How to Trade Exotic Currency Pairs

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Trading with the exotic currency pairs is less popular than with the major currencies pairs such as EUR/USD and USD/JPY, but the mechanics of trading is the same. Both technical and fundamental analysis works the same for exotics and the same strategies that work for the major pairs can generate signals for the exotic currency pairs. But what to do when your broker doesn’t support trading with the specific exotic pair? Changing broker to open a position isn’t a good idea, but there is a way to trade some pairs on the brokers that don’t have them.

The exotic currency pairs are also often called cross pairs, because in reality they are often nothing more than the derivatives from the major currency pairs. That opens a possibility to substitute such pairs with majors. For example, you want to sell NZD/JPY, but your broker has no such pair, though it offers NZD/USD and USD/JPY. So, all you need to do is to sell NZD/USD and NZD/JPY, the resulting positions will give you the same combined profit as the NZD/JPY short position would give you. Another example: if you want to buy EUR/AUD, but your broker only offers EUR/USD and AUD/USD then you just need to buy EUR/USD and sell AUD/USD. The general rule is the following: to go long on cross X/Y — buy major with X in the first position or sell one with X in the second and sell major with Y in the first position or buy it if Y is in the second position. To go short — do the same but vice versa.

Unfortunately this technique has two important disadvantages:
  1. You can’t set stop-loss and take-profit level like with a single currency pair position. You depend on two positions combined and the majority of the Forex brokers doesn’t support combined stop-losses or take-profits on two orders.
  2. Position size uncertainty makes it difficult manage your risks in such trades, because the base currency for those positions can be different.
If you don’t trade exotics too often and you like your current broker, then you probably wouldn’t want to change your broker to get more currency pairs. But if you open such positions more than once a month then this technique isn’t something you need. In this case I’d recommend changing your broker.

Choosing a Forex Broker

Monday, July 28, 2008
Choosing a Forex broker is an important step to a success in the Forex trading. Whether you are a beginning trader looking for your first broker or an experienced trader seeking to switch brokers, you'll have to be careful in this selection. With the current abundance of the on-line Forex brokers offering dozens of services, bonuses and high quality execution, one need to look for the exact features that would fit his trading style, capital requirements and level of legal regulation. Here's the short list of things for which to look when you choose your Forex broker:
  1. Terms of Service. The first thing at which trader needs to look before joining a broker is its Terms of Service. They should be free from anything that would put trader's money in danger and should give him freedom to manage his account without any serious obstacles. Don't forget to check ToS to know if the broker forbids your trading style - e.g. scalping, news trading, etc.
  2. Trading platform. Trading via a Forex broker with some lousy platform is a real pain for any trader. Check if the broker's platform is good enough (through the demo trading) before registering a real account. MetaTrader 4 platform is offered by many Forex brokers and it's one of the best of the available platforms for the on-line trading.
  3. Regulation. If the broker claims to be from U.S. or U.K. or any other country with high level of Forex brokerage regulation then check the local authorities to see if they are really regulated. Checking offshore companies is almost useless and trading with the offshore broker has its own advantages and disadvantages as well.
  4. Spread. Spread will be your main payment to the broker for using its services. Don't overpay for anything - try to find a broker which offers low spreads. For example, trading with a Forex broker with 7 pips spread on EUR/USD currency pair is really stupid, while the average spread for this pair on other brokers is 2 pips. If you find a broker that offers spreads below average, don't forget to read its ToS to see if there are any hidden commissions in it.
  5. Payment methods. Most of the traders deposit and withdraw their trading funds via wire transfer. But there are plenty of other methods of payment that can be used to trade Forex; PayPal and WebMoney are among them. If you prefer electronic payment systems choose a Forex broker that accepts them.
  6. Minimum deposit. Trading with small amounts of money won't make you rich, but it's a good way to check your broker's real account handling before trading big, so the minimum deposit amount for the Forex broker shouldn't be too high. Some of them accept deposits only from $10,000 and higher - that's not a very good practice, since many traders would prefer trading with just hundreds of dollars before depositing such amounts.
  7. Additional services. Almost every broker offers additional services nowadays. Personally I prefer brokers that allow extra instruments for trading except Forex pairs - like metals, indexes or some CFD. For example, if you trade not very often and prefer long-term trading you'd seek a broker that pays interest on your free margin and offers good interest rate difference payments for your open positions.
Of course, this list is far from full, as there are many other parameters for which to judge the broker and they vary from trader to trader. But you can use this list as a checklist next time you are going to choose your new broker or register with an old one with which you've been trading on demo account for years.

