The modern foreign exchange market began forming during the 1970s. This followed three decades of government restrictions on foreign exchange transactions under the Bretton Woods system of monetary management, which set out the rules for commercial and financial relations among the world's major industrial states after World War II. Countries gradually switched to floating exchange rates from the previous exchange rate regime, which remained fixed per the Bretton Woods system.
Forex banks, ECNs, and prime brokers offer NDF contracts, which are derivatives that have no real deliver-ability. NDFs are popular for currencies with restrictions such as the Argentinian peso. In fact, a forex hedger can only hedge such risks with NDFs, as currencies such as the Argentinian peso cannot be traded on open markets like major currencies.
The main trading centers are London and New York City, though Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore are all important centers as well. Banks throughout the world participate. Currency trading happens continuously throughout the day; as the Asian trading session ends, the European session begins, followed by the North American session and then back to the Asian session.
Many currency pairs will move about 50 to 100 pips per day(sometimes more or less depending on overall market conditions). A pip (an acronym for Point in Percentage) is the name used to indicate the fourth decimal place in a currency pair, or the second decimal place when JPY is in the pair. When the price of the EUR/USD moves from 1.3600 to 1.3650, that's a 50 pip move; if you bought the pair at 1.3600 and sold it at 1.3650, you'd make a 50-pip profit.
"Buy the rumor, sell the fact": This market truism can apply to many currency situations. It is the tendency for the price of a currency to reflect the impact of a particular action before it occurs and, when the anticipated event comes to pass, react in exactly the opposite direction. This may also be referred to as a market being "oversold" or "overbought". To buy the rumor or sell the fact can also be an example of the cognitive bias known as anchoring, when investors focus too much on the relevance of outside events to currency prices.
How much each pip is worth is called the "pip value." For any pair where the USD is listed second, the above-mentioned pip values apply. If the USD is listed first, the pip value may be different. To find the pip value of the USD/CHF, for example, divide the normal pip value (mentioned above) by the current USD/CHF exchange rate. A micro lot is worth $0.10/0.9435 = $0.1060, where 0.9435 is the current price of the pair. For JPY pairs (USD/JPY), go through this same process, but then multiply by 100. For a more detailed explanation, see Calculating Pip Value in Different Forex Pairs.
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.
The blender costs $100 to manufacture, and the U.S. firm plans to sell it for €150—which is competitive with other blenders that were made in Europe. If this plan is successful, the company will make $50 in profit because the EUR/USD exchange rate is even. Unfortunately, the USD begins to rise in value versus the euro until the EUR/USD exchange rate is 0.80, which means it now costs $0.80 to buy €1.00.