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Forex Market: Unlocking Opportunities for Investors

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This is a commercial collaboration with Compare Forex Brokers.


The Forex Market

Forex Market: Unlocking Opportunities for Investors

In 2019, the global foreign exchange market (forex) was valued at a jaw-dropping $2.4 quadrillion.

In fact, this is equal to more than 50 times China, Japan, Germany, India and the U.S.’s economic output combined. Institutional investors, such as investment banks, pension funds, and large corporations have typically dominated this space, but there are avenues for individuals to enter the market as well.

This infographic from Compare Forex Brokers breaks down the world’s most interconnected financial market, and how individual investors can start trading.

The Forex Market: A Global Landscape

Across the forex market, 170 major, minor, and exotic currency pairs can be traded as contracts for difference (CFDs). A CFD enables you to speculate on whether the price of an asset will rise or fall.

Here, trades are conducted on over the counter (OTC) markets—non-centralized markets made up of a network of participants. This is different from traditional markets, such as the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, which operate on formal, centralized exchanges.

While the forex market is by nature, decentralized, these core regions show where forex transactions are most concentrated by market participants including banks, commercial businesses, or individual investors.

Globally, the majority of forex trading takes place within the following hubs.

Forex Trading Centers (2019)CountryShare of Global Over the Counter (OTC) Forex Turnover
1UK43.1%
2U.S.16.5%
3Singapore7.6%
4Hong Kong7.6%
5Japan4.5%
6Switzerland3.3%
7France2.0%
8China1.6%
9Germany1.5%
10Australia1.4%

Source: BIS

The UK accounts for over 43% of global forex trading, averaging $2.7 trillion daily according to the 2019 Triennial Central Bank Survey by the Bank for International Settlements. London’s geographic location between the U.S. and Asia makes it an optimal forex trading centre—a trend that has held strong over the last 50 years.

With forex trading in the U.S. jumping over 50% in the last decade, the U.S. is the next most active forex market. Meanwhile, averaging $633 billion in trading volumes in 2019, Singapore is Asia’s largest forex trading center, with Hong Kong following close behind.

The Top Seven Currency Pairs

What are the most highly-traded currency pairs?

Overall, 68% of global forex trading falls into seven major currency pairs.

 Top Seven Currency PairsPercentage of Total
1United States Dollar vs Euro24.0%
2United States Dollar vs Japanese Yen17.8%
3United States Dollar vs Great British Pound9.3%
4United States Dollar vs Australian Dollar5.2%
5United States Dollar vs Canadian Dollar4.3%
6United States Dollar vs Chinese Yuan3.8%
7United States Dollar vs Swiss Franc3.6%

Source: BIS

Currency prices are impacted by factors including inflation, international trade, political stability, among other macroeconomic factors.

Breaking Down Institutional and Retail Trading

While commercial and central banks, hedge funds, and investment managers make up most of the forex market, only 5.5% are individual investors.

Importantly, they differ in a few key ways.

Institutional Forex TradingRetail Forex Trading
- Buy and sell the physical currency


- Interdealer market: Large institutions trade on an interdealer market, which is a non-centralized network of dealers


- Less formal: Often trades are conducted by phone, email or instant message.


- Non-transparent: Execution prices and buy/sell orders are not visible to the market.
- Buy and sell contracts for difference (CFD)


- Contracts for Difference (CFD): CFDs allow traders to speculate on the price of an underlying asset. Traders do not own the underlying asset.


- Long and Short Trades: Traders can take a long or short position:


- Long position: buying a CFD with the expectation the asset's market price will increase.


- Short position: selling a CFD with the expectation the asset's market price will decrease.

For various reasons, retail forex trading increases in popularity year after year. However, before diving in, it is important to know the stakes involved in this speculative market.

Understanding the High Risk of Forex Trading

Retail forex trading is, at is core, very risky.

In 2019, 71% of all retail forex trades lost money. One explanation is the highly leveraged nature of the market—many investors trade using borrowed money. But while trading with leverage can magnify losses, it also applies to gains.

Key Benefits of the Forex Market

While there is risk inherent in the market, what are some of the advantages in forex trading?

  1. Low transaction costs: No exchange or regulatory fees. Overall trading costs are low with both commission and no commission pricing structures available.
  2. High liquidity: Along with being the largest market globally, it is also the most liquid with $6.6 trillion in daily trading volume.
  3. 24-hour market: Trading is not confined to limited hours or time zones.
  4. Leverage: Forex brokers offer retail traders leverage which allows the to increase their exposure

Unlike equities, currency trading is all about relativity. A currency can depreciate overall, but can also appreciate relative to a currency that has depreciated even more.

Connect to New Markets

While big gains are possible, many trades lose money, but regulatory improvements have helped build trust in the market.

Meanwhile, multiple digital platforms provide a link to global currencies, allowing retail forex traders to enter the market and trade from any location. For those comfortable taking more risk, currency markets offer opportunities with outsized potential.

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Green Investing: How to Align Your Portfolio With the Paris Agreement

MSCI’s Climate Paris Aligned Indexes are designed to reduce risk exposure and capture green investing opportunities using 4 main objectives.

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Green Investing

Green Investing: The Paris Agreement and Your Portfolio

In Part 1 of the Paris Agreement series, we showed that the world is on track for 3.5 degrees Celsius global warming by 2100—far from the 1.5 degree goal. We also explained what could happen if the signing nations fall short, including annual economic losses of up to $400 billion in the United States.

How can you act on this information to implement a green investing strategy? This graphic from MSCI is part 2 of the series, and it explains how investors can align their investment portfolios with the Paris Agreement.

