Saturday, September 12, 2009

Major currencies

The U.S. Dollar. The United States dollar is the world's main currency – a universal measure to evaluate any other currency traded on Forex. All currencies are generally quoted in U.S. dollar terms. Under conditions of international economic and political unrest, the U.S. dollar is the main safe-haven currency, which was proven particularly well during the Southeast Asian crisis of 1997-1998. As it was indicated, the U.S. dollar became the leading currency toward the end of the Second World War along the Breton Woods Accord, as the other currencies were virtually pegged against it. The introduction of the euro in 1999 reduced the dollar's importance only marginally. The other major currencies traded against the U.S. dollar are the euro, Japanese yen, British pound, and Swiss franc.

The Euro. The euro was designed to become the premier currency in trading by simply being quoted in American terms. Like the U.S. dollar, the euro has a strong international presence stemming from members of the European Monetary Union. The currency remains plagued by unequal growth, high unemployment, and government resistance to structural changes. The pair was also weighed in 1999 and 2000 by outflows from foreign investors, particularly Japanese, who were forced to liquidate their losing investments in euro-denominated assets. Moreover, European money managers rebalanced their portfolios and reduced their euro exposure as their
needs for hedging currency risk in Europe declined.

The Japanese Yen. The Japanese yen is the third most traded currency in the world; it has a much smaller international presence than the U.S. dollar or the euro. The yen is very liquid around the world, practically around the clock. The natural demand to trade the yen is concentrated mostly among the Japanese keiretsu, the economic and financial conglomerates. The yen is much more sensitive to the fortunes of the Nikkei index, the Japanese stock market, and the real estate market.

The British Pound. Until the end of World War II, the pound was the currency of reference. The currency is heavily traded against the euro and the U.S. dollar, but has a spotty presence against other currencies. Prior to the introduction of the euro, both the pound benefited from any doubts about the currency convergence. After the introduction of the euro, Bank of England is attempting to bring the high U.K. rates closer to the lower rates in the euro zone. The pound could join the
euro in the early 2000s, provided that the U.K. referendum is positive.

The Swiss Franc. The Swiss franc is the only currency of a major European country that belongs neither to the European Monetary Union nor to the G-7 countries. Although the Swiss economy is relatively small, the Swiss franc is one of the four major currencies, closely resembling the strength and quality of the Swiss economy and finance. Switzerland has a very close economic relationship with Germany, and thus to the euro zone. Therefore, in terms of political uncertainty in the East, the Swiss franc is favored generally over the euro. Typically, it is believed that the
Swiss franc is a stable currency. Actually, from a foreign exchange point of view, the Swiss franc closely resembles the patterns of the euro, but lacks its liquidity. As the demand for it exceeds supply, the Swiss franc can be more volatile than the euro.


Kinds of the Forex

Spot Market. Currency spot trading is the most popular foreign currency instrument around the world, making up 37 percent of the total activity (See Figure 1.2). The features of the fast-paced spot market are high volatility and quick profits (as well losses). A spot deal consists of a bilateral contract whereby a party delivers a specified amount of a given currency against receipt of a specified amount of another currency from counterparty, based on an agreed exchange rate, within two business days of the deal date. The exception is the Canadian dollar, in which the spot delivery is executed next business day. The two-day spot delivery for currencies was developed long before technological breakthroughs in information processing.

This time period was necessary to check out all transactions' details among counterparties. Although technologically feasible, the contemporary markets did not find it necessary to reduce the time to make payments. Human errors still occur and they need to be fixed before delivery. By the entering into a contract on the spot market a bank serving a trader tells the latter the quota – an evaluation of the currency traded against the U.S. dollar or another currency.

A quota consists of two figures (for example, USD/JPY = 133.27/133.32 or USD/JPY = 133.27/32 which means the same). The first of these figures (the left part) is called the bid – price (that is a price at which the trader sells), the second (the right part) is called the ask - price (the price at which the trader buys the currency). The difference between asks and bid is called the spread. The spread, as any currency price alteration, is being measured in points (pips).
In terms of volume, currencies around the world are traded mostly against the U.S. dollar, because the U.S. dollar is the currency of reference. The other major currencies are the euro, followed by the Japanese yen, the British pound, and the Swiss franc. Other currencies with significant spot market shares are the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar. In addition, a significant share of trading takes place in the currencies crosses, a non-dollar instrument whereby foreign currencies are quoted against other foreign currencies, such as euro against Japanese yen.

