Foreign Exchange Markets

Participants of a foreign exchange market

The main participants of a foreign exchange market are:
Commercial banks
Exchange markets
Central banks
Firms that conduct foreign trade transactions
Investment funds
Broker companies
Private persons
Commercial banks conduct the main volume of exchange transactions.
Other participants of the market have their accounts at the banks, conducting necessary conversion transactions. Banks accumulate (through transactions with the clients) the combined needs of the market in exchange conversions as well as in calling and distributing money, breaking with it into new banks. Besides satisfying clients' requests, banks can operate independently, using their own assets. In the end, a foreign exchange market is a market of interbank dealings, and when speaking about the exchange rates movement, one should bear in mind the existence of an interbank foreign exchange market. In international foreign exchange markets, international banks with the daily volume of transactions of billions dollars have the biggest influence. These are Barclays Bank, Citibank, Chase Manhatten Bank, Deutsche Bank, Swiss Bank Corporation, Union Bank of Switzerland, etc.
Exchange markets Contrary to stock markets and markets for terminal exchange dealings, exchange markets do not work in a definite building and they do not have definite business hours. Thanks to the development of telecommunications most of the leading financial institutions of the world use services of exchange markets directly and via mediators 24 hours a day. The biggest international exchange markets are the London, New York and Tokyo exchange markets. In some countries with transitional economies there are exchange markets for currency exchange by juristic persons and for forming a market exchange rate. The state usually regulates the exchange rate in an active manner, using the compactness of the exchange market.

Central banks control currency reserves, realize interventions that influence the exchange rate, and regulate the interest investment rate in the national currency. The central bank of the United States, the US Federal Reserve Bank, or "FED", has the greatest influence in the international exchange markets. It is followed by the central banks of Germany, (the Deutsche Bundesbank or BUBA) and of Great Britain (the Bank of England, nicknamed the "Old Lady").

Firms that conduct foreign trade transactions. Companies participating in international trade have a stable demand for foreign currency (importers) and supply (exporters). As a rule, these organizations do not have direct access to exchange markets, and they conduct their conversion and deposit transactions via commercial banks.

Investment funds. These companies, represented by various international investment, pension,and mutual funds, insurance companies, and trusts, realize the policy of diversified management of portfolio of assets by placing there money in securities of the governments and corporations of different countries. The world-know fund, Quantum, is owned by George Soros, and it executes successful exchange speculations. Big international corporations as Xerox, Nestle, General Motors a.o. that make foreign industrial investments (creating branches, joint ventures etc.), also are firms of this kind.

Broker companies bring together a buyer and a seller of foreign currency and conduct a conversion dealing between them. Broker companies take a broker's fee. As a rule, in the FOREX market there is no fee as a per cent from the sum of a transaction, or as a sum agreed in advance. Usually the dealers of broker companies quote currency with a spread, that includes their fee. A broker company, having the information about the asked rates, is a place where the real exchange rate is formed according to closed deals. Commersial banks get their information about the current exchange rate from broker companies. The biggest international broker companies are Lasser Marshall, Harlow Butler, Tullett and Tokio, Coutts, and Tradition.

Private persons. Natural persons realize a wide range of non-commercial transactions in the sphere of foreign tourism, transfers of salaries, pensions, royalties, buying and selling foreign currency. This is also the biggest group that realizes speculative exchange transactions.

The working hours of the markets

Exchange markets work all the time. Their work in the calendar twenty-four-hour period is started in the Far East, in New Zealand (Wellington), passing the time zones in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Moscow, Frankfurt-on-Main, London, then finishing the day in New York and Los Angeles. The count of time zones begins from the zero meridian in Greenwich near London, and the time itself is called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Depending on the season (summer or winter), the time in different financial centers of the globe will differ from the GMT.
The working day of exchange brokers of Western commercial banks starts, as a rule, at 7:30 am by local time. At 8:00 am the dealers are already closing deals. The morning hours are usually devoted to short analyses of events on the international exchange markets at the moment. The dealers use economic and technical analyses of the situation in the market, read analytical articles in newspapers, then exchange points of view and the latest rumors with each other and with dealers from other commercial banks. On the basis of various data, a picture of possible behavior of the exchange rate on the coming day is put together, with variants of all sorts of possible events.

By 8:00 am the market, consisting of individual dealers, will have worked out the tactics of its behavior, and it enters the operations of the international exchange market, giving a new and powerful impulse to the movement of the exchange rate. Various territorial markets can be given the following characteristics of an average typical activity during a 24 hour day.

