In a world of national currencies, the forex (foreign exchange) market provides the mechanism for making payments across borders, transferring money (and then purchasing power) from one currency to another and of course determining exchange rates.
The forex market has seen substantial changes since the early 1970s, not only in its size but also in the way in which it operates, as a result of structural shifts in the world economy and in the international financial system. Some of the main changes which have occurred in the world's financial environment include:
1. A fundamental change in the international monetary system from the fixed exchange rates arising out of the Bretton Woods agreement to a much more flexible system in which countries can float their exchange rates or follow other exchange rate practices of their own choosing.
2. Major financial deregulation across the globe including the elimination of government controls and restrictions in almost every country, which has resolved in far greater freedom in national and international financial transactions and hugely increased competition among financial institutions.
3. A fundamental change in savings and investment, with funds managers and investment institutions around the world diversifying their investments across international borders and into multiple treaties.
4. Major changes in, and liberalization of, international trade as a result of a series of trade agreements including the Tokyo and the Uruguay Rounds of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and US bilateral trade initiatives with the European Union, China and Japan.
5. Technological advances which have made it possible to achieve the real-time transmission of huge amounts of market information worldwide and to analyze that information rapidly so that market opportunities can be identified and exploited. In addition, financial transactions can now be executed quickly and safely, with a level of efficiency which allows costs to be kept at level well below those which were previously possible.
6. New thinking in terms of both the theory and practice of finance which have been reflected in the development of many new financial instruments and derivative products. Advances in thinking have also served to change our understanding of the international financial system and the techniques we need to use to operate within it.
As markets have grown and developed since the 1970s in a climate of much greater freedom and competition, the role of the markets themselves has changed and we have developed the tools and techniques to allow us to exploit these growing markets to the full. One major beneficiary of these changes has been the forex trader who has an investment vehicle available today which was undreamt of a few years ago and which will continue to provide the small investor with an excellent trading opportunity for many years to come.