The spot market is characterized by high liquidity and high volatility. Volatility is the degree to which the price of currency tends to fluctuate within a certain period of time. For instance, in an active global trading day (24 hours), the euro/dollar exchange rate may change its value 18,000 times "flying" 100-200 pips in a matter of seconds if the market gets wind of a significant event. On the other hand, the exchange rate may remain quite static for extended periods of time, even
in excess of an hour, when one market is almost finished trading and waiting for the next market to take over. For example, there is a technical trading gap between around 4:30 PM and 6 PM EDT. In the New York market, the majority of transactions occur between 8 AM and 12 PM, when the New York and European markets overlap. The activity drops sharply in the afternoon, over 50 percent in fact, when New York loses the international trading support.

Overnight trading is limited, as very few banks have overnight desks. Most of the banks send their overnight orders to branches or other banks that operate in the active time zones. Reasons for the popularity of the spot-market include the rapid liquidity, thanks to the market volatility, and short term contract execution. Therefore, the credit risk is restricted. The profit and loss can be either realized or unrealized. The realized P&L is a certain amount of money netted when a
position is closed. The unrealized P&L consists of an uncertain amount of money that an outstanding position would roughly generate if it were closed at the current rate. The unrealized P&L changes continuously in tandem with the exchange rate. Forward Market. Two tools are used on the forward Forex: forward outright deals and exchange deals or swaps. A swap deal is a combination of a spot deal and a forward outright deal.

According to figures published by the Bank for International Settlements, the percentage share of the forward market was 57 percent in 1998. (See Figure 1.2). Translated into U.S. dollars, out of an estimated daily gross turnover of US$1.49 trillion, the total forward market represents US$900 billion. In the forward market there is no norm with regard to the settlement dates, which range from 3 days to 3 years. Volume in currency swaps longer than one year tends to be light but, technically, there is no impediment to making these deals. Any date past the spot date and within the above range may be a forward settlement, provided that it is a valid business day for both currencies. The forward markets are decentralized markets, with players around the world entering into a variety of deals either on a one-on-one basis or through brokers. The forward price consists of two significant parts: the spot exchange rate and the forward spread.

The spot rate is the main building block. The forward spread is also known as the forward points or the forward pips. The forward spread is necessary for adjusting the spot rate for specific settlement dates different from the spot date. It holds, then, that the maturity date is another determining factor of the forward price.

Futures Market. Currency futures are specific types of forward outright deals. Because they are derived from the spot price, they are derivative instruments. (See Figure 1.2). They are specific with regard to the expiration date and the size of the trade amount. Whereas, generally, forward outright deals—those that mature past the spot delivery date—will mature on any valid date in the two countries whose currencies are being traded, standardized amounts of foreign currency
futures mature only on the third Wednesday of March, June, September, and December.

The following are characteristics of currency futures that make them attractive. They are open to all market participants, individuals included. It is a central market, just as efficient as the cash market, and whereas the cash market is a much decentralized market, futures trading takes place under one roof. It eliminates the credit risk because the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Clearinghouse acts as the buyer for every seller, and vice versa. In turn, the Clearinghouse minimizes its own exposure by requiring traders who maintain a nonprofitable position to post
margins equal in size to their losses. Although the futures and spot markets trade closely together, certain divergences between the two occur, generating arbitraging opportunities. Gaps, volume, and open interest are significant technical analysis tools (See Chapter 4) solely available in the futures market. Because of these benefits, currency futures trading volume has steadily attracted a large variety of players. Because futures are forward outright contracts and the forward prices are generally slow movers, the elimination of the forward spreads will transform the futures contracts into spot contracts.

For traders outside the exchange, the prices are available from on-line monitors. The most popular pages are found on Bridge, Telerate, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Telerate presents the currency futures on composite pages, while Reuters and Bloomberg display currency futures on individual pages that show the convergence between the futures and spot prices.

Risks by the foreign exchange on Forex

As it was mentioned above trading on the Forex is essentially risk-bearing. By the evaluation of the grade of a possible risk accounted should be the following kinds of it: exchange rate risk, interest rate risk, and credit risk, country risk. Exchange rate risk is the effect of the continuous shift in the worldwide market supply and demand balance on an outstanding foreign exchange position. For the period it is outstanding, the position will be subject to all the price changes. The most popular measures to cut losses short and ride profitable positions that losses should be kept within manageable limits are the position limit and the loss limit. By the position limitation a maximum amount of a certain currency a trader is allowed to carry at any single time during the regular trading hours is to be established. The loss limit is a measure designed to avoid unsustainable losses made by traders by means of stop-loss levels setting.

