Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Forex Spreads

Forex is always priced in pairs between two different types of currencies. When you make a trade, you have to buy one currency and sell another at the same time. If you want to exit the trade, you must buy/sell the opposite position. For example, when you think the price of the Euro is going to rise against the US Dollar. In order for you to enter a trade, you will have to buy Euros and sell US Dollars.

If you want to leave the trade, you will have to sell Euros and buy back US Dollars. You will be hoping that you were right in your guess and that the exchange rate for EU/USD has actually risen, which means that you will get more Euros back than when you bought them, which is how you will make a profit.

These days just about every forex broker is claiming to have the tightest spreads in the industry. But marketing does have the ability to be deceiving. The topic of spreads in the forex spot market is very complicated and often not easy to understand. However, nothing affects your trading profitability more.

First of all in order to understand the spread, you need to know what it is. A spread is the difference between the ask price (the price you buy at) and the bid price (the price you sell at) that is quoted in the pips. If the quote between EUR/USD at a given moment is 1.2222/4, then the spread equals 2 pips. If the quote is 1.22225/40, then the spread is going to equal 1.5 pips.

The spread is how brokers make their money. Wider spreads will result in a higher asking price and a lower bid price. The consequence to this is that you have to pay more when you buy and get less when you sell, which makes it more difficult to realize a profit

Brokers generally don’t earn the full spread, especially when they hedge client positions. The spread helps to compensate for the market maker for taking on risk from the time it starts a client trade to when the broker's net exposure is hedged (which could possibly be at a different price).

Spreads are important because they affect the return on your trading strategy in a big way. As a trader, your sole interest is buying low and selling high (like futures and commodities trading). Wider spreads means buying higher and having to sell lower. A half-pip lower spread doesn't necessarily sound like much, but it can easily mean the difference between a profitable trading strategy and one that isn’t profitable.

The tighter the spread is the better things are going to be for you. However tight spreads are only meaningful when they are paired up with good execution. Quality of execution will decide whether you actually receive tight spreads. A good example of this is when your screen shows a tight spread, but your trade is filled a few pips to your disadvantage or is mysteriously rejected.

When this occurs repeatedly, it means that your broker is showing tight spreads but is effectively delivering wider spreads. Rejected trades, delayed execution, slipping, and stop-hunting are strategies that some brokers use to get rid of the promise of tight spreads.

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