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Forex Fundamentals: Knowledge You Can Profit From

Nov 4, 2007
An in-depth knowledge of macroeconomics or international trade isn't necessary to trade the Forex. But knowing how these forces affect currency pairs can only make you a more savvy trader. Here are a few highlights.

When a country raises its interest rates, often their stock market will go down as investors move their funds to greener financial pastures. This tends to weaken the internal economy of the country, but strengthens it in relation to other countries. Which effect will have the most impact on that nation's currency pairs is often discussed well in advance by the "talking heads," and each Forex trader has to decide for herself who to believe!

Crude oil

Canada is an oil-producing nation. Exporting crude oil raises their GNP and improves the balance of trade, strengthening their economy.

As the price of crude oil goes up, the USD/CAD goes down. (That's because the Canadian dollar, the cross currency, has appreciated against the base currency, the U.S. dollar.) At this point, the Canadian dollar is almost at parity with the U.S. dollar, a situation not seen since the 1950s.

As an interesting exercise, try laying the chart of the USD/CAD over the chart of crude oil prices for the same time period. The two charts are almost a flipped image of each other.

Japan, on the other hand, is an oil-consuming nation, strongly industrial but with no real energy reserves of their own. Importing crude oil at increasingly higher rates to power their economy raises the cost of production and slows or reverses their economic growth.

The change in the USD/JPY has not been as dramatic as that in the USD/CAD, and the correlation between the charts not as impressive, but that's because the cost of crude oil has affected the USD half of the equation as well as the JPY side.

Precious metals

During troubled political or economic times, investors tend to move their capital from speculative investments to something more conservative and solid. Precious metals, particularly gold, tend to go up in value at these times. When the situation returns to normal, gold tends to decline as investors seek higher returns from their money.

The Swiss franc, like gold, is considered a safe harbor for capital. As the U.S. dollar has depreciated (mainly due to the government deficit, a large trade deficit, and low interest rates when much of the rest of the world is raising theirs), investors have moved much of their capital to these harbors. Therefore, as the price of gold rises, so does the franc in relation to the dollar.

Like the Canadian dollar discussed above, the USD/CHF (Swissie) has declined because of the pressure of the cross currency against the base. Again, lay a chart of the USD/CHF over one for gold with the same time interval, and see how one reflects the other like trees in a lake.

Australia is a major gold and copper producer. Copper is not only a precious metal, it's also a substantial element in the housing market (copper plumbing, wiring, etc.). As demand for copper rises on both fronts, the Australian dollar climbs against the U.S. dollar. This is also a reflection of high Australian interest rates versus the low ones in the United States.
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