Foreign exchange market

The foreign exchange (currency or FX) market is where currency trading takes place. FX transactions typically involve one party purchasing a quantity of one currency in exchange for paying a quantity of another. The foreign exchange market that we see today started evolving during the 1970s when world over countries gradually switched to floating exchange rate from their erstwhile exchange rate regime, which remained fixed as per the Bretton Woods system till 1971.
Today, the FX market is one of the largest and most liquid financial markets in the world, and includes trading between large banks, central banks, currency speculators, corporations, governments, and other institutions. The average daily volume in the global foreign exchange and related markets is continuously growing. Traditional daily turnover was reported to be over US$3.2 trillion in April 2007 by the Bank for International Settlements. Since then, the market has continued to grow. According to Euro money’s annual FX Poll, volumes grew a further 41% between 2007 and 2008. The purpose of FX market is to facilitate trade and investment. The need for a foreign exchange market arises because of the presence of multifarious international currencies such as US Dollar, Pound Sterling, etc., and the need for trading in such currencies.
The foreign exchange market is unique because of
1. its trading volumes,
2. the extreme liquidity of the market,
3. its geographical dispersion,
4. its long trading hours: 24 hours a day except on weekends
5. the variety of factors that affect exchange rates.
6. the low margins of profit compared with other markets of fixed income
7. the use of leverage

Top 10 currency traders
% of overall volume, May 2008

Rank Name Volume
1 Deutsche Bank 21.70%
2 UBS AG 15.80%
3 Barclays Capital 9.12%
4 Citi 7.49%
5 Royal Bank of Scotland 7.30%
6 JPMorgan 4.19%
7 HSBC 4.10%
8 Lehman Brothers 3.58%
9 Goldman Sachs 3.47%
10 Morgan Stanley 2.86%

Foreign exchange trading increased by 38% between April 2005 and April 2006 and has more than doubled since 2001. This is largely due to the growing importance of foreign exchange as an asset class and an increase in fund management assets, particularly of hedge funds and pension funds. The diverse selection of execution venues such as retail trading platforms platforms offered by companies such as ParagonEX, First Prudential Markets and Saxo Bank have made it easier for retail traders to trade in the foreign exchange market. The biggest geographic trading centre is the UK, primarily London, which according to IFSL estimates has increased its share of global turnover in traditional transactions from 31.3% in April 2004 to 34.1% in April 2007. The ten most active traders account for almost 80% of trading volume, according to the 2008 Euro money FX survey. These large international banks continually provide the market with both bid (buy) and ask (sell) prices. The bid/ask spread is the difference between the price at which a bank or market maker will sell ("ask", or "offer") and the price at which a market-maker will buy ("bid") from a wholesale customer. This spread is minimal for actively traded pairs of currencies, usually 0–3 pips. For example, the bid/ask quote of EUR/USD might be 1.2200/1.2203 on a retail broker. Minimum trading size for most deals is usually 100,000 units of base currency, which is a standard "lot".
Source:wikipedia

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