What is a 'Handle'

A handle is the whole number part of a price quote. For example, if the price quote for stock is $56.25, the handle is $56, eliminating the decimal part. In foreign exchange markets, the handle refers to the part of the price quote that appears in both the bid and the offer for the currency. For example, if the EUR/USD currency pair has a bid of 1.4183 and an ask of 1.4185, the handle would be 1.41 – the part of the quote that is equal to both the bid and the ask. A handle is also called big figure.

BREAKING DOWN 'Handle'

Traders often refer to only the handle of a price quote since it is assumed that other market participants know the stem of the quote. In the foreign exchange markets, the minimum price movement is called a pip. Since many of the foreign exchange instruments are quoted out four or five decimal places, it is considered simpler to refer to the last two places when discussing the bids and asks, rather than include the handle, which tends to be known by the participants.

Handle and Foreign Exchange Markets

Foreign exchange encompasses an enormous range of transactions: everything from currency conversions by a traveler at an airport kiosk to billion-dollar international payments made by corporations, financial institutions and governments. Specific examples include the financing of imports and exports, as well as speculative investment positions with no underlying goods or services. Increasing globalization has corresponded with a significant uptick in the number of foreign exchange transactions.

Amid the expansive global foreign exchange market, spot markets and forward markets are highly relevant for the term handle. Spot markets are markets for financial instruments such as commodities and securities that can be traded immediately or on the spot. Spot markets rely on spot prices or current market prices. This stands in contrast with the forwards market, which works with prices at a later date. In both cases, it’s critical that participants in these markets understand the handle and stem of their price quotes.

Spot markets may be organized exchanges or or over-the-counter (OTC) markets. Although the spot exchange rate is the earliest value date, in general, the standard settlement date for is two business days after the transaction date. Some exceptions exist, including transactions for crude oil. In this case, goods are sold at spot prices but the physical delivery happens on a later date.

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