HIGH RISK WARNING: Foreign exchange trading carries a high level of risk that may not be suitable for all investors. Leverage creates additional risk and loss exposure. Before you decide to trade foreign exchange, carefully consider your investment objectives, experience level, and risk tolerance. You could lose some or all of your initial investment; do not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. Educate yourself on the risks associated with foreign exchange trading, and seek advice from an independent financial or tax advisor if you have any questions.
Finally, it is important to note that in leveraged forex trading, margin privileges are extended to traders in good faith as a way to facilitate more efficient trading of currencies. As such, it is essential that traders maintain at least the minimum margin requirements for all open positions at all times in order to avoid any unexpected liquidation of trading positions.
Forex, also known as foreign exchange, FX or currency trading, is a decentralized global market where all the world's currencies trade. The forex market is the largest, most liquid market in the world with an average daily trading volume exceeding $5 trillion. All the world's combined stock markets don't even come close to this. But what does that mean to you? Take a closer look at forex trading and you may find some exciting trading opportunities unavailable with other investments.
The concept of leverage is used by both investors and companies. Investors use leverage to significantly increase the returns that can be provided on an investment. They lever their investments by using various instruments that include options, futures and margin accounts. Companies can use leverage to finance their assets. In other words, instead of issuing stock to raise capital, companies can use debt financing to invest in business operations in an attempt to increase shareholder value.
Currency values never remain stationary, and it is this dynamic that gave birth to one of the most popular trading strategies of all time, the carry trade. Carry traders hope to earn not only the interest rate differential between the two currencies (discussed above), but also look for their positions to appreciate in value. There have been plenty of opportunities for big profits in the past. Let’s take a look at some historical examples.
Clearly, leverage should be used judiciously, but even with relatively conservative 10:1 leverage, the 7.5% yield on NZD/JPY pair would translate into a 75% return on an annual basis. So, if you were to hold a 100,000 unit position in NZD/JPY using $5,000 worth of equity, you would earn $9.40 in interest every day. That’s $94 dollars in interest after only 10 days, $940 worth of interest after three months, or $3,760 annually. Not too shabby given the fact that the same amount of money would only earn you $250 in a bank savings account (with a rate of 5% interest) after a whole year. The only real edge the bank account provides is that the $250 return would be risk-free.
Leverage simply allows traders to control larger positions with a smaller amount of actual trading funds. In the case of 50:1 leverage (or 2% margin required), for example, $1 in a trading account can control a position worth $50. As a result, leveraged trading can be a "double-edged sword" in that both potential profits as well as potential losses are magnified according to the degree of leverage used.
In every foreign exchange transaction, you are simultaneously buying one currency and selling another. In effect, you are using the proceeds from the currency you sold to purchase the currency you are buying. Furthermore, every currency in the world comes attached with an interest rate set by the central bank of that currency's country. You are obligated to pay the interest on the currency that you have sold, but you also have the privilege of earning interest on the currency that you have bought. For example, let’s look at the New Zealand dollar/Japanese yen pair (NZD/JPY). Let’s assume that New Zealand has an interest rate of 8% and that Japan has an interest rate of 0.5% In the currency market, interest rates are calculated in basis points. A basis point is simply 1/100th of 1%. So, New Zealand rates are 800 basis points and Japanese rates are 50 basis points. If you decide to go long NZD/JPY you will earn 8% in annualized interest, but have to pay 0.5% for a net return of 7.5%, or 750 basis points.