Reacting on Forex News

Friday, July 25, 2008
Trading on the Forex news is a popular strategy that is generally adopted among both professional and barely experienced traders. Apart from the standard high volatility accompanying important economic releases, Forex traders try to earn by predicting the outcome of the news, successfully forecasting the market’s reaction. However there are three important points every news trader should know before reacting on the Forex news:
  1. Generally it’s a good idea to set the entry orders before the actual news release. Use stop and limit orders to make the entry to trigger automatically and at the desired levels even on a very volatile market.
  2. Setting stop and limit orders for entry is a good way to automate the news trading, but it’s also a good idea to stay near your trading platform during the news release. Sometimes the market demands your personal reaction and your own understanding of the current situation to bring you profits and save you from losses.
  3. You should know beforehand if your broker allows news trading. Many Forex brokers forbid trading during the news of the high importance to the Forex market. They can do it either via their terms of service or via some technical obstacles. Some brokers widen their spreads to extreme values during the news, while the others just stop reacting to the trader’s orders. Don’t even try earning from the news trading if your broker doesn’t allow it.
Don’t be scared to trade on the Forex news. It’s a good tactic for every kind of trader and will work on the most Forex brokers. Just try to avoid the common mistakes associated with this trading strategy.

Carry Trade — Why Did It Work and Why It Won't Anymore

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Carry trade is the kind of Forex trading where low-yielding currency is sold for the high-yielding one and the produced difference between the yields is gained by the trader; usually it’s also multiplied by the margin leverage. So what are the yields of the currencies? Each currency has an overnight interest rate associated with it. If you trade via a broker you buy and sell currencies without a physical delivery, so when you buy a currency you should get paid an interest from a broker, because he gets to «store» and «use» that currency, while you hold the position. If you sell a currency you should pay an interest because you «hold» and «use» the currency you sold, while the position is open. Because in Forex you trade the currencies in pairs you will get the difference between the long currency’s interest rate and the short currency’s interest rate. If you sell GBP/JPY pair and Bank of England’s interest rate is 5.00%, while Bank of Japan’s is 0.50% you’ll lose 4.50% interest on this position, if you buy this pair you gain this difference. In reality, brokers apply some commission to these differences, so you’ll lose more on negative interest and earn less on positive.

These rate differences wouldn’t be so attractive if it wasn’t high leverage that multiplies the gain by tens and hundreds. With 1:100 leverage you get 450%/year holding a long GBP/JPY position. With a higher leverage and a higher rate difference the results are even more impressive. South African rand has 12.0% interest rate associated with it. Buying ZAR/JPY with 1:400 leverage would yield 4600% a year.

No surprise that from 2001 to mid-2007 Forex carry trades were extremely popular. Such currency pairs as GBP/JPY, EUR/JPY, AUD/JPY and NZD/JPY brought thousands percents of profit through the interest rate difference only; considering that those pairs also rose tremendously during that period, such positions made many people rich.

So what happened in 2007 and why carry trade positions aren’t very popular now? Global economy crisis spurred by mortgage lending crisis in U.S. triggered the growth of the global volatility. Central banks stopped raising interest rates and started to focus on growth, while high-yielding currencies started a correction. Higher yields are always associated with the higher risks, so when the global risks increased, the carry traders started to close their positions and spurred a wave of decline on those currency pairs. Currently all those popular carry trade pairs are moving sideways with a little downward slope.

Carry trades didn’t vanish from the Forex market they just became much less popular and no longer last for years. Now carry traders prefer to buy at the local bottoms and hold the pair for weeks or even days to gain their interest rate difference. And this situation will probably last while the global economic growth remains in danger.

