Forex vs stocks

The forex market and the stock market constitute two of the most popular financial markets to trade worldwide. This is due to their historical volume, volatility and the large number of educational resources that are available to both forex traders and share traders.

The foreign exchange market is the largest and most liquid financial market in the world, with a seemingly endless amount of major, minor and exotic currency pairs to trade. Forex traders can use pips to monitor price movements in forex trading in order to determine if the market is moving up or down. The most popular major currency pairs for forex trading include EUR/USD, GBP/USD and USD/JPY, among many others. Stock market trading allows traders to speculate on the value of blue-chip stocks and penny stocks, which are both popular assets with an opposite original value. Some of the most promising shares to trade are well-established companies with a large market capitalisation, such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. If you are willing to take a risk on a speculative investment, then penny stocks can pay off in the long term if successful.

It can be difficult to determine which assets you would like to buy and sell, spread bet or trade CFDs on. Trading stocks and forex are both popular with different types of traders, depending on personality type, and level of experience and preferred pace of your trades. This article explores the debate around forex vs stocks, concerning the major differences between forex and stock trading.

CMC Markets

Difference between forex and stocks

Market trading hours

Trading hours differ between the forex market and the stock market. The forex market is open 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, due to the overlap between time zones. This is one of the advantages of forex trading over stocks. On the other hand, there is a set daily timetable for stock market trading hours, depending on the specific region and exchange.

For example, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) is open between 08.00-16.30, whereas the central forex market operates between 08.00-16.00, while being overlapped by both New York and Tokyo sessions. Certain exchanges also close for a lunch break, in particular, within the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, you could say that forex trading hours are much more flexible than those of the stock market and there is definitely more time to spend trading forex. However, neither of these financial markets operate over the weekend.

Volume of assets

A particular appeal of forex trading is the volume of assets available to trade. We offer forex trading on more than 330 currency pairs, including major, minor and exotic forex pairs, which is the highest figure in the current market. Forex traders tend to lean toward major currencies such as EUR/USD and GBP/USD, as these considered to be generally stable within the forex market. The stock market opportunities are endless, however, it does not come close to forex trade volume of around $5 billion per day. You can trade on thousands of global shares within the technology, pharmaceutical and automobile industries. This includes both blue-chip stocks and penny stocks. Some of the most distinguished global indices are traded on the stock market, such as the Dow Jones Index and S&P 500. However, the number of shares on the stock market is not always seen as an advantage over forex trading. Some traders prefer the reliability of trading a small number of top forex pairs that have remained in the market consistently, rather than deciding between existing, new and emerging possible stocks to invest in.

A popular method of trading stocks over forex is through ETF trading. Exchange-traded funds are investment funds that hold a collection of underlying assets and work in a similar way to shares. This gives the trader partial ownership of the underlying stock, whereas spread bets and CFDs do not provide any ownership to the trader. Given that stock traders often prefer to open long-term positions within the stock market, ETFs are a useful product for this purpose*.

We offer over 8000 shares and 1000 ETFs that are available to trade on our platform now.

Volatility and liquidity

A popular topic for the forex vs stocks debate refers to market volatility. This measures price fluctuations within the markets that can either help traders to gain profits if the trade is executed effectively, or losses if the trade is not successful. Forex traders in particular often look for high liquidity within the market, as this means that an asset can be bought and sold rapidly without having much of an effect on its price. Therefore, it is likely that high market volatility is more beneficial for short-term traders. Many forex strategies work to open and close positions in a short period of time, with the intention of making a profit from small price movements when the market is particularly volatile. This way, they can enter and exit trades with quick precision.

In contrast, long-term traders that prefer a buy-and-hold method may be less comfortable in a volatile environment. This relates especially to stock traders. Given that certain blue-chip stocks are known for their stability within the stock market, traders are more likely to open positions with a potential for profit in the long-term. Therefore, as they are not looking for short-term price fluctuations, a volatile market would not work for their trading strategy.

Margin rates

Leverage in trading is definitely something to consider when weighing up the forex market against the stock market, also known as trading on margin. Opening a spread betting or CFD trading account allows traders to place a small percentage of the full trade value, which is known as a deposit. This allows traders better exposure for trading both stocks and forex, as they have the opportunity to magnify their profits. This can, however, also result in the opposite direction of magnified losses.

