The Complete History of “FX” from the beginning

May 23, 2016

The history of Forex trading

Initially, the value of goods was expressed in terms of other goods, i.e. an economy based on barter between individual market participants. The obvious limitations of such a system encouraged establishing more generally accepted means of exchange at a fairly early stage in history, to set a common benchmark of value. In different economies, everything from teeth to feathers to pretty stones has served this purpose, but soon metals, in particular gold and silver, established themselves as an accepted means of payment as well as a reliable storage of value.

Originally, coins were simply minted from the preferred metal, but in stable political regimes the introduction of a paper form of governmental IOUs (I owe you) gained acceptance during the Middle Ages. Such IOUs, often introduced more successfully through force than persuasion were the basis of modern currencies.

Before World War I, most central banks supported their currencies with convertibility to gold. Although paper money could always be exchanged for gold, in reality this did not occur often, fostering the sometimes disastrous notion that there was not necessarily a need for full cover in the central reserves of the government.

At times, the ballooning supply of paper money without gold cover led to devastating inflation and resulting political instability. To protect local national interests, foreign exchange controls were increasingly introduced to prevent market forces from punishing monetary irresponsibility.

In the latter stages of World War II, the Bretton Woods agreement was reached on the initiative of the USA in July 1944. The Bretton Woods Conference rejected John Maynard Keynes suggestion for a new world reserve currency in favor of a system built on the US dollar. Other international institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) were created in the same period as the emerging victors of WW2 searched for a way to avoid the destabilizing monetary crises which led to the war. The Bretton Woods agreement resulted in a system of fixed exchange rates that partly reinstated the gold standard, fixing the US dollar at USD35/oz and fixing the other main currencies to the dollar – and was intended to be permanent.

The Bretton Woods system came under increasing pressure as national economies moved in different directions during the sixties. A number of realignments kept the system alive for a long time, but eventually Bretton Woods collapsed in the early seventies following president Nixon’s suspension of the gold convertibility in August 1971. The dollar was no longer suitable as the sole international currency at a time when it was under severe pressure from increasing US budget and trade deficits.

The following decades have seen foreign exchange trading develop into the largest global market by far. Restrictions on capital flows have been removed in most countries, leaving the market forces free to adjust foreign exchange rates according to their perceived values.

But the idea of fixed exchange rates has by no means died. The EEC (European Economic Community) introduced a new system of fixed exchange rates in 1979, the European Monetary System. This attempt to fix exchange rates met with near extinction in 1992-93, when pent-up economic pressures forced devaluations of a number of weak European currencies. Nevertheless, the quest for currency stability has continued in Europe with the renewed attempt to not only fix currencies but actually replace many of them with the Euro in 2001.

The lack of sustainability in fixed foreign exchange rates gained new relevance with the events in South East Asia in the latter part of 1997, where currency after currency was devalued against the US dollar, leaving other fixed exchange rates, in particular in South America, looking very vulnerable.

But while commercial companies have had to face a much more volatile currency environment in recent years, investors and financial institutions have found a new playground. The size of foreign exchange markets now dwarfs any other investment market by a large factor. It is estimated that more than USD 3,000 billion is traded every day, far more than the world’s stock and bond markets combined.

Swing Trading in Forex

Swing traders hold a particular forex for a period of time, generally between a few days and two or three weeks, and trade the forex on the basis of its intra-week or intra-month oscillations between optimism and pessimism. swing traders are not looking to hit the home-run with a single trade – they are not concerned about perfect timing to buy a forex exactly at its bottom and sell exactly at its top (or vice versa). In a perfect trading environment, they wait for the forex to hit its baseline and confirm its direction before they make their moves. The story gets more complicated when a stronger up-trend or down-trend is at play: the trader may paradoxically go long when the forex jumps below its limit and wait for the stock to go back up in an uptrend, or he or she may short a stock that has stabbed above the limit and wait for it to drop if the longer trend is down.

When it comes time to take profits, the swing trader will want to exit the trade as close as possible to the upper or lower channel line without being overly precise, which may cause the risk of missing the best opportunity. In a strong market, when a forex is exhibiting a strong directional trend, traders can wait for the channel line to be reached before taking their profit, but in a weaker market they may take their profits before the line is hit (in the event that the direction changes and the line does not get hit on that particular swing).

Swing trading, while a good trading style for beginning traders, still offers significant profit potential for intermediate and advanced traders. Swing traders can realize sufficient rewards on their trades after a couple of days, which keep them motivated, but their long and short positions of several days are of ideal duration so as to not lead to distraction. By contrast, trend following offers greater profit potential if a trader is able to catch a major market trend of weeks or months, but there are few traders with sufficient discipline to hold a position for that period of time without getting distracted. On the other hand, trading dozens of forex per day (day trading) may just prove too great a white-knuckle ride for some, making swing trading the perfect medium between the extremes.

Direct Access Trading

Direct access trading is a system that allows a client to trade directly with another client, a market maker on forex, or a specialist on the floor of an exchange without broker interference. DAT is the preferred trading system for day traders, where success is dependent upon speed of execution. For the average investor, DAT is not necessary.

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