Currency trading was very difficult for individual investors prior to the internet. Most currency traders were large multinational corporations, hedge funds or high-net-worth individuals because forex trading required a lot of capital. With help from the internet, a retail market aimed at individual traders has emerged, providing easy access to the foreign exchange markets, either through the banks themselves or brokers making a secondary market. Most online brokers or dealers offer very high leverage to individual traders who can control a large trade with a small account balance.
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Most retail investors should spend time investigating a forex dealer to find out whether it is regulated in the U.S. or the U.K. (dealers in the U.S. and U.K. have more oversight) or in a country with lax rules and oversight. It is also a good idea to find out what kind of account protections are available in case of a market crisis, or if a dealer becomes insolvent.
One pound on Monday can bring you 1.19 euros. On Tuesday 1.20 euros. This tiny change may not seem like a big deal. But think about it on a larger scale. A large international company may have to pay foreign employees. Imagine what this can do for a practical purpose, if, as in the example above, a simple exchange of one currency for another costs you more, depending on when you do it? These few kopecks add up quickly. In both cases, you, as a traveler or business owner, can keep your money until the forex course becomes more favorable.
Since the market is made by each of the participating banks providing offers and bids for a particular currency, the market pricing mechanism is based on supply and demand. Because there are such large trade flows within the system, it is difficult for rogue traders to influence the price of a currency. This system helps create transparency in the market for investors with access to interbank dealing.