Currencies are traded in dollar amounts called "lots". One
lot is equal to $1,000, which controls $100,000 in currency.
This is what is known as the "margin". You can control $100,000
worth of currency for only 1,000 dollars. This is what is called "High Leverage".
Currencies are always traded in pairs in the FOREX. The
pairs have a unique notation that expresses what currencies
are being traded. The symbol for a currency pair will always
be in the form ABC/DEF. ABC/DEF is not a real currency pair,
it is an example of a symbol for a currency pair. In this
example ABC is the symbol for one countries currency and DEF
is the symbol for another countries currency.
Here are some of the common symbols used in the Forex:
USD - The US Dollar
EUR - The currency of the European Union "EURO"
GBP - The British Pound
JPN - The Japanese Yen
CHF - The Swiss Franc
AUD - The Australian Dollar
CAD - The Canadian Dollar
There are symbols for other currencies as well, but these
are the most commonly traded ones.
A currency can never be traded by itself. So you can not
ever trade a EUR by itself. You always need to compare one
currency with another currency to make a trade possible.
Some of the common PAIRS are:
EUR/USD Euro / US Dollar
USD/JPY US Dollar / Japanese Yen
GBP/USD British Pound / US Dollar
USD/CAD US Dollar / Canadian Dollar
AUD/USD Australian Dollar/US Dollar
USD/CHF US Dollar / Swiss Franc
EUR/JPY Euro / Japanese Yen
The listed currency pairs above look like a fraction. The
numerator (top of the fraction or "left" of the / however
you want to SEE it) is called the base currency. The
denominator (bottom of the fraction or "right" of the
/however you want to SEE it) is called the counter currency.
When you place an order to buy the EUR/USD, for instance,
you are actually buying the EUR and selling the USD. If you
were to sell the pair, you would be selling the EUR and
buying the USD. So if you buy or sell a currency PAIR, you
are buying/selling the base currency. You are always doing
the opposite of what you did with to base currency with the
If this seems confusing then you're in luck. You can always
get by with just thinking of the entire pair as one item.
Then you are just buying or selling that one item. Thinking
like this will still enable you to place trades. You only
need to be aware of the base/counter concept for Fundamental
So why is it important to know about the base/counter
currency? The base/counter currency concept illustrates
what is actually taking place in a Forex transaction. Some
of you reading this, know that short-selling was restricted
in the stock market *(Short-selling is where you sell a
stock/currency/option/commodity first and then try to buy it
back at a lower price later). But in the FOREX you are
always buying one currency (base) and selling another
(counter). If you sell the pair you are simply flipping
which one you buy and which one you sell. The transaction is
essentially the same. This allows you to short-sell with no
You want to be able to short-sell with no restrictions so
you can make money when the market drops as well as when it
rises. The problem with traditional stock market trading is
that the market has to go up for you to make money. With
FOREX trading you can make money in all directions.
Omar Vargas; FOREX Trader and Freelance writer.