Forex Trading: Great Opportunity or Scam?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A lot of interest has been generated recently in FOREX trading, hailed by some as the great new investment opportunity. There are even companies running TV infomercials, offering sure fire systems that will bring massive profits in an easy fashion.

So what is forex? Is it something new? The exchange of currencies is said by some to be the world's second oldest profession and as long as there have been two sovereign states that have issued their own currencies, there has been foreign exchange as a facilitator for trade.

Forex, as foreign exchange has been abbreviated to, has been conducted for centuries and has become a global market with a daily turnover according to a recent Bank for International Settlements survey of $1.9 trillion (billion, billion) per day. Essentially it is a global market place with no physical exchange building where all claims on foreign currencies are settled - between governments, corporations, investors and speculators among others. Banks have traditionally been the middlemen who provide the liquidity to this gigantic market, which incidentally is traded on an almost continuous 24-hour basis.

Then came the Internet and suddenly it became possible for everyone to get a piece of the speculative action. Brokers sprouted up with their electronic trading platforms and high 'leverage'. Essentially the brokers lend clients funds to speculate with, 100:1 or in some cases up to 400:1 ratio, or leverage. This means that $10,000 can 'control' up to $4,000,000 in the market. This is far higher than is possible in the stock market.

Many people have been attracted to the possibilities of earning fast profits from forex. There are often sharp movements that can turn your $10,000 to $20,000 in a matter of minutes. You can also get wiped out, but the lure of a fast buck has turned would-be speculators into out-and-out gamblers.
The Internet has also made it possible for the individual to obtain so-called 'charts', that allow them to do 'technical analysis' on their own PCs. The theory is that price movement patterns repeat themselves, so if you have a system of analysis, you can predict a future move in the market.

This may well be the case, but it does not address the problems of the psychology of trading - the fear and greed that drives many to irrational behaviour. People are often taken in by the seller of a system, often paying $5,000 for a piece of software that shows a green light to buy and a red light to sell. However, they don't tell you how to manage your money.

So speculators lose. It has been estimated that 90% of new investors in forex lose their capital in the first year - an appalling figure. What can one do to avoid being a victim? Well, forex is a business like any other business and planning is required. It is also a profession and as such, adequate training is necessary so that you understand fully what forex trading is all about.

Many are prepared to invest thousands in forex trading without really knowing what it is all about. Just think if franchises were offered in a major hamburger chain without the franchisees having a clue how to run a restaurant or even make the burgers. The failure rate would also probably be 90%!
As with all investing, it is all a matter of risk and reward. Investing in Government securities is considered low risk, therefore they carry the lowest return. Increase the risk (the probability of loss on the investment), the higher an investor is rewarded in terms of return. An individual trading forex decides his own level of risk, which should dictate the level of reward. However, in the hands of an inexperienced trader, the two factors are impossible to reconcile, meaning in stark terms that traders cannot control the risk or the reward levels.

People attracted to forex trading often have an unrealistic expectation of what can be earned. To start with an investment of $5,000 and expect to be making $100,000 a year after the first year is unrealistic. It is not impossible; then again, neither is winning the lottery.
If the parameters for trading are laid down and adhered to combined with knowledge of forex trading, success is possible. It does not take much in the way of 'enhanced' returns to be able to double an investment. 26% per annum is required to double your investment within 3 years.

Who is going to teach you? There are some very good courses available, but these will only give you the theory, in itself very important. The ideal way is to have a mentor, or guide to show you the way.
Getting mentored is a wise move because it makes it possible to draw on the experience of a veteran expert and avoid making the common mistakes that cause the unwary to suffer catastrophic losses. After a while under guidance, a forex trader will gain the experience

The bottom line is that forex is not in itself a scam. There are for sure scam artists who prey on individuals' greed as there are in any other business. If it is approached in a sensible and realistic manner and the trader is prepared to work hard, forex can provide a good living both financially and materially.

Benefits of Forex Trading

Friday, March 6, 2009

There are many benefits and advantages to trading Forex. Here are just a few
reasons why so many people are choosing this market as a business

1. LEVERAGE: In Forex trading, a small margin deposit can control a much
larger total contract value. Leverage gives the trader the ability to make
extraordinary profits and at the same time keep risk capital to a minimum. Some
Forex firms offer 200 to 1 leverage, which means that a $50 dollar margin
deposit would enable a trader to buy or sell $10,000 worth of currencies.
Similarly, with $500 dollars, one could trade with $100,000 dollars and so on.

2. LIQUIDITY: Because the Forex Market is so large, it is also extremely liquid.
This means that with a click of a mouse you can instantaneously buy and sell at
will. You are never 'stuck' in a trade. You can even set the online trading
platform to automatically close your position at your desired profit level (limit
order), and/or close a trade if a trade is going against you (stop order).

markets, you can only make money if shares are rising, but in economic
recession and falling 'bear' markets, there is little chance of making big money.
Forex is different. One of the most exciting advantages of FX trading is the ability
to generate profits whether a currency pair is 'up' or 'down'. A trader can profit
by taking a 'long' position, (buying the currency pair at one price and selling it
later at a higher price), or a 'short' position, (selling the currency pair and buying
it back at a lower price). For example, if you think the US dollar will increase in
value vs. the Japanese Yen then you will buy Dollars and sell Yen (go long). If
you think the Yen will increase in value against the Dollar then you will sell
Dollars and buy yen (go short). As long as the trader picks the right direction, a
potential for profit always exists.

