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What Moves the Foreign Exchange Market?

The primary factors influencing exchange rates include the balance of payments, the state of the economy, implications drawn from chart analysis as well as political and psychological factors.

Ebb and flow of capital between nations, otherwise known as Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is the central factor that determines market momentum. In addition, fundamental economic forces such as inflation and interest rates are constantly influencing currency prices. Faith in a government's ability to stand behind its currency will also impact currency price. This is done in two ways: controls and intervention. Controls restrict citizens from doing things, which have a negative effect on the exchange rate (such as sending money abroad). Intervention takes two forms: changing the interest rate on the currency to make it more or less attractive to foreigners, or buying/selling the currency to raise or lower its market value.

Any of these broad-based economic conditions can cause a sudden and dramatic currency price swing if such conditions are seen to be changing. This is a key concept because what drives the currency market in many cases is the anticipation of an economic condition rather than the condition itself.

Activities by professional currency managers, generally on behalf of a pool of funds, have also become a factor moving the market. While professional managers may behave independently and view the market from a unique perspective, most, if not all, are at least aware of important technical chart points in each major currency. As major support or resistance levels approach, the behavior of the market becomes more technically oriented and the reactions of many managers are often predictable and similar. These market periods may result in sudden and dramatic price swings as substantial amounts of capital are invested in similar positions.


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