To understand pips on the forex market you must understand how the market works. If you are new to forex trading there are many worthwhile, free offers and software online to help you learn and practise before risking your money.
Forex is an abbreviation of foreign exchange, the buying and selling of one foreign currency for another. As one currency strengthens so another weakens and knowing when to buy and sell is how money is made on the Forex markets. The Forex market is similar to the buying and selling of stocks but in many ways it is much more difficult. On the stock market you may spot a company that has potential, buy shares and hopefully make a profit, but on the money market there may be long term trends where a currency strengthens and weakens, but much of the trading is based upon daily fluctuations that change by the minute.
A pip is the smallest unit of price that is traded for a currency. Most currencies are traded to four decimal points, so that a pip is 0.0001 or 1/100 of a cent. This may seem a minuscule amount until you realise that on a standard trade of $100,000 that is $10. The exception to the four decimal points is the Japanese yen which is normally traded to two decimal points.
Obviously if you are buying a currency you must also be selling another and therefore prices are always quoted in pairs, the USD/EUR being the most active. The more active a pair the narrower the difference between the bid/ask price is likely to be, with a possible spread of just two pips for the most actively traded.
Unlike the stock market there are no broker fees to pay, but as each trade involves both selling one currency and buying another, the difference in the spread is the cost of the transaction and must be taken into account when calculating profit. Therefore, as a buyer, the pip spread is very important to you. When you buy you have to accept an immediate loss. The value of the currency you have bought must rise by the extent of the pip spread before you break even and the value rise again to make a profit. The lower the spread the easier it is to make a profit.
Active markets tend to have a lower pip spread, for example 2-3 pips. Currencies that are bought and sold less frequently may have a far higher spread. However, before you go to a broker offering a very narrow spread, do check that they are reputable. You should also remember that pip spreads are not guaranteed, they can change if the market fluctuates widely. It is wise to check a broker's spread policy before trading.
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