Evolution of an Open Forex Market.
1. The Eurodollar Market
- The first attack on Bretton Woods came in the form of what would be known as the Eurodollar market.
- The term “eurodollar”, defines any instance of U.S. dollars deposited in a bank outside the United States – initially, the source of much of the foreign-held dollars was oil.
- The Soviet Union became an important oil producer shortly after World War II, and because oil contracts sold on the international markets were settled in U.S. dollars, the Soviet Union started receiving huge amounts of U.S. currency.
- Coincidently, this period also marked the beginning of the “Cold War” between the east and the west.
- Worried that their bank accounts could be seized by the U.S., the Soviet Union opted to deposit its U.S. dollars in European banks, out of the reach of American authorities.
- As the number of U.S. dollars held in this new eurodollar market grew, it soon became an important source of lending capital for governments and large companies around the world.
Market-Maker – A dealer or broker that provides a two-way quote (i.e. a bid and ask price) for which the dealer agrees to buy or sell. Offering both sides of a trade literally “makes” a market for those wishing to engage in currency trading.
2. U.S. Inflation and the Energy Crisis
- In 1971, inflation in the U.S. continued to erode the purchasing power of the dollar. At the same time, an energy crisis was simultaneously pushing up the price of oil and other commodities.
- As a result, investors – as is often the case when confusion reigns in the markets – turned to gold as a hedge to protect savings.
- The increased demand caused gold prices to soar and because the dollar was tied to gold, the U.S. dollar followed suit, further exacerbating the inflationary pressures.
- Finally, in an attempt to deal with surging inflation in the U.S. economy, President Nixon dropped the gold standard requirement and devalued the U.S. dollar to 1/35th of an ounce of gold.
- This effectively ended not only the gold standard, but also the Bretton Woods-imposed pegging of currencies, leading ultimately to free-floating individual currencies based on market conditions and other economic factors.
- Sometimes referred to as institutional forex trading, the Interbank market consists of a small group of large banks. Non-bank outsiders are forced to pay high service fees to trade in this market.
- Forex trading is an “over-the-counter” (OTC) market, and is not conducted in a physical location such as a stock exchange.
- A forex deal exists as a contract between two parties.
- The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) became the first exchange to offer currency trading.
- In 1971, the CME launched the International Monetary Market (IMM).
The Rise of Web-Based Trading and Forex Market-Makers
- In recent years, new developments in web-related technologies have made it possible for a number of independent brokers to develop internet-based trading platforms.
- These brokers serve as market-makers and provide a two-way quote for each currency pair they support.