4. 24 HRS: From Sunday evening to Friday Afternoon EST the Forex market
never sleeps. This is very desirable for those who want to trade on a part-time
basis, because you can choose when you want to trade--morning, noon or night.

Forex firms offer free 'Demo' accounts to practice trading, along with breaking
Forex news and charting services. These are very valuable resources for traders
who would like to hone their trading skills with 'virtual' money before opening a
live trading account.

6. 'MINI' TRADING: One might think that getting started as a currency trader
would cost a lot of money. The fact is, it doesn't. Online Forex Firms now offer
'mini' trading accounts with a minimum account deposit of only $200-$500 with
no commission trading. This makes Forex much more accessible to the average
individual, without large, start-up capital.

Getting started in trading with a forex seminar

Monday, March 2, 2009

The world of forex trading can be baffling, especially for someone who’s new to it. While it has similarities to the stock market, there are many differences, too. And what’s even more confusing, some terminology means one thing in the forex world and something else in the stock market. So even veteran stock traders have to learn new vocabulary when they move into the foreign exchange!

Luckily, many companies offer forex seminars to help newcomers understand the complex but lucrative world they’re jumping into. Some seminars are held free of charge (in the hopes you’ll sign on with that broker) and last an hour. Others are more intensive, last longer, and require a registration fee, though obviously the training goes a bit more in depth at those particular seminars.

At a forex seminar you can expect to learn:

- The basics of forex trading -- what it is, how it works, etc.

- The differences between forex and the stock market.

- How to know when to buy and sell currencies.

To find a seminar, search the Internet for forex brokers and browse their pages until you find one offering live seminars. Most major cities host forex seminars fairly regularly, though you may be out of luck if you don’t live near a major city. In some cases, the firms offering seminars aren’t brokerage companies at all, but are simply financial training firms that teach you how to do trading and then leave it to you to find a broker to actually do it.

At a forex seminar you’ll find a variety of people. Some will have had experience in the stock market or took business classes in college. Others will be complete novices interested in diversifying their investments. Still others might not have a lot of income but are looking for a way to use the money they do have more wisely.

One of the latest innovations in forex seminars is to hold them exclusively online. This is much cheaper for the company offering the seminar, obviously, as they don’t need to rent a hotel conference room. It also allows people from all over the world to participate. Hosting online makes the seminar more useful to more people, and since anyone can ask a question, you don’t have to worry about being lost in the crowd.

Whether in person or online, a forex seminar can be an invaluable tool as you start your forex market experience.

Hedging your bets against the future: the forex option

All speculation-based markets are full of uncertainty, and none more so than the forex market. A currency might be strong and vibrant today, weak and sickly a month from now. One way to guard against major fluctuations like that is through forex option trading.

A forex option is when you buy the right -- but not the obligation -- to buy or sell a particular currency at a particular rate any time between now and the expiration date of the option.

Let’s say you’re worried that the Japanese yen is going to drop in value sometime in the next six months. You might buy an option that basically locks in the current exchange rate for whatever period of time the option seller allows, usually anywhere from 30 days to six months. You set a number of yen, too. Say you choose 10,000 yen at a rate of 116 yen per U.S. dollar for three months. The option basically says, “I may want to sell 10,000 yen sometime in the next three months, but I’m worried the yen is going to devalue in that time. So I’ve locked in this rate of USD/JPY 116.”

Then three months pass. If your prediction was correct and the yen has weakened in that time -- say it’s now USD/JPY 122 -- then you exercise your right to sell 10,000 yen at the rate you bought three months earlier. Everyone else selling yen today (everyone who didn’t have a forex option, that is) is selling it at 122 per U.S. dollar, and you get to sell it at 116.

If, on the other hand, the yen has stayed the same or gotten stronger, you are under no obligation to actually sell that 10,000 yen your option talked about. You can simply do nothing, and all you’ve lost is the premium you originally paid for the option.

Ah yes, there is a premium. Brokers who sell forex options charge a fee for the privilege. Think of it as insurance; calling it a “premium” certainly fits. The price of a forex option for 10,000 yen for three months might be $200, which you must pay up front. If the yen drops enough in value, you’ll hopefully turn enough of a profit to make up for the $200 you had to pay. If it increases in value, and you wind up not exercising the option, all you’ve lost is the $200 premium.

Forex option trading used to be done only by major banks and corporations, but now many brokers who cater to individual traders offer the service, too. If you’re a heavy-duty trader, a forex option is definitely something to consider to guard against future setbacks in the currency you hold.

The basics of reading a forex quote

The foreign exchange market can be a baffling place for newcomers, and one of the sources of confusion is the forex quote. A forex quote is a small bit of information, yet it’s packed with numbers that may not make sense to someone unfamiliar with the forex system. Here’s a basic explanation of how it works.

