A non-geographical, existential market, the foreign exchange market exists wherever one currency is traded for another. Far and above the largest market in the world, the $2 billion traded every day includes trading between large banks, individual investors, corporations, governments and various other institutions.
Established in 1971, Forex trading has only recently become an individually traded market. Until the present time, only major institutions could trade on this market. Retail traders are currently a small, but constantly growing, part of the Forex.
Ten years ago, the Wall Street Journal estimated the daily trading volume in the forex market to be in excess of $1 trillion. Today that figure has grown to exceed $1.8 trillion a day. Based on the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1945 aimed to stabilize international currencies and prevent money fleeing across nations, the U.S. dollar became fixed at a rate of $35 per ounce of gold.
Thus, the gold standard was formed and Forex trading became a possibility. But only in 1971, when the Bretton Woods Agreement was abandoned, was the Forex market established. By 1973, major currencies became free to the push of supply and demand. The power of speculators came to be.
With the advent of technological innovations like computers in the 1980’s, money was soon able to be traded across time zones. Within minutes, like never before, massive amounts of currency could be exchanged. Today, London holds the world’s largest international financial center and the major site for Forex trading.
The interbank market is beneficial for both the major commercial turnovers and large amounts of purely speculative trading that takes place on an everyday basis. Some large banks trade billions of dollars daily. While some of that trading is on behalf of the bank’s customers, much is for the bank’s own account. Until recently, brokers on the market did most of the business of trading for a small fee, but now individual investor’s can jump in on their own.
The benefits of individual investors gaining hands-on access to Forex trading really came to be when the large inter-bank units began to offer small traders the opportunity to buy or sell smaller units (or lots) on their own.
At present, the Forex market is appealing because of its massive trading volume, extreme liquidity, the number and variety of traders in the market, long trading hours, factors that affect the currency exchange rates and the geographical dispersion of the market.