Spreads and Pips
The difference between the bid price and the ask price in a forex quote is normally called the spread. In the previous example: USD/CAD = 1.2000/05, the spread is 0.0005, or 5 pips. Pips, or points, is the common name used to refer to incremental changes in a forex quote – a change from 1.2000 to 1.2001 would equal one pip. Although these currency movements may seem small, due to leverage used in the forex market, small changes can result in large profits or losses. (Learn how brokerages make some of their profits in How is spread calculated when trading in the forex market?)

With the major currency pairs such as the EUR/USD, USD/CAD, GBP/USD, one pip would be equal to 0.0001. However, if you take a look at a USD/JPY quote you'll notice the pair only goes to two decimal places, so one pip would be 0.01. So, in general, a pip represents the last decimal place in the quote.


Currency Quote Overview
USD/CAD = 1.2000/05
Base Currency
Currency to the left (USD)

Quote/Counter Currency
Currency to the right (CAD)

Bid Price
1.2000
Price for which the market maker will buy the base currency. Bid is always smaller than ask.
Ask Price
1.2005
Price for which the market maker will sell the base currency.
Pip
One point move, in USD/CAD it is .0001 and 1 point change would be from 1.2000 to 1.2001
The pip/point is the smallest movement a price can make.
Spread
Spread in this case is 5 pips/points, or the difference between bid and ask price (1.2005-1.2000).


Lots
Similar to how most stocks trade in lots to facilitate trading, currencies are also traded in lots – $100,000 is typically the standard lot. There are also smaller lots with a size of $10,000 called mini-lots. These may seem like large amounts but because currencies only move in small increments, only a few pips at a time, a larger amount of currency is needed to generate any sizable profits or losses. (For more on mini lots, see Forex Minis Shrink Risk Exposure.)
Direct Currency Quote vs. Indirect Currency Quote
You can quote a currency pair in two ways, either directly or indirectly. A direct currency quote is simply a foreign exchange quote where the foreign currency is the base currency; an indirect quote is a currency pair in which the domestic currency is the base currency. For example, if you're in Canada and the Canadian dollar is the domestic currency, a direct quotation would take the form of a variable amount of the domestic currency for a fixed amount of the foreign currency. A Canadian bank giving a quote of "C$1.20 per US$1" would be a direct quote. Conversely, an indirect quote fixes the domestic currency and varies the foreign currency. In the same example, if the Canadian bank gave a quote of "C$1=US$0.83" it would be an indirect quote.

Cross Currency
A currency quote given without the U.S. dollar as part of the currency pair is called a cross currency quote. Common cross currency pairs include the EUR/CHF, EUR/GBP and EUR/JPY. Although having cross currencies increases the amount of choice for the investor in the forex market, cross currencies are not as popular as ones that have the U.S. dollar as a component of the currency pair. (For more on cross currency, see Make The Currency Cross Your Boss)

Now that you know more about reading and interpreting a forex quote, in the next section we'll look briefly at the economics and fundamentals behind forex trades and what economic indicators a new trader should become familiar with and be able to interpret.




Economics

Related Articles
  1. Trading

    What is an Indirect Quote?

    An indirect quote expresses the amount of foreign currency required to buy or sell one unit of the domestic currency in the foreign exchange markets.
  2. Trading

    Understanding The Spread in Retail Currency Exchange Rates

    Understanding how exchange rates are calculated and shopping around for the best rates may mitigate the effect of wide spreads in the retail forex market.
  3. Trading

    A Primer On The Forex Market

    Moving from equities to currencies requires you to adjust how you interpret quotes, margin, spreads and rollovers.
  4. Trading

    The Forex Market: Who Trades Currency And Why

    The forex market has a lot of unique attributes that may come as a surprise for new traders.
  5. Trading

    Forex Minis Shrink Risk Exposure

    Trading less than a standard lot means getting in for less - and having less to lose.
  6. Trading

    What is a Direct Quote?

    A direct quote uses variable amounts of the home country’s currency to compare to a fixed amount of a foreign currency.
  7. Financial Advisor

    What Is A Pip?

    Learn how this measure of change is used in trading currencies on the forex market.
  8. Trading

    The 6 Most-Traded Currencies And Why They're So Popular

    Every currency has specific features that affect its underlying value and price movements in the forex market.
  9. Trading

    Understanding Forex Quotes

    When trading in forex, all currencies are quoted in pairs. Find out how to read these pairs and what it means when you buy and sell them.
Trading Center