If you're entering Forex trading with a background in equities, it's important to recognize these differences. The reason: Due to these differences, the trading styles for stocks and foreign currency are very different. Here's a quick look at some of these major differences:
The Foreign Exchange market is the largest in the world, and it's estimated as much as $4 trillion changes hands each day. It's an entirely global marketplace too. There are traders and investors taking part in the market all over the world. This is different than stock markets - which are limited by market volume, the country of origin and market activity.
The stock markets are prone to hitting down periods, and this can be detrimental to traders. Shrinking volumes and a decline in activity can make it much more difficult to open or close a trade. With Forex, traders can profit in up and down markets, because of the massive liquidity and huge volume of market participants.
The Forex markets are primarily concentrated on 8 currency pairs - four major pairs, as well as the commodity pairs. Many traders focus their efforts on these currency pairs, often concentrating on just a couple. This greatly reduces the amount of time that needs to be spent on analysis. The stock market, though, is made up of 1000s of stocks. It's more difficult for traders to locate fast-moving stocks, research all the options available to them, and determine trading positions because there are so many more stocks to look at.
Another difference: Leverage is much higher in Forex trading due to the high liquidity in the markets. That means margin-trading is more possible. For example, in stock markets, leverage is typically about 2:1. That means a trader must put up at least 50 percent of the trade amount to enter a position. In Forex, leverage can be 50:1 up to 500:1, meaning the trader can make larger trades with fewer funds in their margin account.
Finally, the Foreign Exchange market is a truly global marketplace. It's open 24 hours a day and it moves in cycles based on the market opens in different regions. What's more: It is an over-the-counter market, which means that it takes place between brokerages, traders and investment banks. Stock markets though are open for set hours and they are carried out in specific locations like the New York Stock Exchange.
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