Buying and selling foreign exchange (forex) is a fascinating topic. It includes knowing what to buy and sell and when to buy and sell it. Finally, knowing how much buying and selling there is in the forex market helps to put everything in perspective.
Trading can be done in nearly all currencies. However, a few currencies known as the majors are used in most trades. These currencies include the U.S. dollar, the euro, the British pound, the Japanese yen, the Swiss franc, the Canadian dollar, and the Australian dollar. All currencies are quoted in currency pairs. When a trade is made in forex, it has two sides—someone is buying one currency in the pair, while another individual is selling the other.
It should also be noted that not all pairs are available at most forex brokers, but many currencies trade against the U.S. dollar. For example, investors can trade the U.S. dollar with the Mexican peso or the Thai baht. However, direct trades between the peso and the baht are far less common. An exotic currency, such as the Thai baht, typically only trades against the U.S. dollar at most forex brokers.
It is always possible to take either side of a trade in the forex market. Living in the United States and beginning with U.S. dollars does not limit a trader to betting against the dollar with other currencies.
Much like short selling stocks, an investor can borrow foreign currency and use the money to buy U.S. dollars. If the foreign currency declines, the U.S. trader can pay back the loan with fewer U.S. dollars and make a profit. That sounds complex, but actually trading a currency pair works similarly to buying and selling any other investment.
It is also possible to borrow in one foreign currency and buy another foreign currency. For example, a U.S. trader can borrow Japanese yen and use the funds to buy Australian dollars.
Traders look to make a profit by betting that a currency’s value will either appreciate or depreciate against another currency. For example, assume that you purchase U.S. dollars and sell euros. In this case, you are betting that the value of the dollar will increase against the euro. If your bet is correct and the value of the dollar increases, you will make a profit.
Trading forex is all about making money on winning bets and cutting losses when the market goes the other way. Profits (and losses) can be increased by using leverage in the forex market.