Saturday, January 14, 2017

[FOREX 101] Forex Market: No we don't close during holidays (kinda, but not quite)

The forex market is open and active 24 hours a day from the start of business hours on Monday morning in the Asia-Pacific time zone straight through to the Friday close of business hours in New York. At any given moment, depending on the time zone, dozens of global financial centers — such as Sydney, Tokyo, or London — are open, and currency trading desks in those financial centers are active in the market.

Currency trading doesn’t even stop for holidays when other financial markets, like stocks or futures exchanges, may be closed. Even though it’s a holiday in Japan, for example, Sydney, Singapore, and Hong Kong may still be open. It might be the Fourth of July in the United States, but if it’s a business day, Tokyo, London, Toronto, and other financial centers will still be trading currencies. About the only holiday in common around the world is New Year’s Day, and even that depends on what day of the week it falls on.

The opening of the trading week

 There is no officially designated starting time to the trading day or week, but for all intents the market action kicks off when Wellington, New Zealand, the first financial center west of the international dateline, opens on Monday morning local time. Depending on whether daylight saving time is in effect in your own time zone, it roughly corresponds to early Sunday afternoon in North America, Sunday evening in Europe, and very early Monday morning in Asia.

 The Sunday open represents the starting point where currency markets resume trading after the Friday close of trading in North America (5 p.m. Eastern time). This is the first chance for the forex market to react to news and events that may have happened over the weekend. Prices may have closed New York trading at one level, but depending on the circumstances, they may start trading at different levels at the Sunday open.

 Trading in the Asia-Pacific session

 Currency trading volumes in the Asia-Pacific session account for about 21 percent of total daily global volume, according to a 2004 survey. The principal financial trading centers are Wellington, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia; Tokyo, Japan; Hong Kong; and Singapore. In terms of the most actively traded currency pairs, that means news and data reports from New Zealand, Australia, and Japan are going to be hitting the market during this session.

 Because of the size of the Japanese market and the importance of Japanese data to the market, much of the action during the Asia-Pacific session is focused on the Japanese yen currency pairs (explained more in Chapter 2), such as USD/JPY – forexspeak for the U.S. dollar/Japanese yen -- and the JPY crosses, like EUR/JPY and AUD/JPY. Of course, Japanese financial institutions are also most active during this session, so you can frequently get a sense of what the Japanese market is doing based on price movements.

 For individual traders, overall liquidity in the major currency pairs is more than sufficient, with generally orderly price movements. In some less liquid, non-regional currencies, like GBP/USD or USD/CAD, price movements may be more erratic or nonexistent, depending on the environment. 

Trading in the European/London session

 About midway through the Asian trading day, European financial centers begin to open up and the market gets into its full swing. European financial centers and London account for over 50 percent of total daily global trading volume, with London alone accounting for about one-third of total daily global volume.

 The European session overlaps with half of the Asian trading day and half of the North American trading session, which means that market interest and liquidity is at its absolute peak during this session. (I personally watch the trend two hours before the London session to get a feel of where the wave is moving.)

 News and data events from the Eurozone (and individual countries like Germany and France), Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are typically released in the early-morning hours of the European session. As a result, some of the biggest moves and most active trading takes place in the European currencies (EUR, GBP, and CHF) and the euro crosscurrency pairs (EUR/CHF and EUR/GBP). Asian trading centers begin to wind down in the late-morning hours of the European session, and North American financial centers come in a few hours later, around 7 a.m. ET.

 Trading in the North American session

 Because of the overlap between North American and European trading sessions, the trading volumes are much more significant. Some of the biggest and most meaningful directional price movements take place during this crossover period. On its own, however, the North American trading session accounts for roughly the same share of global trading volume as the Asia-Pacific market, or about 22 percent of global daily trading volume.

 The North American morning is when key U.S. economic data is released and the forex market makes many of its most significant decisions on the value of the U.S. dollar. Most U.S. data reports are released at 8:30 a.m. ET, with others coming out later (between 9 and 10 a.m. ET). Canadian data reports are also released in the morning, usually between 7 and 9 a.m. ET. There are also a few U.S. economic reports that variously come out at noon or 2 p.m. ET, livening up the New York afternoon market.

London and the European financial centers begin to wind down their daily trading operations around noon eastern time (ET) each day. The London, or European close, as it’s known, can frequently generate volatile flurries of activity. On most days, market liquidity and interest fall off significantly in the New York afternoon, which can make for challenging trading conditions. On quiet days, the generally lower market interest typically leads to stagnating price action. On more active days, where prices may have moved more significantly, the lower liquidity can spark additional outsized price movements, as fewer traders scramble to get similarly fewer prices and liquidity.

Just as with the London close, there’s never a set way in which a New York afternoon market move plays out, so traders just need to be aware that lower liquidity conditions tend to prevail, and adapt accordingly.

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