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Monday, May 28, 2007

Forex Linggo

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As in any new skill that you learn, you need to learn the lingo...especially if you wish to woo your love's heart. You, the newbie, must know certain terms like the back of your hand before making your first trade. Some of these terms you've already learned, but it never hurts to have a little review.

Major and Minor Currencies

The eight most frequently traded currencies (USD, EUR, JPY, GBP, CHF, CAD, NZD and AUD) are called the major currencies. All other currencies are referred to as minor currencies. Do not worry about the minor currencies, they are for professionals only. Actually, on this site we'll mostly cover what we call the Fab Five (USD, EUR, JPY, GBP, and CHF). These pairs are the most liquid and the most sexy.

Base Currency

The base currency is the first currency in any currency pair. It shows how much the base currency is worth as measured against the second currency. For example, if the USD/CHF rate equals 1.6350, then one USD is worth CHF 1.6350. In the Forex markets, the U.S. dollar is normally considered the “base” currency for quotes, meaning that quotes are expressed as a unit of $1 USD per the other currency quoted in the pair. The primary exceptions to this rule are the British pound, the Euro, and the Australian and New Zealand dollar.

Quote Currency

The quote currency is the second currency in any currency pair. This is frequently called the pip currency and any unrealized profit or loss is expressed in this currency.

Pip

A pip is the smallest unit of price for any currency. Nearly all currency pairs consist of five significant digits and most pairs have the decimal point immediately after the first digit, that is, EUR/USD equals 1.2538. In this instance, a single pip equals the smallest change in the fourth decimal place - that is, 0.0001. Therefore, if the quote currency in any pair is USD, then one pip always equal 1/100 of a cent.

One notable exception is the USD/JPY pair where a pip equals $0.01.

Bid Price

The bid is the price at which the market is prepared to buy a specific currency pair in the Forex market. At this price, the trader can sell the base currency. It is shown on the left side of the quotation.

For example, in the quote GBP/USD 1.8812/15, the bid price is 1.8812. This means you sell one British pound for 1.8812 U.S. dollars.

Ask Price

The ask is the price at which the market is prepared to sell a specific currency pair in the Forex market. At this price, you can buy the base currency. It is shown on the right side of the quotation.

For example, in the quote EUR/USD 1.2812/15, the ask price is 1.2815. This means you can buy one Euro for 1.2315 U.S. dollars. The ask price is also called the offer price.

Bid/Ask Spread

The spread is the difference between the bid and ask price. The “big figure quote” is the dealer expression referring to the first few digits of an exchange rate. These digits are often omitted in dealer quotes. For example, the USD/JPY rate might be 118.30/118.34, but would be quoted verbally without the first three digits as “30/34”.

Quote Convention

Exchange rates in the Forex market are expressed using the following format:

Base currency / Quote currency Bid / Ask

Transaction Cost

The critical characteristic of the bid/ask spread is that it is also the transaction cost for a round-turn trade. Round-turn means both a buy (or sell) trade and an offsetting sell (or buy) trade of the same size in the same currency pair. For example, in the case of the EUR/USD rate of 1.2812/15, the transaction cost is three pips.

The formula for calculating the transaction cost is:

Transaction cost = Ask Price – Bid Price

Cross Currency

A cross currency is any pair in which neither currency is the U.S. dollar. These pairs exhibit erratic price behavior since the trader has, in effect, initiated two USD trades. For example, initiating a long (buy) EUR/GBP is equivalent to buying a EUR/USD currency pair and selling a GBP/USD. Cross currency pairs frequently carry a higher transaction cost.

Margin

When you open a new margin account with a Forex broker, you must deposit a minimum amount with that broker. This minimum varies from broker to broker and can be as low as $100 to as high as $100,000.

Each time you execute a new trade, a certain percentage of the account balance in the margin account will be set aside as the initial margin requirement for the new trade based upon the underlying currency pair, its current price, and the number of units (or lots) traded. The lot size always refers to the base currency.

For example, let's say you open a mini account which provides a 200:1 leverage or .5% margin. Mini accounts trade mini lots. Let's say one mini lot equals $10,000. If you were to open one mini-lot, instead of having to provide the full $10,000, you would only need $50 ($10,000 x .5 = $50).

Leverage

Leverage is the ratio of the amount capital used in a transaction to the required security deposit (margin). It is the ability to control large dollar amounts of a security with a relatively small amount of capital. Leveraging varies dramatically with different brokers, ranging from 2:1 to 400:1.

Margin + Leverage = Possible Deadly Combination

Trading currencies on margin lets you increase your buying power. Meaning that if you have $5,000 cash in a margin account that allows 100:1 leverage, you could purchase up to $500,000 worth of currency because you only have to post one percent of the purchase price as collateral. Another way of saying this is that you have $500,000 in buying power.

With more buying power, you can increase your total return on investment with less cash outlay. But be careful, trading on margin magnifies your profits AND losses.

Margin Call

All traders fear the dreaded margin call. This occurs when your broker notifies you that your margin deposits have fallen below the required minimum level because an open position has moved against you.

