Forex (also known as FX, foreign exchange) is the market where one currency is being exchanged for another one. The Forex market as a whole is not regulated by any particular entity or government body. Unlike stocks and futures, it is not conducted through a stock exchange. Instead, foreign exchange transactions are taking place on the open market (also known as over-the-counter market, OTC) because any two parties exchanging one currency into another, from local money exchanger to a large bank, are the participants of the FX market.
The volume of transactions taking place on the foreign exchange market is mind-blowing. Some estimates, based on the earlier surveys made by the Bank for International Settlements, mention an average daily figure of around US$3 trillion per day! (in early 2007).
The daily combined turnover of all major world stock exchanges is only around US$200 billion.
Because FX transactions do not need to be registered or reported to any particular exchange, there are many possibilities for its participants. A person willing to invest into FX has many options to choose from and can use different trading methods. Using a market maker allows you to choose the best conditions for trading, use the quotes available and enter large transactions with a minimal initial outlay. Usually you are able to buy/sell currency contracts equal to $100,000 with only $1000 used as a margin, another words use the 1:100 leverage. The size and volatility of the market provides excellent opportunities for making profits, however one should always remember about the risk factor when entering the foreign exchange market.
There are 5 major currencies: USD, EUR, GBP, CHF, JPY. In the currency pair the fixed unit of currency on the left is usually called “base” and the variable currency unit on the right is called “terms” or “quoted” currency. In the pair EUR/USD, EUR is the base currency and USD is the terms one.