Introduction to Financial Instruments – Part 2 – The Forward Market

Financial instruments are assets that can be traded or exchanged by parties within a financial market. These instruments are used for investment purposes and portfolio diversification. Financial instruments include stocks, bonds, derivatives, mutual funds, and foreign exchange (Forex). These instruments allow investors and traders to benefit from market fluctuations, manage risk, and achieve their financial goals.

Spot Market

In the previous discussion about financial instruments, we covered the spot market, which entails the quick purchase and sale of currencies at the current exchange rate. Now, let's delve into another important market, the forward market. Unlike the spot market, the forward market involves trading through two tools: forward outright deals and exchange deals or swaps. In a swap deal, a combination of a spot deal and a forward outright deal is executed.

Significance and Volume of the Forward Market

According to data published by the Bank for International Settlements, the forward market accounted for 57% of all financial instrument trading in 1998. This indicates its crucial role in global financial markets. At that time, the total daily gross turnover in the forward market was estimated to be around USD 1.49 trillion, representing a substantial amount of financial activity. The settlement dates in the forward market vary widely, ranging from 3 days to 3 years. While currency swaps longer than one year tend to have lower trading volumes, there are no technical barriers to executing such deals. As long as a date falls within the specified range and is a valid business day for the currencies involved, it can be used for forward settlement.

Functioning and Decentralization of Forward Markets

The forward market operates in a decentralised manner, with participants around the world engaging in various transactions either on a one-on-one basis or through brokers. This decentralization provides flexibility and allows market participants to access a wide range of counterparties. Unlike the spot market, where transactions are settled within two business days, the forward market offers more flexibility in terms of settlement dates, accommodating the needs of market participants.

The forward price is a key component in the forward market, comprising two significant parts: the spot exchange rate and the forward spread. The spot rate serves as the basic reference for the forward price, while the forward spread, also known as forward points or forward pips, adjusts the spot rate to account for specific settlement dates different from the spot date. The maturity date of the forward contract also plays a crucial role in determining the forward price.

Risk and Benefits in the Forward Market

The forward market provides participants with the opportunity to hedge against currency risk and manage their exposure in the foreign exchange market. By entering into forward contracts, market participants can lock in exchange rates for future transactions, protecting themselves against adverse exchange rate movements. This allows businesses and investors to plan their finances more effectively and minimise potential losses.

However, it's important to note that forward contracts also come with certain risks. Changes in market conditions or unexpected events can impact the future value of currencies, leading to potential losses for market participants. Additionally, the longer the maturity period of a forward contract, the higher the uncertainty and risk involved. Therefore, careful analysis, risk management strategies, and thorough understanding of market dynamics are essential for successful participation in the forward market.


This information is not considered investment advice or an investment recommendation, but instead a marketing communication. iFX is not responsible for any data or information provided by third parties referenced or hyperlinked, in this communication.

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