Forex spreads are the difference in price between two currencies. They can be thought of as the cost of trading in a currency pair. Forex spreads are important because they help traders understand how much they will make or lose when they trade at different times.
Every investor or trader needs a broker to process their transactions (buying and selling stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, etc.) who is active for them on the stock exchange or, in the case of Forex trading, off the floor. You can read more about forex brokers and reviews from the Digicoin Center feature – forex brokers reviews.
The merit of the broker results from various aspects:
- either from a commission, the amount of which almost always depends on the volume in forex trading. With these ECN/STP brokers, the spread corresponds to the interbank spread, which is passed on to the customer 1:1.
- Or by adding a spread to this interbank spread, without any additional fee. The spread is the difference between the buy and sell price. The listing on the stock exchanges or on the platform of the respective forex broker is done with terms such as bid/ask, bid/ask.
The forex spread is not regulated and is at the discretion of the broker. Depending on the trading style of a trader (e.g. scalping, day trading or swing trading), the size and timing of the spread is an important argument when choosing a suitable broker. Whether you prefer an ECN broker with the lowest possible spreads and a commission or prefer to calculate with fixed higher spreads, is a matter of taste or depends on the strategy.
How is the forex spread calculated?
The forex spread is calculated from the difference between the two values bid and ask, which are constantly given for a currency pair.
Calculation of the transaction costs based on the forex spread. Currency pairs are traded in various standard trade sizes depending on account size:
- 1 lot corresponds to 100,000 pieces of the base currency
- 1 mini lot equals 10,000 pieces of the base currency
- 1 micro lot corresponds to 1,000 pieces of the base currency
Indication of the forex spread in pips
In currency trading, profit and loss of a trade, stop loss, slippage, but also the spread are given in pips for comparability with different currency pairs and trade sizes. A pip is the fourth digit after the decimal point when the price of a currency pair is of the order of 1. In the example above (Figure 1), the spread on EUR/USD is 0.00018 or 1.8 pips.
For currency pairs where the Japanese yen is traded, for example, the rate is around 100 (USD/JPY, GBP/JPY, CAD/JPY, ….). In this case, a pip is the second digit after the decimal point. The spread on USD/JPY in the example above would be 0.023 or 2.3 pips.
Variable Spread vs. Fixer Spread
The spread is not subject to any regulation. However, some basic statements can be made about the spread:
The spread is lowest for the main currency pairs and highest for exotic ones. In the major currency pairs, USD is traded with EUR, GBP, CHF, or JPY. This is where the largest trade turnovers are achieved. Exotic currencies are NOK, SEK, TRY, SGD, ZAR, and other rarely traded currencies.
If a broker calculates commission and spread in a transaction, the spread can be relatively small, for example, 0.1 – 1 pip for EUR/USD (the commission is added to this). If the transaction costs only consist of the spread, the spread is usually higher, for example, 1 – 3 pips for EUR/USD.
Finally, a broker can offer a fixed spread for all trading hours, or request a variable spread for the transactions depending on the trading time: The largest trading volumes are in the London session (9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. CET) and in the New York session (2:00 p.m. – 23h CET). During this period, variable spreads will be at their lowest. In the night hours (Tokyo and Sidney Session) turnover in currency trading will be lower. Accordingly, some brokers require a higher spread.