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Forex trading is the simultaneous buying of one currency and selling another.

Currencies are traded through a broker or dealer and are traded in pairs.

For example, the euro and the U.S. dollar (EUR/USD) or the British pound and the Japanese yen (GBP/JPY).

When you trade in the forex market, you buy or sell in currency pairs.

Buying and Selling in Currency Pairs

Imagine each currency pair constantly in a “tug of war” with each currency on its own side of the rope.

Exchange rates fluctuate based on which currency is stronger at the moment.

There are three categories of currency pairs:

  1. The “majors
  2. The “crosses
  3. The “exotics

The major currency pairs always include the U.S. dollar.

Cross-currency pairs do NOT include the U.S. dollar. Crosses that involve any of the major currencies are also known as ” minors”.

Exotic currency pairs consist of one major currency and one currency from an emerging market (EM).

Major Currency Pairs

EUR/USD Currency Pair

The currency pairs listed below are considered the “majors.

These pairs all contain the U.S. dollar (USD) on one side and are the most frequently traded.

Compared to the crosses and exotics, price moves more frequently with the majors, which provide more trading opportunities.

Currency Pair Countries FX Geek Speak
EUR/USD Eurozone / United States “euro dollar”
USD/JPY United States / Japan “dollar yen”
GBP/USD United Kingdom / United States “pound dollar”
USD/CHF United States/ Switzerland “dollar swissy”
USD/CAD United States / Canada “dollar loonie”
AUD/USD Australia / United States “aussie dollar”
NZD/USD New Zealand / United States “kiwi dollar”

The majors are the most liquid in the world.

Liquidity is used to describe the level of activity in the financial market.

In forex, it’s based on the number of active traders buying and selling a specific currency pair and the volume being traded.

The more frequently traded something is, the higher its liquidity.

For example, more people trade the EUR/USD currency pair and at higher volumes, than the AUD/USD currency pair.

This means that EUR/USD is more liquid than AUD/USD.

Major Cross-Currency Pairs or Minor Currency Pairs

Currency pairs that don’t contain the U.S. dollar (USD) are known as cross-currency pairs or simply as the “crosses.”

Major crosses are also known as “minors.”

While not as frequently traded as the majors, the crosses are still pretty liquid and still provide plenty of trading opportunities.

The most actively traded crosses are derived from the three major non-USD currencies: EUR, JPY, and GBP.

Euro Crosses

Currency Pair Countries FX Geek Speak
EUR/CHF Eurozone / Switzerland “euro swissy”
EUR/GBP Eurozone / United Kingdom “euro pound”
EUR/CAD Eurozone / Canada “euro loonie”
EUR/AUD Eurozone / Australia “euro aussie”
EUR/NZD Eurozone / New Zealand “euro kiwi”
EUR/SEK Eurozone / Sweden “euro stockie”
EUR/NOK Eurozone / Norway “euro nockie”

Yen Crosses

Currency Pair Countries FX Geek Speak
EUR/JPY Eurozone / Japan “euro yen” or “yuppy”
GBP/JPY United Kingdom / Japan “pound yen” or “guppy”
CHF/JPY Switzerland / Japan “swissy yen”
CAD/JPY Canada / Japan “loonie yen”
AUD/JPY Australia / Japan “aussie yen”
NZD/JPY New Zealand / Japan “kiwi yen”

Pound Crosses

Pair Countries FX Geek Speak
GBP/CHF United Kingdom / Switzerland “pound swissy”
GBP/AUD United Kingdom / Australia “pound aussie”
GBP/CAD United Kingdom / Canada “pound loonie”
GBP/NZD United Kingdom / New Zealand “pound kiwi”

Other Crosses

Pair Countries FX Geek Speak
AUD/CHF Australia / Switzerland “aussie swissy”
AUD/CAD Australia / Canada “aussie loonie”
AUD/NZD Australia / New Zealand “aussie kiwi”
CAD/CHF Canada / Switzerland “loonie swissy”
NZD/CHF New Zealand / Switzerland “kiwi swissy”
NZD/CAD New Zealand / Canada “kiwi loonie”

Exotic Currency Pairs

Exotic Currency Pairs

No, exotic pairs are not exotic belly dancers who happen to be twins.

Exotic currency pairs are made up of one major currency paired with the currency of an emerging economy, such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, or Hungary.

The chart below contains a few examples of exotic currency pairs.

Wanna take a shot at guessing what those other currency symbols stand for?

Depending on your forex broker, you may see the following exotic currency pairs so it’s good to know what they are.

Keep in mind that these pairs aren’t as heavily traded as the “majors” or “crosses,” so the transaction costs associated with trading these pairs are usually bigger.

Currency Pair Countries FX Geek Speak
USD/BRL United States / Brazil “dollar real”
USD/HKD United States / Hong Kong
USD/SAR United States / Saudi Arabia “dollar riyal”
USD/SGD United States / Singapore “dollar sing”
USD/ZAR United States / South Africa “dollar rand”
USD/THB United States / Thailand “dollar baht”
USD/MXN United States / Mexico “dollar mex”
USD/RUB United States / Russia “dollar ruble” or “Barney”
USD/PLN United States / Poland “dollar zloty”
USD/CLP United States/ Chile

It’s not unusual to see spreads that are two or three times bigger than that of EUR/USD or USD/JPY.

Due to the overall lower degree of liquidity, exotic currency pairs tend to be far more sensitive to economic and geopolitical events.

For example, a political scandal or unexpected election results can cause an exotic pair’s exchange rate to swing violently.

So if you want to trade exotics currency pairs, remember to factor this in your decision.

For those of y’all who are really mesmerized by exotics, here’s a more comprehensive list.