Interest rate risk refers to the profit and loss generated by fluctuations in the forward spreads, along with forward amount mismatches and maturity gaps among transactions in the foreign exchange book. This risk is pertinent to currency swaps; forward outright, futures, and options (See below). To minimize interest rate risk, one sets limits on the total size of mismatches. A common approach is to separate the mismatches, based on their maturity dates, into up to six months and past six months. All the transactions are entered in computerized systems in order o calculate the positions for all the dates of the delivery, gains and losses. Continuous analysis of the interest rate environment is necessary to forecast any changes that may impact on the outstanding gaps.

Credit risk refers to the possibility that an outstanding currency position may not be repaid as agreed, due to a voluntary or involuntary action by a counter party. In these cases, trading occurs on regulated exchanges, such as the clearinghouse of Chicago. The following forms of credit risk are known:
1. Replacement risk occurs when counterparties of the failed bank find their books are subjected to the danger not to get refunds from the bank, where appropriate accounts became unbalanced. Settlement risk occurs because of the time zones on different continents. Consequently, currencies may be traded at the different price at different times during the trading day. Australian and New Zealand dollars are credited first, then Japanese yen, followed by the European currencies and ending with the U.S. dollar. Therefore, payment may be made to a party that will declare insolvency (or be declared insolvent) immediately after, but prior to executing its own payments.

Therefore, in assessing the credit risk, end users must consider not only the market value of their currency portfolios, but also the potential exposure of these portfolios. The potential exposure may be determined through probability analysis over the time to maturity of the outstanding position. The computerized systems currently available are very useful in implementing credit risk policies. Credit lines are easily monitored. In addition, the matching systems introduced in foreign exchange since April 1993 are used by traders for credit policy implementation as well.

Traders input the total line of credit for a specific counterparty. During the trading session, the line of credit is automatically adjusted. If the line is fully used, the system will prevent the trader
from further dealing with that counterparty. After maturity, the credit line reverts to its original

Forex – What is it? The international currency market Forex is a special kind of the worldfinancial market. Trader’s purpose on the Forex to get profit as the result of foreign currencies purchase and sale. The exchange rates of all currencies being in the market turnover are permanently changing under the action of the demand and supply alteration. The latter is a strong subject to the influence of any important for the human society event in the sphere of economy, politics and nature. Consequently current prices of foreign currencies, evaluated for instance in US dollars, fluctuate towards its higher and lower meanings.

Using these fluctuations in accordance with a known principle “buy cheaper – sell higher” traders obtain gains. Forex is different in compare to all other sectors of the world financial system thanks to his heightened sensibility to a large and continuously changing number of factors, accessibility to all individual and corporative traders, exclusively high trade turnover which creates an ensured liquidity of traded currencies and the round – the clock business hours which enable traders to deal after normal hours or during national holidays in their country finding markets abroad open. Just as on any other market the trading on Forex, along with an exclusively high potential profitability, is essentially risk - bearing one. It is possible to gain a success on it only after a certain training including a familiarization with the structure and kinds of Forex, the principles of currencies price formation, the factors affecting prices alterations and trading risks levels, sources of the information necessary to account all those factors, techniques of the analysis and prediction of the market movements as well as with the trading tools and rules.

An important role in the process of the preparation for trading Forex belongs to the demo-trading (that is to trade using a demo-account with some virtual money), which allows to testify all the theoretical knowledge and to obtain a required minimum of the trade experience not being subjected to a material damage. A short history about the origin and development of the currency exchange market. Currency trading has a long history and can be traced back to the ancient Middle East and Middle Ages when foreign exchange started to take shape after the international merchant bankers devised bills of exchange, which were transferable third-party payments that allowed flexibility and growth in foreign exchange dealings.

The modern foreign exchange market characterized by periods of high volatility (that is afrequency and amplitude of price alteration) and relative stability formed itself in the twentieth
century. By the mid-1930s London became the leading center for foreign exchange and the British pound served as the currency to trade and to keep as a reserve currency. Because in the old times foreign exchange was traded on the telex machines, or cable, the pound has generally the nickname “cable”. After the World War II, where the British economy was destroyed and the
United States was the only country unscarred by war, U.S. dollar, in accordance with the Breton Woods Accord between the USA, Great Britain and France (1944) became the reserve currency
for all the capitalist countries and all currencies were pegged to the American dollar (through the
constitution of currency ranges maintained by central banks of relevant countries by means of interventions or currency purchases).

