Forex Trading Demystified

forexmarket

Forex involves the trading of currencies. It is the largest financial market in the world and has an estimated daily turnover of 1.9 trillion dollars. This turnover is larger than all the worlds? stock market on any given day.

The forex market does not have a fixed exchange. The forex market is considered an over-the-counter (OTC) market. The forex market is completely electronic and trades are executed over the phone or on the Internet. Until 10 years ago the forex market was the preserve of large financial institutions. Now an ever-increasing amount of individual traders thanks to the advent of the Internet and an increasing amount of online forex brokers are trading forex.

Currencies are always traded in pairs. A typical pair would be EUR/USD (Euro over US dollars). The first currency is the base. The second currency is the counter currency. The pair can be viewed, as the amount of the secondary currency that is needed to buy 1 unit of the first currency. If you were to buy the above pair you would buy Euro and simultaneously selling US dollars. If the pair were sold the reverse would happen you would sell the Euro and buy the US dollar. This might sound confusing but simply think of the pair as one item and you are buying or selling one item. If you think the Euro will go up against the US dollar you buy the EUR/USD pair. If you think the EUR will decrease against the US dollar you sell the EUR/USD pair.

When you see forex quotes you will see two numbers. If we use the EUR/USD as an example you might see 1.2350/1.2355 the first number 1.2350 is the bid price and is the price traders are prepared to buy euros against the US dollar. The second number 1.2355 is the offer price and is the price traders are prepared to sell the EURO against the US dollar. The difference between the bid and the offer price is the called the spread. The spread for the major currencies is usually 3 to 5 pips (explained later).

The most common increment of currencies is the pip. If the EUR/USD moves from 1.2350 to 1.2351 that is one pip. A pip is the last decimal point of quotation. Most currencies quoted to 4 decimal points. The exception is the Yen, which is quoted to 2 decimal points eg 139.41. The term pip is just forex lingo so if a forex trader says the EURO has gone up 20 pips against the US dollar add 20 points to decimal part of EUR/USD pair.

Forex is traditionally traded in lots also referred to as contracts. The standard size for a lot is $100,000. In the last few a mini lot size of 10,000 dollars has been introduced and this has become increasing popular. Forex trading is leveraged with most forex brokers offering 1% margins. This means you can control one standard lot of $100000 with $1000. Typically you would need a minium of $2500 to open a standard size forex account.

A mini account can be opened with $300 with most forex brokers. To trade a one mini lot you need a margin of $100, which in turn controls $10000. If the currency goes up 1% and if you traded one mini lot of $10000 you would make $100 dollars or 100% of your original margin. Forex trading is a very lucrative market to get into and it is suggested that traders new to forex trading trade a mini account for an extended amount of time. Trading a mini account is a low cost entry to the forex market, as only $300 is required to open an account. You can still make money while you become more experienced in forex trading. You can trade one mini lot until you have made your first $100 dollars then start trading 2 mini lots. As you gain more experience you can trade standard sized lots.

Forex trading is becoming increasing popular with traders of other financial products. It can be traded in amounts a lot smaller than other financial products, which makes learning forex trading safer than other markets. Forex trading can be a very lucrative market, which no trader can dismiss.


A Cheap Strategy to Play Microsoft

MSFTBill Gates is super rich but his once high-flying software company has been in the doldrums since mid-2002 after falling from the $35 level. The problem with Microsoft (MSFT) has been its failure to grow both its revenues and earnings at the superlative rates the company once enjoyed.

Any company the size of Microsoft, with a market-cap of $242 billion, will find growth an issue because of its size. But this is not to say the stock is dead. Far from it, Microsoft remains a viable long-term software company and is cash rich with $34 billion or $3.28 per share in cash. This gives the stock plenty of financial flexibility to develop or buy growth technologies. Microsoft just announced it would spend $1.1 billion in R&D at its MSN Internet unit in the FY07. And according to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is exploring the possibility of taking a stake in Internet media company Yahoo (YHOO) to take on Internet advertising behemoth Google (GOOG).

But with an estimated five-year earnings growth rate of a pitiful 12%, the company has its work cut out for it. Trading at 16.30x its estimated FY07 EPS of $1.44, the stock is not expensive but appears to be priced not as a growth stock.

Its PEG on the surface of 1.51 is not cheap, but if you discount in the cash of $3.28 per share, the estimated PEG falls to around 1,0, a decent valuation. Also, if Microsoft can improve on its estimated 12% growth rate, the PEG would decline further.

The fact is Microsoft at the current price deserves a look. If you want to play the stock but don抰 want to shell out the $2,347 for a 100-share block, you may want to take a look at the long-term options, also known as LEAPS. For instance, the in-the-money January 2008 $22.50 Microsoft Call LEAPS not set to expire until January 18, 2008 currently costs $380 a contract (100 shares).

This means you risk a total of $380 for the chance to participate in the potential upside of 100 shares of Microsoft over the next 20 months. The breakeven price is $26.30. If Microsoft breaks $26.30, you would begin to make money on your LEAPS. Conversely, if Microsoft fails to do anything, your maximum risk is $380 on the initial option play.

Warning: The aforementioned example is for illustrative purposes only and not to be construed as an actual option strategy. Due to the higher risk inherent in options, I recommend you speak with an investment professional before deciding to employ any strategy involving options.


