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How to Get Started in Foreign Exchange Trading

You may have been hearing about the foreign exchange market (Forex) and the investment advantages it offers. You would like to try it out, but don't know where to start. This short guide will give you the basics in Forex and tell you what you need to participate in this fast growing field.

Foreign exchange used to be limited to large players such as national banks and multi-national corporations. In the 1980's the rules were revised to allow smaller investors to participate using margin accounts. Margin accounts are the reason why Forex trading has become so popular. With a 100:1 margin account, you can control $100,000 with a $1,000 investment.

Forex is not simple, however, and education is needed to make wise investment decisions. Although it is relatively easy to start trading on the Forex, there are risks involved, so finding out as much as possible about the market is a good move for any beginner.

Forex traders usually require a broker to handle transactions. Most brokers are reputable and are associated with large financial institutions such as banks. A reputable broker will be registered as a Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) as protection against fraud and abusive trade practices.

Opening a Forex account is as simple as filling out a form and providing the necessary ID. The form will include a margin agreement that states that the broker can interfere with any trade it deems to be too risky. This is to protect the interests of the broker — most trades, after all, are done using the broker's money. Once your account has been established, you can fund it and begin trading.

Many brokers have different types of accounts to suit the needs of individual investors. Mini accounts allow you to get involved in Forex trading for as little as $250, while standard accounts may have a minimum deposit of $1000 to $2500 depending on the broker. The amount of leverage — using borrowed money — varies with accounts. High leverage gives you more money to trade for a given investment.

HOWEVER — beginner traders are advised get accustomed to Forex by doing paper trades for a period of time. Paper trades are practice transactions that don't involve real capital. They allow you to see how the system works while learning how to use the various software tools that are at provided by most Forex brokers.

Most online brokers have demo accounts that allow you to make free paper trades for up to 30 days. Every new Forex investor is strongly advised to use these demo accounts at least until they are showing consistently steady profits.

Each broker has their own set of software tools to aid in making transactions, but there are a few tools that are common to all Forex brokers. Real time quotes, news feeds, technical analyses and charts, and profit and loss analyses are some of the features you should expect to see on most online brokers' web sites.

Almost every broker operates on the Internet. To access their online services you should have a reasonably modern computer, a fast Internet connection, and an up-to-date operating system such as Windows XP. Once your account is set up, you can access it from any computer — just enter your account name and password. If for some reason you are not able get access to a computer, most brokers will allow you to make trades over the phone.

Trades are commission free, meaning that you can make many trades in one day without worrying about incurring high brokerage fees. Brokers make their money on the 'spread' — the difference between bid and ask prices.

by Hana Lee

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