What Is Forex Trading? (With Advantages and Disadvantages)

Updated June 24, 2022

The foreign exchange market, or forex market, is the market where investors can buy and sell foreign currencies. Trades that occur in the forex market work by buying and selling on the value of foreign currency rather than a physical asset. Because the forex market operates on a global scale, transactions on foreign exchanges can have a far-reaching influence on imported and exported goods and services. In this article, we explore what forex trading is, why it's important on a global scale, when it's beneficial to consider and what the advantages and disadvantages of forex trading are.

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What is forex trading?

Forex trading is the trading of foreign currencies in the foreign exchange markets. Trades in these markets occur over the counter (OTC), where there are no physical commodities or exchanges like there are for stocks and securities. Forex trading is also an essential process that can influence pricing and currency exchange rates on a global scale. Professionals in banking, fund management and finance management for international corporations often use forex trading to anticipate future changes in currency exchange rates.

Related: How To Become a Forex Broker

Why is forex trading important?

Forex trading is integral to many global applications. For instance, forex trading supports cash movement through international transactions, multinational trade deals and foreign investments. The foreign exchange markets also give corporations approaches to earning revenues in foreign countries and converting those revenues into desired currencies. Other reasons forex trading is important to global economies include:

  • Projects future values of exchange rates, foreign currencies and multinational operations

  • Influences currency values through constant capital injections into foreign markets

  • Supports economic growth through foreign trades and increases to economic revenues

Related: 12 Reasons To Work as an Investment Manager (Plus Tips)

When to use forex trading

There are several instances when forex trading can be beneficial, including:

Trading outside of traditional business hours

Forex trading is beneficial to finance professionals who want to facilitate trades at any time of the day. Normally, stock exchanges operate during traditional business hours, where traders buy and sell only within these hours. In contrast, the foreign markets are in operation 24 hours throughout the trading week, and you can trade after hours across many exchanges.

Periods of increased market growth

High economic growth can increase the market values of currency rates. So some professionals consider forex trading beneficial when various markets experience growth, as this can result in higher liquidity of currency assets. When foreign markets experience increased growth, this can also lead to higher volatility that often had higher return potential, even with the inherent risk.

Increases to return expectancy

Return expectancy is an estimation that gives insight into how often transactions result in a return versus how often they result in a loss. When the expectancy is a positive rate, it indicates the potential for higher returns. If the expectancy is a negative value, it can mean a lower return for a potential opportunity. So changes that increase return expectancy can be beneficial times when it's beneficial to consider forex trading.

Related: What Is Return on Capital Employed? (With Examples)

4 methods for effective forex trading

Consider the following approaches for trading in forex markets effectively:

1. Establish trading objectives

Investors trading in forex markets set goals that outline the purpose and performance indicators of investment plans. Financial goals are necessary to develop a trading style that helps investors achieve expected returns. Establishing objectives also gives direction in strategy development for maximizing transactions within foreign exchange markets.

2. Evaluate trading strategies

Trading in foreign exchange markets effectively also depends on strategies that investors use to find, purchase and sell suitable currencies. For instance, an investor may consider strategies that maximize their trades within highly liquidate markets. Investors also evaluate strategies that lead to higher gains when trading on forex volatility. Strategies like position trading and futures trading are also beneficial to consider for forex trading, as they offer more approaches to optimizing foreign exchange instruments. Many traders also test the effectiveness of their strategies using online simulators that allow them to adjust and assess changes to trading styles.

3. Perform risk assessments

Risk is inherent when trading within any market exchanges, and effective trading forex requires analyzing the risks relating to the currencies traders purchase. Performing a risk analysis is crucial to understanding how fluctuations in currency values affect investment outcomes. Evaluating changes in currency volume and supply and demand is also an aspect of risk assessment that allows investors to gain more insight into the potential losses they may encounter when selecting various forex currencies.

4. Calculate return expectancy

Understanding the frequency rate of investment returns versus losses is essential when developing strategies for trading in foreign exchange markets. Expectancy can give an estimation that indicates how likely traders are to generate profits when buying and selling forex instruments. By calculating the difference between profit-and-loss averages, you can better evaluate the probability of increasing returns based on past trading activities. This makes the expectancy metric an effective tool for assessing how effectively you make trading decisions and apply strategies.

Related: How To Become a Forex Trader

Advantages of trading in forex markets

Forex trading can have several key advantages, including:

Global trading markets

One of the biggest advantages of trading in forex is the global scale of market transactions. Foreign exchange markets exist across the world, giving traders many opportunities to find profitable currencies. The global scale of forex also gives markets the ability to operate 24 hours per day during each trading week, usually Monday through Friday. So no matter the foreign country where traders buy and sell, there are always open markets for forex transactions.

Increasing accessibility

Accessibility to foreign exchange markets is continuously increasing, giving more people opportunities to enter forex trades. While the majority of investors in forex are usually large institutions, online access to forex markets makes trading on the foreign exchange advantageous for individual traders, too. The increasing use of trading apps and online brokerages also makes trading in forex more accessible to individuals who want to make long-term and short-term gains.

Lower transaction fees

Another advantage of trading in forex markets is the lower capital of entering the markets and often lower transaction fees associated with buying and selling currency values. Many traders who facilitate investments through brokers often have lower transaction fees than trading in traditional stock markets. This makes the difference between the purchase and sale price lower, giving more individuals the opportunity to access forex investments.

Related: Brokers vs. Dealers: Everything You Need To Know

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Disadvantages of forex trading

Although trading in foreign exchange markets can have many advantages, there are some drawbacks, including:

  • Changes in exchange rates: Frequent variations in the currency exchange rates can be a disadvantage, as factors like economic and political influence can cause uncertainty in market prices.

  • Absence of centralized exchanges: In the spot market, there's no central regulator or exchange to set base prices, causing variations between different brokers.

  • Higher leverage: Although traders can enter forex transactions for low costs, this higher leverage can also mean the potential for higher loss should exchange rate fluctuations affect earnings.

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