3 Advantages of the Long-Term Forex Trading

Friday, July 18, 2008
As a long-standing supporter and practitioner of the long-term Forex trading it's hard for me judge this style of trading objectively, but pointing out the advantages is an easy task in this case. Apart from the obvious subjective advantages that are appealing to the certain features of the trader's character, long-term Forex trading has some features that are good for everyone:
  1. Spread economy. If you trade on the long-term periods you tend to get more than 100-200 pips from every position, if you trade on the short-term periods your trades will rarely go beyond 50 pips in profit. Assume a broker with 2 pips spread and you make 2,000 pips a month with it (more optimism!). With 10 profitable trades yielding 200 pips each you get 2,000 pips of profit minus 20 pips paid in spread to your broker — that's 1 percent. With 100 trades yielding 20 pips each you get 2,000 pips minus 200 pips left to broker in spreads — that's 10 percent.
  2. Resistance to the short-term volatility. Long-term Forex traders don't have to worry about stop-hunting or the intraday spikes. Their positions are safe from the usual daily market volatility. If you trade long-term you always have enough time to change your position's parameters when something important happens.
  3. Long-term trading is simple. To trade successfully on the long time periods you have to forecast the general trend and the possible exit points and on the long-term charts that's not a difficult thing to do usually. And since you trade rarely you won't need to make the decisions too often, while in short-term trading you have to develop the complex strategies to succeed.
I can't make you switch to the long-term Forex trading if you don't like it and the majority of the traders enjoy the short-term trading, but now at least you know the advantages of the other trading style. If you experience difficulties trading inside the day you could always switch to the long-term trading.

3 Advantages of the Short-Term Forex Trading

Monday, July 14, 2008
Trading on the short-term periods at the Forex market is often considered a more popular practice than the long-term trading. In short-term trades your positions usually don't last longer than a day, while in the long-term trading they can remain open for years. Although, I prefer to trade on the long-term charts and hold my positions open for the long periods of time, the short-term Forex trading has its advantages:
  1. You can trade on thousands of opportunities when the currency rates change with a high volatility. You can capture every swing — up or down, trade inside the ranges and channels. Even the sideways market can be traded in short-term. When you trade long-term you miss these opportunities.
  2. You don't have to tie up your funds for the long periods of time. Your margin capital is locked only for the short periods and you can even get it out of the trading account if you really need it and then put it back and continue trading without any problems. In long-term trading your money gets caught into positions for months.
  3. The majority of the Forex trading signals work only for the short-term trading. Usually both technical and fundamental signals are played out in several hours of trading on the Forex market. The number of signals and events that influence currency rates on the long-term scale is really minimal.
This is what you get if you like to trade inside the day and use such techniques as breakout trading, scalping, news trading, range trading and any other short-term strategy. Of course there are also some disadvantages in the short-term trading, but they are not the topic of this post.

Functions of the Retail Forex Market

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Retail Forex market became very popular after the development of the on-line trading technologies. Millions of new traders are attracted to Forex each year. They try to earn profits trading the currencies, developing the new intraday strategies and gaining on the long-term trends. But why does the retail FX market exist? Is it only a way to earn money for the brokers and some lucky traders? Here is the list of some functions — obvious and not — that are performed by the retail Forex market:
  1. Earning opportunity — this is probably the most popular, obvious and important function of the retail Forex market. It provides the earning opportunity to traders, brokers, affiliates, webmasters, marketing companies and a lot of other on-line industries. Without a promise of profits retail Forex market would be limited to a simple exchange of the physical or current-account money.
  2. Extra liquidity — this is definitely a positive function of the retail currency market. Although, not many traders use huge amounts of cash on Forex, the total sum of the money provided by the retail customers adds a good chunk of liquidity to the Forex market.
  3. Extra volatility — a not very positive function at a first glance. Retail Forex market makes the rate movement less smooth and more volatile as the traders prefer short-term trading, which leads to the sharp reactions on the daily news and technical signals. Excess volatility is bad for the long-term traders, but it can be good for those who know how to benefit from such markets.
  4. Social function — many communities were formed around the Forex trading. Traders prefer to get help from other traders and they also like to share the knowledge that is related to Forex.
  5. Technical strategy development — popularity of the Forex trading and especially the on-line and automated versions of this trading led to the creation of thousands of the automated trading strategies. Based on technical analysis some of such strategies can be applied not only in Forex trading but in many other industries.
Of course, this list can't be considered as full and complete, but these functions are the main attributes of the contemporary retail Forex market, in my opinion.

