What is forex? 

​​Foreign exchange, also known as forex or FX, is the exchange of different currencies on a decentralised global market. It's one of the largest and most liquid financial markets in the world. Forex trading involves the simultaneous buying and selling of the world's currencies on this market. 

What is foreign exchange trading?

Forex is one of the most widely traded markets in the world, with a total daily average turnover reported to exceed $5 trillion a day. The forex market is not based in a central location or exchange, and is open 24 hours a day from Sunday night through to Friday night. A wide range of currencies are constantly being exchanged as individuals, companies and organisations conduct global business and attempt to take advantage of rate fluctuations.

Forex is always traded in pairs – for example EUR/USD. You speculate on whether the price of one country's currency will rise or fall against the currency of another country, and take a position accordingly. 

CMC Markets was one of the first companies to provide online forex trading in the UK. You can trade CFDs in forex. We offer all of the major crosses (or cross pairs), as well as a large selection of minor, exotic and emerging market currency pairs. 

a selection of different forex market currencies

Base and counter currency

Using the EUR/USD currency pair as our example, the first currency, EUR, is called the 'base currency' and the second currency, USD, is known as the 'counter currency'. 

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How does forex trading work?

When trading forex, you always speculate on whether the price of the base currency will rise or fall against the counter currency. So in EUR/USD if you think EUR will rise against USD, you go long (buy) the currency pair. Alternatively, if you think EUR will fall against USD (or that USD will rise against EUR), you go short (sell) the currency pair.

If you were right (that is if you went long EUR/USD and EUR went up in value against USD), you would make a profit. If the trade went against you, however, you would make a loss. 

You can trade forex using leverage, which allows you to increase your potential profit, but it also increases your potential loss. Learn more about trading forex and its risks in this article.

What is margin or leverage?

Since forex is traded on margin, you only have to deposit a percentage of the full amount you wish to trade. Our margins for forex start from 2.90%, which could be referred to as 34:1 leverage, as the value of the full position would be 34 times the value of the deposit required to open the trade. When trading on margin it's important to remember that your profits or losses are based on the full value of the position, not just the percentage you deposited, so you can lose more than your initial deposit. 

forex chart with figures rising and falling

FX trading examples 

View our FX trading examples to see how buying or selling forex pairs as CFDs works, and find out more about trading forex with us.

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This data is provided for general information only and may not be current. Please refer to the product overview area of our trading platform for real-time information on the spreads, margin rates, commission (as applicable) and trading hours of a particular product.


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