Forex - Market Size and Liquidity

By: Justin Stewart

There are several factors that contribute to the forex market's uniqueness. These are:

* Extreme liquidity of the market
* Geographical dispersion
* Larger numbers of traders (and the variety of) in the market
* Length of trading hours (24 hours a day, except on weekends)
* Lower profit margins compared to other fixed income markets (profits can occasionally be higher based on trading volume)
* Trading volume amounts
* Variety of factors directly affecting exchange rates

The forex market is considered to be the epitome of ideal or perfect competition. Based on statistics compiled by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), average daily trading for this time of year stands at $3.21 trillion in volume. This volume was broken down into four categories, namely:

1. $1.714 trillion in forex swaps - OTC derivatives with short-term interest rates
2. $1.005 trillion in spot transactions - using one currency to purchase another for purposes of immediate rather than future delivery
3. $362 billion in outright forwards - agreements established between two parties to purchase or sell assets for a pre-agreed upon price
4. $129 billion in estimated reporting gaps

The concept of forex traded futures contracts came into being in 1972 at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and has progressively grown into the viable segment of the forex exchange that they are today. According to the Wall Street Journal, futures now account for approximately 7% of the total volume traded on the forex exchange.

In the past, the most significant growth in forex trading volume occurred between April of 2005 and April of 2006, when the market witnessed a 38% increase in the volume of trading, which equated to a doubling since 2001. It has been theorized that there were two significant factors contributing to this growth. One was that the foreign exchange has grown in importance as an asset class, and the other was the increase in the amount of fund management assets, namely hedge funds and pension funds.

Additionally, the onset of trading currencies on the internet has also grown in popularity by virtue of the internet platforms which has made it easier for retail traders to become more involved in the "trading" industry as well as increasing the forex traffic factors. And this was just one of the different trade execution venues that have come into being, although it is probably the most significant.

According to the Wall Street Journal Europe, 73% of the entire trading volume is the direct result of the 10 most active traders in the forex market. The chart below lists these 10 traders, their country of origin, their ranking, and their percentage of volume:
Rank
Name
Volume
1
Deutsche Bank
19.30%
2
UBS AG
14.85%
3
Citi
9.00%
4
Royal Bank of Scotland
8.90%
5
Barclays Capital
8.80%
6
Bank of America
5.29%
7
HSBC
4.36%
8
Goldman Sachs
4.14%
9
JPMorgan
3.33%
10
Morgan Stanley
2.86%
Interestingly enough, eight of the 10 listed hail from either the United States or the United Kingdom. Naturally, the Swiss bank is also one of these 10.

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