By Matt Kang, Senior Broker
FOREX (foreign exchange market or currency market) refers to an international exchange market where currencies(pairs) are bought and sold. For instance, EUR/USD, GBP/USD, AUD/USD and more. If you are trading forex, you can hold your positions as long as you want because it doesn’t have any expiration date. But there is a cost associated with keeping the position over night, it can either be a credit or debit depending on the interest difference between two countries.
Currency futures are in one currency such as EURO FX or Canadian Dollar. Unlike FOREX, there is an expiration date which means you can only hold the position until that time. For example, if you are trading Mexican Peso and South African Rand but carry the position after the expiration date, these currencies are physically delivered four times in a year on the third Wednesday of March, June, September, and December.
Liquidity and Centralized Market?
The FOREX market is the largest and most liquid market in the world. There is no centralized location for FOREX, which means there is no one physical location which is supervising this market. Therefore, traders must check the quotes of various currency pairs from each dealer.
The currency futures market has a respectable daily average closer to $100 billion. Compared to the 4 trillion FOREX daily volume. Currency futures are not as liquid as forex, but sufficient enough to trade. Currency futures are a centralized market, and one key aspect of centralized markets is that all traders and investors are able to see same quotes and the existence of a clearing house, it guarantees the integrity of the transactions. The resulting benefit of reduced risk from not dealing with variable counterparties is a key aspect of this.
Cost of Trading and Commission?
Some people say “I trade FOREX because there is no exchange, no regulatory fees and no commissions” but it is not true. If you trade currency futures, you will see all of these fees exist, such as NFA fees, exchange fees and commission fees. It will cost around $5-8 (buy and sell) for a self-directed account. If you are trading FOREX, then all of these fees are included in a bid/ask spread. A typical spread for EUR/USD is 1.2 pips which is equivalent to $12.
So Should I Trade FOREX or Currency Futures?
For the average investor who trades an account of $2,500 to $500,000 it is probably wiser, and more cost effective to trade Currency futures. The cost of trading will be lowest with this amount of funding and the roll-over rate will not dramatically impact your trading.
If you are working with very little money ($250 to $2,000) OR trading with more than $1 million OR trading some exotic pairs, then you will be better off with FOREX because it offers mini as well as micro trading sizes. Also, if you are investing over $1 million, then it is possible to earn interest and lower spread (fees).
Disclaimer – Trading Futures, Options on Futures, and retail off-exchange foreign currency transactions involves substantial risk of loss and is not suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. You should carefully consider whether trading is suitable for you in light of your circumstances, knowledge, and financial resources. You may lose all or more of your initial investment. Opinions, market data, and recommendations are subject to change at any time.