In general, the forex market offers much lower margin rates, starting at around 3.3% or a leverage equivalent of 20:1. On the other hand, the stock market presents fewer risks of capital loss by offering margin rates from 20% or a leverage ratio of 5:1. Indeed, this should prevent traders from greater losses if their trades are unsuccessful. However, forex traders with more experience of volatile markets and closing quick positions may thrive off this higher leverage ratio, as the payout will be worth the risk if successful.

Trading strategies

Another major difference between forex and stocks is the wealth of resources and strategies that have been created for traders of the forex market. As discussed already, many forex trading strategies aim to make a profit in the short term, such as day trading, swing trading and scalping in forex. Day trading in particular can be applied to other markets, including the stock market, along with swing trading stocks. However, focused strategies for stock trading are generally less common, due to the fact that stocks are often traded through long-term positions, and are instead appreciated more by short-term traders in volatile markets. The abundance of resources and tips on how to succeed in the forex market perhaps adds to the advantage of forex trading over stocks.

Open a live account

Unlock our full range of products and trading tools with a live account.

Apply now

Free demo account

Practise trading risk-free with virtual funds on our Next Generation platform.

Open a demo account

CMC Markets

Forex vs stocks: is one more profitable than the other?

Taking into consideration all above points, there is no simple conclusion for which market is more profitable. Choosing a financial instrument or market to trade should take into consideration all external factors, such as personality type, risk tolerance and overall trading goals.

If your goal is to make small, frequent profits from price movements using short-term strategies, then yes, forex is more profitable than stocks. The forex market is far more volatile than the stock market, where profits can come easily to an experienced and focused trader. However, forex also comes with a much higher level of leverage and less traders tend to focus less on risk management, making it a riskier investment that could have adverse effects.

If your goal is to take a buy-and-hold approach for positions in the long-term, then the stock market is a safer and regulated option that can result profits in even larger profits over a period of time, if that stock is successful. You can make money trading both stocks and forex, using different strategies and practising a level of patience.

Correlation between the forex and stock markets

It is common practise for traders to look for correlation between financial markets, in order to predict future price movements. In particular, the forex and stock markets have been known to correlate for various stock market indices and subsequent exchange rates.

For example, before the global recession of 2008 began, investors noticed a trend between the Nikkei stock index and the USD/JPY currency pair. As the Nikkei declined, investors would take this as a sign of weakness for the Japanese economy, and in turn, the USD would strengthen against the JPY. This is known as an inverse correlation. If the roles are reversed and the value of the Nikkei strengthens, the yen in turn strengthens against the USD.

​Many stock and forex traders can use these correlations to predict future market movements when opening positions within both markets. Although there are significant differences between forex and stocks, they often work well together when analysing technical trading patterns. However, market predictions are not guaranteed and given the particular volatility of the forex market, correlations of stock vs forex can suddenly change with no indication of which direction the markets are heading.

Trading stocks and forex with CMC Markets

In conclusion, forex trading vs stock trading has remained a persistent and popular debate between traders of all levels of experience. If you have decided which asset you would like to trade, or would like to open positons within both markets simultaneously, follow the below steps.

  1. Create a live account to start trading both forex and stocks immediately. It is also possible to practise trading forex beforehand with virtual funds beforehand on our demo trading account.
  2. Explore the topical articles in our news and analysis section to keep yourself updated on both the forex and stock markets.
  3. Brush up your knowledge on both fundamental and technical analysis to see which methods are better suited for your trading strategy and personality.
  4. Consider your risk management techniques, including enforcing stop-loss orders and executions to your positions.
  5. There are an abundance of technical indicators and tools to help with your trading plan on our online trading platform, Next Generation. Take time to explore which work for you.

*Leveraged ETFs are complex financial instruments that carry significant risks. Certain leveraged ETFs are only considered appropriate for experienced traders.

Test drive our trading platform with a practice account
CMC Markets

Experience our powerful online platform with pattern recognition scanner, price alerts and module linking.

  • Fill in our short form and start trading
  • Explore our intuitive trading platform
  • Trade the markets risk-free

Disclaimer: CMC Markets is an execution-only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. CMC Markets does not endorse or offer opinion on the trading strategies used by the author. Their trading strategies do not guarantee any return and CMC Markets shall not be held responsible for any loss that you may incur, either directly or indirectly, arising from any investment based on any information contained herein.

Live account

Access our full range of markets, trading tools and features.

Open a live account

Demo account

Try spread betting with virtual funds in a risk-free environment.

Open a demo account

Demo account

Try CFD trading with virtual funds in a risk-free environment.

Live account

Access our full range of products, trading tools and features.

TOP