Alignment Through Indexing

When investors are building a portfolio, they typically choose to align their portfolio with benchmark indexes. For example, investors looking to build a global equity portfolio could align with the MSCI All Country World Index.

The same principle applies for climate-minded investors, who can benchmark against MSCI’s Climate Paris Aligned Indexes. These indexes are designed to reduce risk exposure and capture green investing opportunities using 4 main objectives.

1.5 Degree Alignment

The key element is determining if a company is aligned with 1.5 degree warming compared to pre-industrial levels. To accomplish this, data is collected on company climate targets, emissions data, and estimates of current and future green revenues. Then, the indexes include companies with a 10% year-on-year decarbonization rate to drive temperature alignment.

Green Opportunity

Environmentally-friendly companies may have promising potential. For instance, the global clean technology market is expected to grow from $285 billion in 2020 to $453 billion in 2027. The MSCI Climate Paris Aligned Indexes shift the weight of their constituents from “brown” companies that cause environmental damage to “green” companies providing sustainable solutions.

Transition Risk

Some companies are poorly positioned for the transition to a green economy, such as oil & gas businesses in the energy sector. In fact, a third of the current value of big oil & gas companies could evaporate if 1.5 degree alignment is aggressively pursued. To help manage this risk, the indexes aim to underweight high carbon emitters and lower their fossil fuel exposure.

Physical Risk

Climate change is causing more frequent and severe weather events such as flooding, droughts and storms. For example, direct damage from climate disasters has cost $1.3 trillion over the last decade. MSCI’s Climate Paris Aligned Indexes aim to reduce physical risks by at least 50% compared to traditional indexes by reducing exposure in high-risk regions.

Together, these four considerations support a net zero strategy, where all emissions produced are in balance with those taken out of the atmosphere.

Green Investing in Practice

Climate change is one of the top themes that investors would like to include in their portfolios. As investors work to build portfolios and measure performance, these sustainable indexes can serve as a critical reference point.

Available for both equity and fixed income portfolios, the MSCI Climate Paris Aligned Indexes are a transparent way to implement a green investing strategy.

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Decarbonization 101: What Carbon Emissions Are Part Of Your Footprint?

What types of carbon emissions do companies need to be aware of to effectively decarbonize? Here are the 3 scopes of carbon emissions.

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Scopes of Carbon Emissions Share

What Carbon Emissions Are Part Of Your Footprint?

With many countries and companies formalizing commitments to meeting the Paris Agreement carbon emissions reduction goals, the pressure to decarbonize is on.

A common commitment from organizations is a “net-zero” pledge to both reduce and balance carbon emissions with carbon offsets. Germany, France and the UK have already signed net-zero emissions laws targeting 2050, and the U.S. and Canada recently committed to synchronize efforts towards the same net-zero goal by 2050.

As organizations face mounting pressure from governments and consumers to decarbonize, they need to define the carbon emissions that make up their carbon footprints in order to measure and minimize them.

This infographic from the National Public Utility Council highlights the three scopes of carbon emissions that make up a company’s carbon footprint.

The 3 Scopes of Carbon Emissions To Know

The most commonly used breakdown of a company’s carbon emissions are the three scopes defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a partnership between the World Resources Institute and Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The GHG Protocol separates carbon emissions into three buckets: emissions caused directly by the company, emissions caused by the company’s consumption of electricity, and emissions caused by activities in a company’s value chain.

Scope 1: Direct emissions

These emissions are direct GHG emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by the company, and are generally the easiest to track and change. Scope 1 emissions include:

  • Factories
  • Facilities
  • Boilers
  • Furnaces
  • Company vehicles
  • Chemical production (not including biomass combustion)

Scope 2: Indirect electricity emissions

These emissions are indirect GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the company, which requires tracking both your company’s energy consumption and the relevant electrical output type and emissions from the supplying utility. Scope 2 emissions include:

  • Electricity use (e.g. lights, computers, machinery, heating, steam, cooling)
  • Emissions occur at the facility where electricity is generated (fossil fuel combustion, etc.)

Scope 3: Value chain emissions

These emissions include all other indirect GHG emissions occurring as a consequence of a company’s activities both upstream and downstream. They aren’t controlled or owned by the company, and many reporting bodies consider them optional to track, but they are often the largest source of a company’s carbon footprint and can be impacted in many different ways. Scope 3 emissions include:

  • Purchased goods and services
  • Transportation and distribution
  • Investments
  • Employee commute
  • Business travel
  • Use and waste of products
  • Company waste disposal

The Carbon Emissions Not Measured

Most uses of the GHG Protocol by companies includes many of the most common and impactful greenhouse gases that were covered by the UN’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol. These include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, as well as other gases and carbon-based compounds.

But the standard doesn’t include other emissions that either act as minor greenhouse gases or are harmful to other aspects of life, such as general pollutants or ozone depletion.

These are emissions that companies aren’t required to track in the pressure to decarbonize, but are still impactful and helpful to reduce:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCS): These are greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigeration systems and in fire suppression systems (alongside halons) that are regulated by the Montreal Protocol due to their contribution to ozone depletion.
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx): These gases include nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and are caused by the combustion of fuels and act as a source of air pollution, contributing to the formation of smog and acid rain.
  • Halocarbons: These carbon-halogen compounds have been used historically as solvents, pesticides, refrigerants, adhesives, and plastics, and have been deemed a direct cause of global warming for their role in the depletion of the stratospheric ozone.

There are many different types of carbon emissions for companies (and governments) to consider, measure, and reduce on the path to decarbonization. But that means there are also many places to start.

National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.

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