It is called a pip and its value is the equivalent of 0.0001 of a dollar, in most currency pairs, and it is the smallest increment on the Forex market. A pip in the Japanese Yen is 0.01. Now you might find yourself wondering what the Forex market actually is and why anyone would possibly think chasing pips was ever going to be a profitable endeavor. However, with almost $2 trillion dollars being exchanged on the Forex each and every day it is open (from Sunday through Friday, the market trades 24 hours a day), those pips can quickly add up to big profits or big losses really quick. This makes it one of the most exciting, volatile, and engaging markets in the investment world.
So what exactly is the Forex anyway? Well, the Forex is just a big market where corporations, nations, and investors can exchange money. For instance, if an American corporation wanted to fund their payroll account for an office in Paris, they would need to convert U.S. dollars into Euros. However, one U.S. dollar does not equal a Euro.
To convert the money, the business would need to buy Euros with dollars on the Forex. The USD/EUR currency pair is what the company would need to buy in order to raise the money for payroll. A typical transaction on the Forex is called a lot and is $100,000 and the USD is behind 90% of all trades on this volatile market. So, if the currency pair was valued at 1.2500USD, that means that the business would receive 80,000 Euros for every $100,000 lot of the USD/EUR currency pair at that exchange rate.
Now, remember those pips? Although a pip is a very small number, the sheer size of the lot of means that a 1 pip movement equals $10 ($100,000 X .0001). Thus, an investor can get in and out of a position very quickly if the price fluctuates by only a few pips and still make a profit (Forex scalping). It is very possible for a Forex trader to double their investment in a very short period of time, but they can lose it just as easily!
Until recently, retail Forex investors did not exist. Because of the size of the transactions, traders on the Forex used to be limited to large investment firms, central banks, etc. Now, however, a Forex investor can typically secure a position for as little as $1,000 (or 1/100th of the total transaction amount). However, because there are always interest charges associated with any leveraged position, that means that an investor can quickly lose their capital if things swing the wrong way.
Of course, no one has a crystal ball and can predict the future but Forex traders use a number of strategies to help them determine when to exit and enter positions. While profit potential is unlimited, stops are typically placed on orders to prevent unacceptable losses. No matter what investment strategy you choose to use when trading on the Forex, it is very wise to place stops on every order because the volatility of the market can sap a highly leveraged account very quickly.
Trading currencies on the Forex is so popular because the action is non-stop and the opportunity for profit is unlimited. However, because of the margins and volatility of the market itself, the Forex can make or break an investor quickly. New investors are highly encouraged to start out with mock accounts or even mini-lots ($10,000) in order to learn the market better before jumping in with both feet.