The foreign exchange (also known as FX or forex) market is a global marketplace for exchanging national currencies against one another. Because of the worldwide reach of trade, commerce, and finance, forex markets tend to be the largest and most liquid asset markets in the world.
Currencies trade against each other as exchange rate pairs. For example, EUR/USD.
Forex markets exist as spot (cash) markets as well as derivatives markets offering forwards, futures, options, and currency swaps.
Market participants use forex to hedge against international currency and interest rate risk, to speculate on geopolitical events, and to diversify portfolios, among several other reasons.
The foreign exchange market is where currencies are traded. Currencies are important to most people around the world, whether they realize it or not, because currencies need to be exchanged in order to conduct foreign trade and business.
If you are living in the U.S. and want to buy cheese from France, either you or the company that you buy the cheese from has to pay the French for the cheese in euros (EUR). This means that the U.S. importer would have to exchange the equivalent value of U.S. dollars (USD) into euros.
The same goes for traveling. A French tourist in Egypt can't pay in euros to see the pyramids because it's not the locally accepted currency. As such, the tourist has to exchange the euros for the local currency, in this case, the Egyptian pound, at the current exchange rate.
A Brief History of Forex
Unlike stock markets, which can trace their roots back centuries, the forex market as we understand it today is a truly new market. Of course, in its most basic sense—that of people converting one currency to another for financial advantage—forex has been around since nations began minting currencies.
But the modern forex markets are a modern invention. After the accord at Bretton Woods in 1971, more major currencies were allowed to float freely against one another. The values of individual currencies vary, which has given rise to the need for foreign exchange services and trading.
( Derived from JAMES CHEN Investopedia)
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