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Forex trading involves the sale of a currency, and the simultaneous purchase of another with the purpose of closing the position at a later time with a profit. Unlike in the stock or commodities markets where prices are routinely quoted in USD, the price of a currency can be quoted in any other currency due to the essentially bartering nature of currency transactions where live, as well as historical, forex charts are used to identify trends and entry/exit points for trades.
Live Spreads Widget: Dynamic live spreads are available on Active Trader commission-based accounts. When static spreads are displayed, the figures are time-weighted averages derived from tradable prices at FXCM from July 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019. Spreads are variable and are subject to delay. The spread figures are for informational purposes only. FXCM is not liable for errors, omissions or delays, or for actions relying on this information.
When you trade forex, you're effectively borrowing the first currency in the pair to buy or sell the second currency. With a US$5-trillion-a-day market, the liquidity is so deep that liquidity providers—the big banks, basically—allow you to trade with leverage. To trade with leverage, you simply set aside the required margin for your trade size. If you're trading 200:1 leverage, for example, you can trade $2,000 in the market while only setting aside $10 in margin in your trading account. For 50:1 leverage, the same trade size would still only require about £40 in margin. This gives you much more exposure, while keeping your capital investment down.
When a trader decides to trade in the forex market, he or she must first open a margin account with a forex broker. Usually, the amount of leverage provided is either 50:1, 100:1 or 200:1, depending on the broker and the size of the position that the investor is trading. What does this mean? A 50:1 leverage ratio means that the minimum margin requirement for the trader is 1/50 = 2%. A 100:1 ratio means that the trader is required to have at least 1/100 = 1% of the total value of trade available as cash in the trading account, and so on. Standard trading is done on 100,000 units of currency, so for a trade of this size, the leverage provided is usually 50:1 or 100:1. Leverage of 200:1 is usually used for positions of $50,000 or less.
Knowing where interest rates are headed is important in forex trading and requires a good understanding of the underlying economics of the country in question. Generally speaking, countries that are performing very well, with strong growth rates and increasing inflation will probably raise interest rates to tame inflation and control growth. On the flip side, countries that are facing difficult economic conditions ranging from a broad slowdown in demand to a full recession will consider the possibility of reducing interest rates. 
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.
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.
From this we can see that the Forex leverage ratio strongly depends on the strategy that is going to be used. To give you a better overview, scalpers and breakout traders try to use as high a leverage as possible, as they usually look for quick trades. Positional traders often trade with low leverage or none at all. A desired leverage for a positional trader usually starts at 5:1 and goes up to about 20:1.
Although the ability to earn significant profits by using leverage is substantial, leverage can also work against investors. For example, if the currency underlying one of your trades moves in the opposite direction of what you believed would happen, leverage will greatly amplify the potential losses. To avoid a catastrophe, forex traders usually implement a strict trading style that includes the use of stop orders and limit orders designed to control potential losses.
It should be remembered that leverage does not alter the profit potential of a trade; but instead, reduces the amount of equity that you use. Leveraged trading is also considered a double-edged sword, since accounts with higher leverage get affected by large price swings, increasing the chances of triggering a stop-loss. Therefore, it is essential to exercise risk management when it comes to leveraged instruments.
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. 

There is a high level of risk associated with trading foreign exchange on margin and it may not be appropriate for all types of investors. The high degree of leverage can either work for you or against you. Before you decide to invest in foreign exchange, it is recommended to carefully assess your investment goals, experience level, and your desired amount of risk. No information or opinion stated on this site should be considered a solicitation or offer to buy or sell any currency, equity, or other financial products or services. Past performance does not predict or guarantee future performance. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. Read our legal disclaimer.
To illustrate further, let's look at a typical USD/CAD (US dollar against Canadian dollar) trade. To buy or sell a 100,000 of USD/CAD without leverage would require the trader to put up $100,000 in account funds, the full value of the position. But with 50:1 leverage (or 2% margin required), for example, only $2,000 of the trader's funds would be required to open and maintain that $100,000 USD/CAD position.
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. 
Live Spreads Widget: Dynamic live spreads are available on Active Trader commission-based accounts. When static spreads are displayed, the figures are time-weighted averages derived from tradable prices at FXCM from July 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019. Spreads are variable and are subject to delay. The spread figures are for informational purposes only. FXCM is not liable for errors, omissions or delays, or for actions relying on this information.
In the previous USD/JPY example, between 2005 and 2006 the U.S. Federal Reserve was aggressively raising interest rates from 2.25% in January to 4.25%, an increase of 200 basis points. During that same time, the Bank of Japan sat on its hands and left interest rates at zero. Therefore, the spread between U.S. and Japanese interest rates grew from 2.25% (2.25% - 0%) to 4.25% (4.25% - 0%). This is what we call an expanding interest rate spread.
The bottom line is that you want to pick carry trades that benefit not only from a positive and growing yield, but that also have the potential to appreciate in value. This is important because just as currency appreciation can increase the value of your carry trade earnings, currency depreciation can erase all of your carry trade gains – and then some. 
Currencies are traded on the Foreign Exchange market, also known as Forex. This is a decentralized market that spans the globe and is considered the largest by trading volume and the most liquid worldwide. Exchange rates fluctuate continuously due to the ever changing market forces of supply and demand. Forex traders buy a currency pair if they think the exchange rate will rise and sell it if they think the opposite will happen. The Forex market remains open around the world for 24 hours a day with the exception of weekends.
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