National Futures Association is a congressionally authorized self-regulatory organization of the United States futures industry. Its mission is to provide innovative regulatory programs and services that protect investors and ensure market integrity.

NFA has prepared this booklet as part of its continuing public education efforts to provide information to potential investors. The booklet presents an overview of the retail off-exchange foreign currency market and provides other important information that investors need to know before they invest in the off-exchange foreign currency market.

INTRODUCTION

Companies and individuals may speculate in foreign currency exchange rates (commonly referred to as forex), and a number of firms are presently offering off-exchange foreign currencyfutures and options contracts to the public. If you are a retail investor considering participating in this market, you need to fully understand the market and some of its unique features. NFA has prepared this booklet to educate you about off-exchange foreign currency trading.

Like many other investments, off-exchange foreign currency trading carries a high level of risk and may not be suitable for all investors. In fact, you could lose all of your initial investment and may be liable for additional losses. Therefore, you need to understand the risks associated with this product so you may make an informed investment decision.

You should also understand the language of the forex markets before trading in those markets. The glossary in the back of this booklet defines some of the most commonly used terms.

This booklet does not suggest that you should or should not participate in the retail off-exchange foreign currency market. You should make that decision after consulting with your financial advisor and considering your own financial situation and objectives. In that regard, you may find this booklet helpful as one component of the due diligence process that investors are encouraged to undertake before making any investment decisions about the off-exchange foreign currency market.

Finally, the discussion in this booklet assumes you are funding your forex account with US dollars. The principles in this booklet apply to all currencies, however.

What are foreign currency exchange rates?

Foreign currency exchange rates are what it costs to exchange one country?s currency for another country?s currency. For example, if you go to England on vacation, you will have to pay for your hotel,
meals, admissions fees, souvenirs and other expenses in British pounds. Since your money is all in US dollars, you will have to use (sell) some of your dollars to buy British pounds.

Assume you go to your bank before you leave and buy $1,000 worth of British pounds. If you get 565.83 British pounds (?565.83) for your $1,000, each dollar is worth .56583 British pounds. This is the exchange rate for converting dollars to pounds.

If ?565.83 isn?t enough cash for your trip, you will have to exchange more US dollars for pounds while in England. Assume you buy another $1,000 worth of British pounds from a bank in England and get only ?557.02 for your $1,000. The exchange rate for converting dollars to pounds has dropped from .56583 to
.55702. This means that US dollars are worth less compared to the British pound than they were before you left on vacation.

Assume that you have ?100 left when you return home. You go to your bank and use the pounds to buy US dollars. If the bank gives you $179.31, each British pound is worth 1.7931 dollars. This is the exchange rate for converting pounds to dollars.

Theoretically, you can convert the exchange rate for buying a currency to the exchange rate for selling a currency, and vice versa, by dividing 1 by the known rate. For example, if the exchange rate for buying British pounds with US dollars is .56011, the exchange rate for buying US dollars with British pounds is 1.78536 (1 ? .56011= 1.78536). Similarly, if the exchange rate for buying US dollarswith British pounds is 1.78536, the exchange rate for buying British pounds with US dollars is .56011 (1? 1.78536 = .56011). This is how newspapers often report currency exchange rates.

As a practical matter, however, you will not be able to buy and sell the currency at the same price, and you will not receive the price quoted in the newspaper. This is because banks and other market participants make money by selling the currency to customers for more than they paid to buy it and by buying the currency from customers for less than they will receive when they sell it. The difference is called a spread and is discussed later in this booklet.

 

Source: National Futures Associations