Understanding how exchange rates work and how they affect Forex markets is essential if you’re going to last as a Forex market trader. Exchange rates, Euros, dollars, yens, marks, francs,floating exchange rates, pips, points – the whole concept of the exchange rate can be daunting for a beginner trader
What the heck is an exchange rate?
The exchange rate refers to the relative worth of one type of currency against another. To make it simple, let’s use an example with a simple exchange rate that everyone is familiar with – the exchange rate of dollars to dimes. Suppose you have 10 one-dollar bills. You know that each of those dollar bills is worth 10 dimes. You could, if you wanted, go to the bank and exchange your 10-dollar bills for 100 dimes. The exchange rate would be expressed as DOL/DIM=.10 or DIM/DOL=10. In other words, you can exchange one dollar for 10 dimes or 10 dimes for one dollar.
This example can be expanded to include foreign currencies. Instead of dollars and dimes though you’re dealing with Euros, yen, pounds and francs. EUR/USD=1.1023 means that each euro is worth $ 1.1023 (the fourth decimal point is used due to the large volume of trading). In reverse, that would be expressed as USD/EUR=.9071. In other words, if you want to trade US dollars for Euros, it will cost you $ 1,102.30 to get 1000 Euros.
Exchange rates do however move up and down and here’s how that works. The dollars and dimes example can be used to illustrate the point. For example your local store has decided that it will now only accept payment in dimes. If you want to buy a loaf of bread your dollar bills are now worthless. In order to buy that loaf, you’re going to have to find 17 dimes for your two dollars. What happens when there becomes a shortage of dimes. You find a source of dimes and you negotiate. You tell the person holding the dimes that you’ll give them two dollars for 17 dimes. In doing so you’ve changed the currency exchange rate from DOL/DIM=.10 to DOL/DIM=.11. That means every dollar is now worth 11 dimes instead of ten – and if you want to buy $ 100 worth of dimes, you’ll get 90 dimes, not 100.
The same holds true for the international currency market. If you want to buy goods in Japan, you need to trade with Japanese money. If all you have is dollars, then you need to exchange your dollars for yen. If lots of people are trying to buy yen at the same time, then you’re going to end up paying (exchanging) more dollars for less yen and the products that you’re buying are going to cost you more.
When a country’s economy is strong, people know that they’ll make more money if they invest in businesses and products in that country. In order to buy products or invest money there, they need to exchange their currency for that country’s currency. If there’s a rumour that a major industry in that country is about to fail, people will want to get out – and will start trading in their yen for dollars or Euros or Aussies – whichever is the best exchange rate you can get.
It’s all about supply and demand. There are a couple of other factors that influence exchange rates. One of those is the interest rate. When you hold currency, you earn interest in that country’s currency at their prevailing rate. If the interest rate is higher for yen than for dollars, then people will trade in their dollars for yen in order to earn a higher rate. A second factor is the inflation rate. When the inflation rate in a country is high, people don’t want to hold that country’s currency since the value of the money is going down. Likewise, if the inflation rate is low, people are more likely to want the country’s currency because the value isn’t expected to go down.
One other important factor in the exchange rate is trade with other countries. If world prices for a country’s exports go up in relation to their imports, they’ll be making more on what they sell than they are spending for what they buy. You can see this most clearly in the price of oil. The US buys a large percentage of its oil from Canada. As the price of oil on the world market increases, the exchange rate of Canadian dollars to US dollars goes down – Canadian dollars become more valuable because the Canadian economy is growing stronger.
Floating currency exchange rates are intricate. When you research the subject further you’ll be able to better understand more in-depth writings on the subject.
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