4 Reasons to Practice on Small-Size Real Account before Risking Big on Forex

Monday, July 7, 2008
Practicing on the demo accounts before moving on to the real money trading is an obvious requirement for successful participating on the Forex market. It’s always better to lose virtual money while you are learning new market theories, developing your trading system or improving your practical Forex skills. But is it right to jump from the virtual account to a big real money one when you suddenly realize that you manage to be profitable for a long period of time in your demo trading? Here are some reasons to move on to just a small real account before risking a lot of hard-earned money on Forex:
  1. Real trading is different from virtual, because you get real emotions when you lose or earn money. Trading with $100 on real will get you more real feeling than trading with $10,000 on demo. It’s better to lose $50-$100 to learn controlling those emotions than several thousands dollars.
  2. Know your broker’s real account servers’ behavior. With some brokers virtual trading is smooth and fast, while real account bring unpleasant surprises with order delays, requites, refusals, slippage and stop-hunting. Trading with a small real account can save you big money if you are unlucky to stumble upon a bad broker.
  3. Know your broker’s funds handling practice. Don’t risk depositing thousands dollars before trying small deposits to see how smooth transfers go with this broker. Pay attention to user support if you encounter some problems with the depositing or withdrawing your money. If your broker doesn’t take seriously small money deposits/withdrawals than you should be careful with it, since it may treat big amounts the money in the same way.
  4. Practicing on small real account has another advantage before the demo trading – you get the real rewards when you trade right and you get real losses when you do something wrong. This way you’ll quickly learn to do everything right and won’t be doing the same mistakes again and again.
Demo trading is one of the greatest tools to learn Forex trading, just don’t forget that nothing will teach you better than trading on a real account. But why risk big before being confident in your skills, when you can start with a small-size real account?

The Magic of Moving Averages

Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Perhaps, the first indicator you’ve seen and used when you first started to trade Forex was Moving Average. For me it was that. Moving averages come in several forms — simple, weighted, exponential, smoothed, etc. And they present the most basic way to measure the current trend direction and to spot its change. At a first glance simple moving average indicator looks like a miraculous tool that is easy to use and can tell you where to enter a position and where to exit one. Let’s try to understand this indicator — is it really as good as it seems?

What moving average shows? No matter if it’s a simple, exponential or any other form of MA the only thing it’s showing is the average rate of the currency pair over a certain period of time, hence the name. For example, MA with a period set to 7 on a daily chart for any given bar will show the average price over the previous 7 bars (days). That’s not a magic, right? Various forms of moving average just influence the way to calculate the average value (to make the line look more smooth or sharp, or to throw out spikes), but in the end we get the averages of the previous periods.

So what happens when the current price crosses MA? Faster MA crosses slower MA? 3 MAs cross each other? The cross of the MA and a price or other MA (or any amount of other MAs) is usually considered as the buy/sell signal or at least a partial signal. Why? Because they really show a change in the trend. The problem is that the change could have happened long ago (up to the MA’s period bars ago). When the moving average is crossed by the price chart from below that simply means the current price became higher than the average price for the last N bars (where N is the period of MA) — that’s it and nothing else. If MA with a period of 7 days crosses MA with a period of 14 days from below that means that the average price in the last 7 days is higher than the average price during the last 14 days (the actual trend change here could happen up to 14 days ago). Some strategies employ even 5 moving averages cross — that won’t change the fact that the only thing you’ll know when such cross occurs is the ratio of the average price over 5 different periods.

So is there any point to use moving average? Yes, I think that the moving average is a good indicator, but not as a signal producer or a trend change indicator. What does it do best? It indicates the average price. So, it’s better to use it when you want to know the average price over a certain period. You can compare current price to the moving average to consider overbought/oversold state, measure the volatility comparing the price action with the large-period MAs, use the long-term moving averages as the support and resistance levels (because so many traders and even institutional traders use it in this way), etc.

Maybe that’s not a pleasant thing to know if you base your trading strategy on moving averages’ crosses, but the facts don’t lie and with more trading experience it becomes clear that moving averages can’t do magic and shouldn’t be used as an easy way to create another Forex strategy.