The foreign exchange market is a global decentralized marketplace that determines the relative values of different currencies. Unlike other markets, there is no centralized depository or exchange where transactions are conducted. Instead, these transactions are conducted by several market participants in several locations. It is rare that any two currencies will be identical to one another in value, and it’s also rare that any two currencies will maintain the same relative value for more than a short period of time. In forex, the exchange rate between two currencies constantly changes.

For example, on January 3, 2011, one euro was worth about $1.33. By May 3, 2011, one euro was worth about $1.48. The euro increased in value by about 10% relative to the U.S. dollar during this time.

Why Do Exchange Rates Change?

Currencies trade on an open market, just like stocks, bonds, computers, cars, and many other goods and services. A currency’s value fluctuates as its supply and demand fluctuates, just like anything else.

  • An increase in supply or a decrease in demand for a currency can cause the value of that currency to fall.
  • A decrease in the supply or an increase in demand for a currency can cause the value of that currency to rise.

A big benefit to forex trading is that you can buy or sell any currency pair, at any time subject to available liquidity. So if you think the Eurozone is going to break apart, you can sell the euro and buy the dollar (sell EUR/USD). If you think the price of gold is going to go up, based on historical correlation patterns you can buy the Australian dollar and sell the U.S. dollar (buy AUD/USD).

You can make (or lose) money when the market is trending up and down.