swap" fee.

Forward

One way to deal with the foreign exchange risk is to engage in a forward transaction. In this transaction, money does not actually change hands until some agreed upon future date. A buyer and seller agree on an exchange rate for any date in the future, and the transaction occurs on that date, regardless of what the market rates are then. The duration of the trade can be one day, a few days, months or years. Usually the date is decided by both parties. Then the forward contract is negotiated and agreed upon by both parties.

Non-deliverable forward (NDF)

Forex banks, ECNs, and prime brokers offer NDF contracts, which are derivatives that have no real deliver-ability. NDFs are popular for currencies with restrictions such as the Argentinian peso. In fact, a forex hedger can only hedge such risks with NDFs, as currencies such as the Argentinian peso cannot be traded on open markets like major currencies. [78]

Swap

The most common type of forward transaction is the foreign exchange swap. In a swap, two parties exchange currencies for a certain length of time and agree to reverse the transaction at a later date. These are not standardized contracts and are not traded through an exchange. A deposit is often required in order to hold the position open until the transaction is completed.

Futures

Futures are standardized forward contracts and are usually traded on an exchange created for this purpose. The average contract length is roughly 3 months. Futures contracts are usually inclusive of any interest amounts.

Currency futures contracts are contracts specifying a standard volume of a particular currency to be exchanged on a specific settlement date. Thus the currency futures contracts are similar to forward contracts in terms of their obligation, but differ from forward contracts in the way they are traded. In addition, Futures are daily settled removing credit risk that exist in Forwards. [79] They are commonly used by MNCs to hedge their currency positions. In addition they are traded by speculators who hope to capitalize on their expectations of exchange rate movements.

Option

A foreign exchange option (commonly shortened to just FX option) is a derivative where the owner has the right but not the obligation to exchange money denominated in one currency into another currency at a pre-agreed exchange rate on a specified date. The FX options market is the deepest, largest and most liquid market for options of any kind in the world.

Speculation

Controversy about currency speculators and their effect on currency devaluations and national economies recurs regularly. Economists, such as Milton Friedman, have argued that speculators ultimately are a stabilizing influence on the market, and that stabilizing speculation performs the important function of providing a market for hedgers and transferring risk from those people who don't wish to bear it, to those who do. [80] Other economists, such as Joseph Stiglitz, consider this argument to be based more on politics and a free market philosophy than on economics. [81]

Large hedge funds and other well capitalized "position traders" are the main professional speculators. According to some economists, individual traders could act as "noise traders" and have a more destabilizing role than larger and better informed actors. [82]

Currency speculation is considered a highly suspect activity in many countries. [ where? ] While investment in traditional financial instruments like bonds or stocks often is considered to contribute positively to economic growth by providing capital, currency speculation does not; according to this view, it is simply gambling that often interferes with economic policy. For example, in 1992, currency speculation forced Sweden's central bank, the Riksbank, to raise interest rates for a few days to 500% per annum, and later to devalue the krona. [83] Mahathir Mohamad, one of the former Prime Ministers of Malaysia, is one well-known proponent of this view. He blamed the devaluation of the Malaysian ringgit in 1997 on George Soros and other speculators.

Gregory Millman reports on an opposing view, comparing speculators to "vigilantes" who simply help "enforce" international agreements and anticipate the effects of basic economic "laws" in order to profit. [84]

In this view, countries may develop unsustainable economic bubbles or otherwise mishandle their national economies, and foreign exchange speculators made the inevitable collapse happen sooner. A relatively quick collapse might even be preferable to continued economic mishandling, followed by an eventual, larger, collapse. Mahathir Mohamad and other critics of speculation are viewed as trying to deflect the blame from themselves for having caused the unsustainable economic conditions.

Risk aversion

The MSCI World Index of Equities fell while the US dollar index rose Equities usd.JPG
The MSCI World Index of Equities fell while the US dollar index rose

Risk aversion is a kind of trading behavior exhibited by the foreign exchange market when a potentially adverse event happens which may affect market conditions. This behavior is caused when risk averse traders liquidate their positions in risky assets and shift the funds to less risky assets due to uncertainty. [85]

In the context of the foreign exchange market, traders liquidate their positions in various currencies to take up positions in safe-haven currencies, such as the US dollar. [86] Sometimes, the choice of a safe haven currency is more of a choice based on prevailing sentiments rather than one of economic statistics. An example would be the financial crisis of 2008. The value of equities across the world fell while the US dollar strengthened (see Fig.1). This happened despite the strong focus of the crisis in the US. [87]

Carry trade

Currency carry trade refers to the act of borrowing one currency that has a low interest rate in order to purchase another with a higher interest rate. A large difference in rates can be highly profitable for the trader, especially if high leverage is used. However, with all levered investments this is a double edged sword, and large exchange rate price fluctuations can suddenly swing trades into huge losses.

See also

Related Research Articles

A Tobin tax was originally defined as a tax on all spot conversions of one currency into another. It was suggested by James Tobin, an economist who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Tobin's tax was originally intended to penalize short-term financial round-trip excursions into another currency. By the late 1990s, however, the term Tobin tax was being incorrectly used to apply to all forms of short term transaction taxation, whether across currencies or not. Another term for these broader tax schemes is Robin Hood tax, due to tax revenues from the speculator funding general revenue. More exact terms, however, apply to different scopes of tax.

