Despite the fact that there is no centralized market for foreign exchange trading and that Forex trading involves a variety of market makers rather than just a few specialists, there in nonetheless a structure and a hierarchy to the market.
At the top of the market is the interbank market which sees the highest volume of trading and principally trades in the currencies of the G8 nations, which together represent some 65 percent of the world economy. Here the major banks trade with each other on lines of credit which are established between individual banks and the rates at which trading takes place are clearly visible to all of the participants. Trading is conducted through interbank brokers, electronic brokerage systems or Reuters.
Below this ‘top level’ market other participants, such as smaller banks and corporations, must trade through commercial banks. Unlike the interbank market however here there are rarely established lines of credit and this means that traders below the interbank market often trade at less competitive rates and are tied to using just one bank for their foreign exchange dealings.
A few years ago the Forex market was very much dominated by the big banks and was very much an ‘old boys club’ which it was very difficult to get into. Today however technology has changed the market dramatically and even small investors can now access the market as global Forex traders and take advantage of the opportunities previously only available to the big boys.
Access to the market has also been helped considerably in recent years by the changing nature of the market itself. Foreign exchange dealing was formerly very much an activity associated with the international trade in goods and services and was essentially seen as servicing import and export markets. Today however investment plays a major role in the market with capital flowing between countries through participants such as insurance companies, institutional investors, mutual funds and others.
The size and diversity of today’s market, combined with the ease of trading as a result of advances in technology, brings not only extremely high liquidity to the market, but also considerably price stability. Unlike equity markets, the Forex market always has an abundance of both buyers and sellers available and this also creates a very orderly market.