Traditionally, retail investors’ only means of gaining access to the foreign exchange market was through banks that transacted large amounts of currencies for commercial and investment purposes. Trading volume has increased rapidly over time, especially after exchange rates were allowed to float freely in 1971, making it one of the most liquid market in the world.
There is no central marketplace for currency exchange; trade is conducted over the counter. The forex market is open 24 hours a day, five days a week and currencies are traded worldwide among the major financial centers of London, New York, Tokyo, Zürich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris and Sydney.
Today, importers and exporters, international portfolio managers, multinational corporations, speculators, day traders, long-term holders and hedge funds all use the FOREX market to pay for goods and services, transact in financial assets or to reduce the risk of currency movements by hedging their exposure in other markets.