In turn, the U.S. dollar was pegged to gold at $35 per ounce. Thus, the U.S. dollar became the world's reserve currency. In accordance with the same agreement was organized the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rendering now a significant financial support to the developing and former socialist countries effecting economical transformation. To execute these goals the IMF uses such instruments as Reserve trenches, which allows a member to draw on its own reserve asset quota at the time of payment, Credit trenches drawings and stand-by arrangements. The letters are the standard form of IMF loans unlike of those as the compensatory financing facility extends financial help to countries with temporary problems generated by reductions in export revenues, the buffer stock financing facility which is geared toward assisting the stocking up on primary commodities in order to ensure price stability in a specific commodity and the extended facility designed to assist members with financial problems in amounts or for periods exceeding the scope of the other facilities.

At the end of the 70-s the free-floating of currencies was officially mandated that became the most important landmark in the history of financial markets in the XX century lead to the formation of Forex in the contemporary understanding. That is the currency may be traded by anybody and its value is a function of the current supply and demand forces in the market, and there are no specific intervention points that have to be observed. Foreign exchange has experienced spectacular growth in volume ever since currencies were allowed to float freely against each other. While the daily turnover in 1977 was U.S. $5 billion, it increased to U.S. $600 billion in 1987, reached the U.S. $1 trillion mark in September 1992, and stabilized at around $1.5 trillion by the year 2000.

Main factors influences on this spectacular growth in volume are mentioned below. A significant role belonged to the increased volatility of currencies rates, growing mutual influence of different economies on bank-rates established by central banks, which affect essentially currencies exchange rates, more intense competition on goods markets and, at the same time, amalgamation of the corporations of different countries, technological revolution in the sphere of the currencies trading. The latter exposed in the development of automated dealing systems and the transition to the currency trading by means of the Internet. In addition to the dealing systems, matching systems simultaneously connect all traders around the world, electronically duplicating the brokers' market. Advances in technology, computer software, and telecommunications and increased experience have increased the level of traders' sophistication, their ability to both generate profits and properly handle the exchange risks. Therefore, trading sophistication led toward volume increase.

Regional reserve countries. Along with the global reserve currency – U.S. dollar, there are also other regional and international reserve countries. In 1978, the nine members of the European Community ratified a plan for the creation of the European Monetary System managed by the European Fund of the Monetary Cooperation. By 1999 these countries, which constituted socalled Euro zone, have implemented the transition to the common European currency - the euro (see Figure 1.1). The euro bills are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. Coins are issued in denominations of 1 and 2 euros, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent.

The euro is a regional reserve currency for the euro zone countries and the Japanese yen – for the countries of Southeast Asia. The portfolio of reserve currencies may change depending on specific international conditions, to include the Swiss franc. The role of the U.S. Federal Reserve System and Central banks of other G-7 countries on Forex. All central banks and the U.S. Federal Reserve System (FRS) as well, affect the foreign exchange markets changing discount rates and performing the monetary operations (as interventions and currency purchases). For the foreign exchange operations most significant are repurchase agreements to sell the same security back at the same price at a predetermined date in the future (usually within 15 days), and at a specific rate of interest. This arrangement amounts to a temporary injection of reserves into the banking system. The impact on the foreign exchange market is that the national currency should weaken.

The repurchase agreements may be either customer repos or system repos. Matched salepurchase agreements are just the opposite of repurchase agreements. When executing a matched sale-purchase agreement, a bank or the FRS sells a security for immediate delivery to a dealer or a foreign central bank, with the agreement to buy back the same security at the same price at a predetermined time in the future (generally within 7 days). This arrangement amounts to a temporary drain of reserves. The impact on the foreign exchange market is that the national currency should strengthen. Monetary operations include payments among central banks or to international agencies. In addition, the FRS has entered a series of currency swap arrangements with other central banks since 1962. For instance, to help the allied war effort against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990-1991, payments were executed by the Bundesbank and Bank of Japan to the Federal Reserve. Also, payments to the World Bank or the United Nations are executed through central banks. States foreign exchange markets by the U.S. Treasury and the FRS is geared toward restoring orderly conditions in the market or influencing the exchange rates. It is not geared toward affecting the reserves. There are two types of foreign exchange interventions: naked intervention and sterilized intervention.