Dow Turns Moderately Bearish

In trading yesterday, only the tech-laden NASDAQ avoided the selling, edging up 3.04 points to hold at above 2300 and its five-year high. As I have said, breadth in the NASDAQ has improved.

The DOW was the big loser on the day giving up 65 points or 0.58% to fall to 11,150.70, which is just below its key short-term 20-day moving average, a warning. The S&P 500 lost 2.64 points. The near-tech technical signals for these two indices are the weakest of the four indices.

Small-cap stocks continue to hold after breaking to a new historical high on Wednesday. The Russell 2000 fell 1.58 points or 0.21%, which is positive given the extreme overbought condition. The barometer of small-cap performance is up a healthy 13.28% this year. While impressive, I question whether the index can maintain this rate of appreciation.

In commodities news, the May light crude futures on the NYMEX broke above $67 a barrel on Thursday. The near-term signals look relatively bullish and the minor trend is positive. The breakout materialized after a Rectangle formation at between $61 and $65.50. Oil could move towards the $70 level, last encountered in February, if it can hold at $65.50-$66. But watch for some selling pressure as the contract is overbought. High oil prices will pressure stocks.

Trading in the NASDAQ has come in at over 2 billion shares in the last three straight sessions. Trading volume on the NASDAQ came in at about 2.22 billion shares yesterday, above its 5-day and 10-day moving averages of 2.11 billion and 2.18 billion shares, respectively. The strong volume in yesterday’s marginal up day is encouraging following a strong volume breakout on Wednesday.

On the NYSE, daily trading picked up yesterday. Trading on Thursday was 1.61 billion shares, above the 5-day and 10-day moving averages of 1.55 billion and 1.55 billion shares, respectively.

The near-term technical picture for the NASDAQ is bullish but is showing some potential weakening. The Relative Strength remains relatively strong, suggesting more gains if it can hold. The index is holding at above its previous pivot point of 2332.95 and its five-year high of 2333, a bullish sign. The index is trading at above its 20-day and 50-day moving averages of 2297 and 22854, respectively.

The MACD continues to flash a moderate buy signal. The MACD trend is negative but has reversed course. The upside break was bullish after largely trading in an intermediate term sideways channel. Now we will see if the NASDAQ can hold and edge higher towards 2366 and 2387. The index is now marginally overbought so watch for some potential selling pressure.

On the blue chip side, the near-term signs for the DOW weakened further and are now moderately bearish. The intermediate trend is bullish but yesterday’s break below its 20-day moving average of 11,156 is a warning and could signal further deterioration if it cannot hold. The Relative Strength also fell to below neutral, showing a potential lost of momentum. The MACD turned bearish yesterday and is flashing a moderate sell.

The key for the DOW is whether it can hold at around its 20-day moving average. Indications suggest further weakness, albeit the selling has created a near oversold condition. Failure to hold could drive the DOW down to 11,092, 11,077 and 50-day moving average at 11,016. A rebound could see the DOW move back to above its 20-day moving average and a pivot point at 11,234.

The Bollinger Bands on the DOW are trending upwards and widening, indicating increased volatility in the near-term. Watch this.

On the S&P 500, the near-term picture is neutral to moderately bullish. The Relative Strength weakened yesterday and is marginally above neutral. The index is trading at above its 20-day and 50-day moving averages of 1,294 and 1,283, respectively. The MACD is neutral.

Near-term targets are 1,310 and 1,333. The index needs to hold at its 20-day moving average or we could see weakness.

On the small-cap side, the Russell 2000 is bullish. The Relative Strength is relatively strong but watch if it can hold. The recent break above the previous pivot point of 745.18 was positive. The trend is positive with higher highs and lower lows.

Watch if the Russell 2000 can trend higher but given the buying, the index is extremely overbought. The MACD is positive and appears to have reversed the downtrend.

The next area of resistance for the Russell 2000 is 772 and 803.

The advance-decline line on the NYSE (0.77:1) continues to be mixed, coming in at below 1.0 yesterday. The NASDAQ (1.004:1) managed to hold at above 1.0. The daily A/D reading on the NASDAQ has been above 1.0 in 7 of the last 10 sessions. The 5-day moving average for both the NYSE (1.27:1) and NASDAQ (1.42:1) remains above 1.0.

The market is continuing to show bullish sentiment. The new high new low ratio (NHNL) for the NASDAQ came in at above the bullish 70% level for the 14th straight day, coming in at 89.35%. The NHNL ratio on the NYSE (82.69%) has been above 70% for the last 15 straight sessions.

The current technical picture for the four key indexes is as follows:

NASDAQ: Bullish; Relative Strength: Above Neutral; Marginally Overbought

DOW: Moderately Bearish; Relative Strength: Below Neutral; Near Oversold

S&P 500: Neutral to Moderately Bullish; Relative Strength: Neutral

RUSSELL 2000: Bullish; Relative Strength: Relatively Strong; Extremely Overbought

Here is what to watch for on Friday.

The DOW faces more selling pressure as its near-term technical picture is moderately bearish and the weakest of the four indices. Watch for potential support as the index is nearly oversold.

Tech and small-cap stocks continue to show the strongest technical strength but watch the extremely overbought condition in the Russell 2000 and marginally oversold condition on the NASDAQ.


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