Far East. Here the most active deals in the market are conversion transactions with the dollar to the Japanese yen, the dollar to Euro, Euro to yen, and the dollar to the Australian dollar. Very often fluctuations of exchange rates at that time are insignificant, but there are days when currencies, especially the dollar against the yen, make breath-taking flights. Especially so when the central bank of Japan makes an intervention. In Moscow its night and morning at that time, so till noon one can work with Tokyo, till mid-day with Singapore.

Western Europe. At 10:00 am Moscow time the market in the European financial centers of Zurich, Frankfurt-on-Main, Paris, Luxembourg are open. However, the really powerful movement of the exchange rate against the main currencies starts after 11:00 am Moscow time, when the London market is opened. This continues, as a rule, for 2 to 3 hours, after that the dealers of the European banks go to have lunch, and the activity of the market falls down a bit.

North America. The situation livens up with the opening of the New York market at 4:00 pm Moscow time, when dealers of American banks start working, and when European dealers come back from their lunch. Powers of European and American banks are about equal, that is why fluctuations of the rate do not go out of the limits of usual European fluctuations. Nevertheless, exchange dealers look forward to the opening of the New York market in order to receive fresh data about a possible movement of the rate (the more so if the European market has been sluggish). But when the European market is closed about 7p m or 8pm Moscow time, aggressive American banks, left alone on the "thin" market, are able to cause a sharp change of the exchange rate of the dollar against other currencies.

What is a FX speculator?

In modern conditions practically all financial transactions in the market are speculative by their nature, and there's nothing abnormal or criminal in it. One of the most vivid indices of markets' globalization is their daily volume of exchange transactions. Only in 10 major financial centers it increased from 206 billion dollars in 1986 to 967 billion dollars in 1992. According to the IMF, on the whole the volume is over 1 trillion dollars a day, and on some days it reaches 3 trillions. It is enough to say that the volume of gold and foreign exchange reserves of all developed countries was only 555.2 billion dollars in 1992, which is two times less than a daily volume of market transactions. According to some calculations, the volume of exchange transactions is 40 times bigger that the daily volume of foreign trade transactions. Therefore, most of the deals are caused not by a commercial necessity, but by financial reasons. And a financial transaction is always caused by the fact that money is looking for some profitable usage.
The international exchange system functioning in the world at the moment develops among people dealing with exchange and financial transactions: the so-called speculative psychology. In the world where exchange rates fluctuate for some per cent every week, where currencies, that are considered to be stable can lose 20 to 30 per cent of their cost during a few months, it's absolutely clear that the manager of a fund, trying to compensate for inevitable losses, has to use speculative operations. For example, a reasonable owner of dollars has to get rid of them very quickly and exchange them for Euro every time the expected fall of the dollar against Euro surpasses the difference between the profit from American notes and the profit from the respective German notes. For instance, if in the coming months the dollar is expected to fall against the Euro by 6%, and the profit from American notes is 6 per cent bigger than the profit from German notes, a speculator will probably decide to keep dollars. If the gap in the interest rates is less than the expected fall of the rate, the "running away from the dollar" begins.

Who are these speculators? An analysis shows that the main speculators acting in the market are institutional investors. Among them one can single out, first of all, official state institutions, and, secondly, private financial and other institutions. Thus according to the report of the "Group of Ten", state investors in Europe and Japan keep about 20 per cent of their assets in the form of foreign securities (in the USA only 7.5 per cent). However, the main feature of the 1980s was the growing international activity of private financial institutions: pension funds, insurance companies, and mutual funds. The Globalization of international financial markets is an objective process, reflecting the growing degree of economic relations in the world. It promotes a more effective distribution of financial resources.

Major world exchange markets:

AMEX - American Stock Exchange
BOVESPA - Sao Paulo Stock Exchange
CBOT - Chicago Board of Trade
CHX - Chicago Stock Exchange
CME - Chicago Mercantile Exchange
Commodities on the Web - List of the commodities
LIFFE - London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange
London Stock Exchange -London Stock Exchange
NYMEX - New York Mercantile Exchange
NYSE - New York Stock Exchange
SBF - la Bourse de Paris
SES - Singapore Exchange
SET - Stock Exchange of Thailand
TSE - Tokyo Stock Exchange
TSE - Toronto Stock Exchange
LSEX - London Stock Exchange
CBOE - Chicago Board Options Exchange CBOE
PHLX - Philadelphia Stock Exchange

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