Currency Code Country Currency Code Country
AED UAE Dirham ARS Argentinean Peso
AFN Afghanistan Afghani GEL Georgian Lari
MYR Malaysian Ringgit AMD Armenian Dram
GYD Guyanese Dollar MZN Mozambique new Metical
AWG Aruban Florin IDR Indonesian Rupiah
OMR Omani Rial AZN Azerbaijan New Manat
IQD Iraqi Dinar QAR Qatari Rial
BHD Bahraini Dinar IRR Iranian Rial
SLL Sierra Leone Leone BWP Botswana Pula
JOD Jordanian Dinar TJS Tajikistani Somoni
BYR Belarusian Ruble KGS Kyrgyzstanian Som
TMT Turkmenistan new Manat CDF Congolese Franc
LBP Lebanese Pound TZS Tanzanian Schilling
DZD Algerian Dinar LRD Liberian Dollar
UZS Uzbekistan Som EGP Egyptian Pound
MAD Moroccan Dirham WST Samoan Tala
EEK Estonian Kroon MNT Mongolian Tugrik
MWK Malawi Kwacha ETB Ethiopian Birr
THB Thai Baht TRY New Turkish Lira
ZAR South African Rand ZWD Zimbabwe Dollar
BRL Brazilian Real CLP Chilean Peso
CNY Chinese Yuan Renminbi CZK Czech Koruna
HKD Hong Kong Dollar HUF Hungarian Forint
ILS Israeli Shekel INR Indian Rupee
ISK Icelandic Krona KRW South Korean Won
KWD Kuwaiti Dinar MXN Mexican Peso
PHP Philippine Peso PKR Pakistani Rupee
PLN Polish Zloty RUB Russian Ruble
SAR Saudi Arabian Riyal SGD Singaporean Dollar
TWD Taiwanese Dollar

DID YOU KNOW? There are 180 legal currencies in the world, as recognized by the United Nations.  That’s a lot of potential currency pairs! Unfortunately, not all of them are readable. Forex brokers tend to offer traders up to 70 currency pairs.

Aside from the three main categories of currency pairs, there are other “groups” of currencies that are thrown around in the FX world which you should be aware of.

G10 Currencies

The G10 currencies are ten of the most heavily traded currencies in the world, which are also ten of the world’s most liquid currencies.

Traders regularly buy and sell them in an open market with minimal impact on their own international exchange rates.

Country Currency Name Currency Code
United States dollar USD
European Union euro EUR
United Kingdom pound GBP
Japan yen JPY
Australia dollar AUD
New Zealand dollar NZD
Canada dollar CAD
Switzerland franc CHF
Norway krone NOK
Sweden krona SEK
Denmark krone DKK

The Scandies

Scandinavia is a subregion in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties.

The term “Scandinavia” in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Together, their currencies are known as the “Scandies“.

Back in the day, Denmark and Sweden established the Scandinavian Monetary Union to merge their currencies to a gold standard. Norway joined later.

This meant that these countries now had one currency, with the same monetary value, with the exception that each of these countries minted their own coins.

But then World War I happened, and the gold standard was abandoned and the Scandinavian Monetary Union disbanded.  These countries decided to keep the currency, even if the values were separate from one another. And this remains the state of things.

If you notice their currency names, they all look similar. That’s because the word “krone or krona” literally means “crown”, and the differences in spelling of the name represent the differences between the North Germanic languages.

Crown currencies. What a cool name huh?

I don’t know about you, but saying “Hook me up with some crowns yo.” sounds way cooler than “Hook me up with some dollahs yo.”

Country Currency Name Currency Code
Denmark krone DKK
Sweden krona SEK
Norway krone NOK

SEK and NOK also have cool nicknames, “Stockie” and “Nokie“.

So when paired with the U.S. dollar,  USD/SEK is read “dollar stockie”  and USD/NOK is read “dollar nockie”.

CEE Currencies

CEE” stands for Central and Eastern Europe.

Central and Eastern Europe is a term encompassing the countries in Central Europe,  the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Europe (the Balkans), usually meaning former communist states from the Eastern Bloc (Warsaw Pact) in Europe.

Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) is an OECD term for the group of countries comprising Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and the three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Regarding the FX market, there are four main CEE currencies to be aware of.

Country Currency Name Currency Code
Hungary forint HUF
Czech Republic koruna CZK
Poland zloty PLN
Romania leu RON

BRIICS

BRIICS is the acronym coined for the association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, and South Africa.

Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs”). BRICs was a term created by Goldman Sachs to name today’s new high-growth emerging economies.

BRIICS is the term created by the OECD, when it added Indonesia and South Africa.

Country Currency Name Currency Code
Brazil real BRL
Russia ruble RUB
India rupee INR
Indonesia rupiah IDR
China yuan CNY
South Africa rand ZAR

Summary

Whew! That was a lot of information on currencies but you just raised your FX IQ points! 🧠

Let’s summarize what you’ve learned in a series of questions:

What is a currency pair in forex?
A currency pair is a pairing of currencies where the value of one is relative to the other. For example, GBP/USD is the value of the British pound relative to the U.S. dollar.

What are the major currency pairs?
Major currency pairs (“majors”) are those that include the U.S. dollar and the most frequently traded. There are seven of them: EUR/USD, USD/JPY, GBPUSD, USD/CAD, USD/CHF, AUD/USD, and NZD/USD.

What are the currency crosses?
Currency crosses (“crosses”) are the more frequently traded currencies that do NOT include the U.S. dollar in their pairing. Crosses include EUR/GBP, EUR/CAD, GBP/JPY, EUR/CHF, EUR/JPY, etc.

How many currency pairs exist?
There are HUNDREDS of currency pairs in existence but not all can be traded in the FX market. The United Nations currently recognizes 180 currencies. If you were to pair each currency up with another, it’s a lot.