by: Rich McIver
For those unfamiliar with the term, FOREX (FOReign EXchange market), refers to an international exchange market where currencies are bought and sold. The Foreign Exchange market that we see today began in the 1970's, when free exchange rates and floating currencies were introduced. In such an environment only participants in the market determine the price of one currency against another, based upon supply and demand for that currency.
FOREX is a somewhat unique market for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is one of the few markets in which it can be said with very few qualifications that it is free of external controls and that it cannot be manipulated. It is also the largest liquid financial market, with trade reaching between 1 and 1.5 trillion US dollars a day. With this much money moving this fast, it is clear why a single investor would find it near impossible to significantly affect the price of a major currency. Furthermore, the liquidity of the market means that unlike some rarely traded stock, traders are able to open and close positions within a few seconds as there are always willing buyers and sellers.
Another somewhat unique characteristic of the FOREX money market is the variance of its participants. Investors find a number of reasons for entering the market, some as longer term hedge investors, while others utilize massive credit lines to seek large short term gains. Interestingly, unlike blue-chip stocks, which are usually most attractive only to the long term investor, the combination of rather constant but small daily fluctuations in currency prices, create an environment which attracts investors with a broad range of strategies.