A forex quote consists of a currency pair -- forex deals always involve simultaneously selling one currency and buying another -- a bid price and an ask price. For example, one quote might be this:

USD/JPY 118.71/75

The first currency is the base currency, and the other one is the quote currency. The value of the base currency is always 1 -- in this case, 1 U.S. dollar. The number tells you how many of the quote currency (the Japanese yen, in this case) you can buy with $1.

But what kind of number is 118.71/75? It’s actually forex shorthand for two numbers: 118.71 and 118.75. The lower number is the bid price, the other is the ask price. The bid price is the price that dealers will buy the base currency for. The ask price is what dealers will sell it for.

So if the above were the current quote, it would mean right now, you could SELL U.S. dollars in exchange for 118.71 yen per dollar. Or, if you preferred, you could BUY U.S. dollars at a rate of 118.75 yen per dollar.

The difference between the bid price and the ask price in a forex quote is called the “spread,” and those tiny units are called “pips.” In our example, the spread for USD/JPY was four pips. The spread is usually that small for the most commonly traded currencies, which means anything involving the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, Great British pound, the euro, Swiss franc or Australian dollar. In fact, thanks to the great competition in the forex trading market, some quotes will have spread of as little as one pip.

Of course, for less commonly traded currencies, the spread can be much greater. And even when the quote delivers a small spread, it adds up when you’re trading hundreds of thousands of units. If you were dealing with 100 U.S. dollars, the difference between selling them for 11,871 yen and buying them for 11,875 yen wouldn’t be much at all -- just four yen. But if it were 100,000 U.S. dollars, suddenly that four-pip spread means a 4,000-yen difference. So the spread in a quote is more important than its smallness would suggest.

What a forex rate is and how to read it

Sunday, March 1, 2009

When we talk about the forex rate, we’re talking about the relative value between two currencies -- how many of one the other is worth, in other words. For forex traders, the forex rate is the basic information they use to do their job. The rate is to a forex trader what nails are to a carpenter.

If you plan to get involved in forex trading, reading and understanding the forex rates is absolutely vital to your success, like learning the basics of addition before becoming a mathematician.

A forex rate is always expressed in pairs, followed by a number. The number is how many of the second currency you’d get for one of the first one. For example, you might see USD/EUR: 0.7928. That means that one U.S. dollar is currently worth .7928 euros. If you were to exchange $100, you’d get 79.28 euros for it. Since the number in this rate (0.7928) is less than 1, that means the second currency is currently stronger than the first one -- that is, the euro is stronger than the U.S. dollar.

Forex traders look at rates constantly throughout the day. They carefully examine trends in various currencies’ performance, noting which are going up and which are going down. If a rate suggests, say, that the British pound is starting to increase in value compared to the euro, a trader might swap his euros for pounds. Then, when new rates show the pound has become very strong, he can swap back again, turning a profit because the pound is now worth more than he “paid” for it.

Forex rates are available everywhere on the Internet. Casual observers to the forex trading industry might glance at them for reference on hundreds of different Web sites. Regular traders, though, usually own software that keeps them up to date on rates throughout the day, without having to visit a particular site to get them.

This is important, because rates change constantly, and can be influenced by a wide variety of economic and political factors. The overall change over the course of a day usually isn’t more than a few percentage points either way, but there are minor changes regularly, and those minor changes add up in the long run. Experienced traders watch the rates for those tiny fluctuations, carefully observing whether there is a general upward or downward trend that requires their attention.

When it comes to smart investing, all world news is forex news.

Forex traders know one of the advantages of their field is that the forex market is open 24 hours a day, five and a half days a week. But a 24-hour marketplace means there’s forex news coming in constantly, too. With so much information coming from so many markets literally at all hours of the day, it can be hard to keep up with all the news available to you.

But at the same time, an informed trader is a successful trader. To make informed decisions on when to buy and sell currencies, you’ll have to keep an eye on all the news you can get your hands on. Many Web sites make it relatively easy for you by corralling the forex news into one place, often dividing it into subcategories for easy navigating. Any forex trader, whether new or experienced, should find a news source he likes and check it often.

Many of these forex news sites also offer commentary and analysis, beyond just a simple ticking off of the latest rates. Here you’ll find experts talking about the issues involved and perhaps offering insights beyond what you would have come up with on your own. Some news sites charge a registration fee for access to all their materials, but it can be worth it in the long run.

Aside from running 24 hours a day, another reason there is constantly a stream of forex news is that so many factors can influence a currency’s strength. Natural disasters, government actions and other things -- both foreseeable and not foreseeable -- can cause a nation’s currency to go up or down in relative value. An experienced trader will look at all this news and know how to predict what effect it will have.

Often, forex news isn’t labeled as such. Any economic news at all can affect the forex market; a sharp-eyed trader is on the lookout constantly for news that might impact his trading. In other words, a good trader will have to be an expert on world affairs, monitoring political, social and other developments in other countries. All of this, combined with the more specific forex news dealing with the details of exchange rates and so forth, gives you the information you need to be successful at currency trading.