While trading on margin can be a profitable investment strategy, it is important that you take the time to understand the risks. Make sure you fully understand how your margin account works, and be sure to read the margin agreement between you and your broker. Always ask any questions if there is anything unclear to you in the agreement.

Your positions could be partially or totally liquidated should the available margin in your account fall below a predetermined threshold. You may not receive a margin call before your positions are liquidated (the ultimate unexpected birthday gift).

Margin calls can be effectively avoided by monitoring your account balance on a very regular basis and by utilizing stop-loss orders (discussed later) on every open position to limit risk.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

SMA vs. EMA



Which is better: Simple or Exponential?

First, let’s start with an exponential moving average. When you want a moving average that will respond to the price action rather quickly, then a short period EMA is the best way to go. These can help you catch trends very early, which will result in higher profit. In fact, the earlier you catch a trend, the longer you can ride it and rake in those profits!

The downside to the choppy moving average is that you might get faked out. Because the moving average responds so quickly to the price, you might think a trend is forming when in actuality.

With a simple moving average, the opposite is true. When you want a moving average that is smoother and slower to respond to price action, then a longer period SMA is the best way to go.
Although it is slow to respond to the price action, it will save you from many fake outs. The downside is that it might delay you too long, and you might miss out on a good trade.


SMA

EMA

Pro:

Displays a smooth chart, which eliminates most fakeouts.

Quick moving, and is good at showing recent price swings.

Con:

Slow moving, which may cause a lag in buying and selling signals.

More prone to cause fakeouts and give errant signals.


So which one is better? It’s really up to you to decide. Many traders plot several different moving averages to give them both sides of the story. They might use a longer period simple moving average to find out what the overall trend is, and then use a shorter period exponential moving average to find a good time to enter a trade.

In fact, many trading systems are built around what is called “Moving Average Crossovers”.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Exponential Moving Average (EMA)

Although the simple moving average is a great tool, there is one major flaw associated with it. Simple moving averages are very susceptible to spikes. Let me show you an example:

Let’s say we plot a 5 period SMA on the daily chart of the EUR/USD and the closing prices for the last 5 days are as follows:

Day 1 : 1.2345
Day 2 : 1.2350
Day 3 : 1.2360
Day 4 : 1.2365
Day 5 : 1.2370

The simple moving average would be calculated as

(1.2345+1.2350+1.2360+1.2365+1.2370)/5= 1.2358

Well what if Day 2’s price was 1.2300? The result of the simple moving average would be a lot lower and it would give you the notion that the price was actually going down, when in reality, Day 2 could have just been a one time event (maybe interest rates decreasing).

The point is, sometimes the simple moving average might be too simple. If only there was a way that you could filter out these spikes so that you wouldn’t get the wrong idea.

Exponential moving averages (EMA) give more weight to the most recent periods. In our example above, the EMA would put more weight on Days 3-5, which means that the spike on Day 2 would be of lesser value and wouldn’t affect the moving average as much. What this does is it puts more emphasis on what traders are doing NOW. When trading, it is far more important to see what traders are doing now rather than what they did last week or last month.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Simple Moving Average (SMA)

A simple moving average is the simplest type of moving average. Basically, a simple moving average is calculated by adding up the last “X” period’s closing prices and then dividing that number by X.

If you plotted a 5 period simple moving average on a 1 hour chart, you would add up the closing prices for the last 5 hours, and then divide that number by 5. Now…You have your simple moving average.

If you were to plot a 5 period simple moving average on a 10 minute chart, you would add up the closing prices of the last 50 minutes and then divide that number by 5.

If you were to plot a 5 period simple moving average on a 30 minute chart, you would add up the closing prices of the last 150 minutes and then divide that number by 5.

Most charting packages will do all the calculations for you. You must understand how the moving averages are calculated. If you understand how each moving average is calculated, you can make your own decision as to which type is better for you.

Just like any indicator out there, moving averages operate with a delay. Because you are taking the averages of the price, you are really only seeing a “forecast” of the future price and not a concrete view of the future.


Here is an example of how moving averages smooth out the price action.

On the previous chart, you can see 3 different SMAs. As you can see, the longer the SMA period is, the more it lags behind the price. Notice how the 62 SMA is farther away from the current price than the 30 and 5 SMA. This is because with the 62 SMA, you are adding up the closing prices of the last 62 periods and dividing it by 62. The higher the number period you use, the slower it is to react to the price movement. The SMA’s in this chart show you the overall sentiment of the market at this point in time. Instead of just looking at the current price of the market, the moving averages give us a broader view, and we can now make a general prediction of its future price.

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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Price Smoothies

A moving average is simply a way to smooth out price action over time. By “moving average”, we mean that you are taking the average closing price of a currency for the last ‘X’ number of periods.



Like every indicator, a moving average indicator is used to help us forecast future prices. By looking at the slope of the moving average, you can make general predictions as to where the price will go.

As we said, moving averages smooth out price action. There are different types of moving averages, and each of them has their own level of “smoothness”. Generally, the smoother the moving average, the slower it is to react to the price movement. The choppier the moving average, the quicker it is to react to the price movement.

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