Derivatives market

The derivatives market is the financial market for derivatives, financial instruments like futures contracts or options, which are derived from other forms of assets.

A foreign exchange spot transaction, also known as FX spot, is an agreement between two parties to buy one currency against selling another currency at an agreed price for settlement on the spot date. The exchange rate at which the transaction is done is called the spot exchange rate. As of 2010, the average daily turnover of global FX spot transactions reached nearly 1.5 trillion USD, counting 37.4% of all foreign exchange transactions. FX spot transactions increased by 38% to 2.0 trillion USD from April 2010 to April 2013.

A currency future, also known as an FX future or a foreign exchange future, is a futures contract to exchange one currency for another at a specified date in the future at a price that is fixed on the purchase date; see Foreign exchange derivative. Typically, one of the currencies is the US dollar. The price of a future is then in terms of US dollars per unit of other currency. This can be different from the standard way of quoting in the spot foreign exchange markets. The trade unit of each contract is then a certain amount of other currency, for instance €125,000. Most contracts have physical delivery, so for those held at the end of the last trading day, actual payments are made in each currency. However, most contracts are closed out before that. Investors can close out the contract at any time prior to the contract's delivery date.

Foreign exchange reserves are cash and other reserve assets held by a central bank or other monetary authority that are primarily available to balance payments of the country, influence the foreign exchange rate of its currency, and to maintain confidence in financial markets. Reserves are held in one or more reserve currencies, nowadays mostly the United States dollar and to a lesser extent the euro.

Triangular arbitrage is the act of exploiting an arbitrage opportunity resulting from a pricing discrepancy among three different currencies in the foreign exchange market. A triangular arbitrage strategy involves three trades, exchanging the initial currency for a second, the second currency for a third, and the third currency for the initial. During the second trade, the arbitrageur locks in a zero-risk profit from the discrepancy that exists when the market cross exchange rate is not aligned with the implicit cross exchange rate. A profitable trade is only possible if there exist market imperfections. Profitable triangular arbitrage is very rarely possible because when such opportunities arise, traders execute trades that take advantage of the imperfections and prices adjust up or down until the opportunity disappears.

A currency pair is the quotation of the relative value of a currency unit against the unit of another currency in the foreign exchange market. The currency that is used as the reference is called the counter currency, quote currency or currency and the currency that is quoted in relation is called the base currency or transaction currency.

Foreign exchange fraud is any trading scheme used to defraud traders by convincing them that they can expect to gain a high profit by trading in the foreign exchange market. Currency trading became a common form of fraud in early 2008, according to Michael Dunn of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange Stock exchanges located in Moscow, Russian Federation

The Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange or MICEX was one of the largest universal stock exchanges in the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe. MICEX opened in 1992 and was the leading Russian stock exchange. About 239 Russian companies were listed, with a market capitalization of US$950 billion as of December 2010.

Currency intervention monetary policy operation

Currency intervention, also known as foreign exchange market intervention or currency manipulation, is a monetary policy operation. It occurs when a government or central bank buys or sells foreign currency in exchange for their own domestic currency, generally with the intention of influencing the exchange rate and trade policy.

Retail foreign exchange trading is a small segment of the larger foreign exchange market where individuals speculate on the exchange rate between different currencies. This segment has developed with the advent of dedicated electronic trading platforms and the internet, which allows individuals to access the global currency markets. In 2016, it was reported that retail foreign exchange trading represented 5.5% of the whole foreign exchange market.

A fixed exchange rate, sometimes called a pegged exchange rate, is a type of exchange rate regime in which a currency's value is fixed or pegged by a monetary authority against the value of another currency, a basket of other currencies, or another measure of value, such as gold.

A foreign exchange derivative is a financial derivative whose payoff depends on the foreign exchange rate(s) of two currencies. These instruments are commonly used for currency speculation and arbitrage or for hedging foreign exchange risk.

Matchbook FX

Matchbook FX was an internet-based electronic communication network for trading currency online in the Spot-FX or Foreign exchange market. It operated between 1999 and 2002.

A currency transaction tax is a tax placed on the use of currency for various types of transactions. The tax is associated with the financial sector and is a type of financial transaction tax, as opposed to a consumption tax paid by consumers, though the tax may be passed on by the financial institution to the customer.

A non-bank foreign exchange company also known as foreign exchange broker or simply forex broker is a company that offers currency exchange and international payments to private individuals and companies. The term is typically used for currency exchange companies that offer physical delivery rather than speculative trading. i.e., there is a physical delivery of currency to a bank account.

The forex scandal is a financial scandal that involves the revelation, and subsequent investigation, that banks colluded for at least a decade to manipulate exchange rates for their own financial gain. Market regulators in Asia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States began to investigate the $4.7 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market (forex) after Bloomberg News reported in June 2013 that currency dealers said they had been front-running client orders and rigging the foreign exchange benchmark WM/Reuters rates by colluding with counterparts and pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmark rates are set. The behavior occurred daily in the spot foreign-exchange market and went on for at least a decade according to currency traders.

India has large foreign-exchange reserves; holdings of cash, bank deposits, bonds, and other financial assets denominated in currencies other than India's national currency, the Indian rupee. The reserves are managed by the Reserve Bank of India for the Indian government and the main component is foreign currency assets.

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