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What is the Spread in Forex & How Do You Calculate it?

Will Ellis
Last Updated on January 1, 2023

Investing in the forex market is one of the smartest things a trader can do. It doesn’t matter if you have never invested in anything before or if it’s something you have done for decades, the forex market will give you many opportunities that you haven’t had before.

For many reasons, investing in forex is different from investing in just about any other commodity in any other marketplace. Because of this, even those who are considered seasoned traders find new and exciting things that suck them into forex.

Yes, you might find incredible success investing in forex but that will only be true if you know what you are doing. Just like any other market, there are many minute details and specific details that you should be well aware of.

You can get by if you don’t know all of these things but if you wish to thrive in the forex market – or any market, really – you need to treat yourself as a student, one who wishes to learn, study, and become an expert.

That means that you need to know the ins and outs of the forex market – including the spread. This is something that will be built into literally every transaction you make. Therefore, it is something that should be completely, fully understood. 

Table of Contents:

What Is The Forex Market? 💱️


Forex means “foreign exchange” and it is essentially buying or selling one currency for a different one.

It is true that you can make money by trading money. It might sound silly on the surface, or confusing, but it makes total sense and this booming industry has made trillions of dollars over the years.

A smart investor can take their own currency and then exchange, or buy, a different type from a foreign nation. This is smart for a number of reasons. Some people want to do it so they can buy the other type of currency, hold onto it, and then sell it at a higher price, making a strong profit for themselves.

Other people want to do business in other nations and investing in forex is a smart way to do so. If you are doing a lot of business in Germany, for example, you should be using their form of currency to buy products and establish a business. 

While you can easily just exchange your own regional form of currency for that used in Germany, it makes more sense to use the forex market because you stand to make a profit and, therefore, have more money to spend on your business interests in Germany. 

However, whenever you are buying or selling your forex, you need to be aware that there is a small, somewhat hidden fee that is built into every single transaction.

This is called the spread, and it needs to be known of and totally understood before you start your forex journey. 

What Is The Forex Spread? 💸️

You must comprehend the fundamental elements of every forex deal in order to comprehend the forex spread and the way it impacts you and your trading career.  If you don’t, you might be disappointed to find out that you are actually spending more money than you expected each time you initiate an exchange.

In the world of forex trading, all trades are done through middlemen, paid professionals who demand a fee for their hard work on your behalf. You don’t have a say in the matter, this is something that is built into the market. 

Online Only 🖥️

The forex market is all online. There is no central hub or headquarters. You do not do your trades at a physical location, like the American New York Stock Exchange, which has an actual location in New York. 

Instead, all forex trades are done completely online and through these professionals who carry out your wishes and oversee everything done between sellers and buyers. These people moderate and maintain the system that allows the forex market to thrive. 

What Is The Spread?

The “spread” is any forex deal’s cost for the gap between both the listing value and the asking price of the bid.

Think about it this way: the purchasing and selling amounts for a particular currency pair are represented by the two rates. When buying currencies, traders must pay a particular amount. But, if they wish to sell it back straight away, they must sell it at a lower price.

You need the forex market to sell that currency. But unlike the American stock market, where trades take place in an actual location, the forex market is different. The foreign exchange market has always been electronic.

To manage this electronic marketplace, a middleman is required to organize the transaction, even if the buyer and vendor are in different cities.

One of several specialists who enables a certain currency transfer may be located incredibly far away from the other two people who are exchanging the currencies. This middleman’s  duties include locating a bidder for every seller in order to ensure an efficient stream of buying and selling orders for foreign currency.

Why Do They Earn The Spread? 💰️

In actuality, there are some dangers associated with the specialist’s work. For instance, it is possible that they approve a bid or purchase order at a specific price, but the worth of the currency rises prior to them being able to find a seller.

The specialist might be required to accept a larger order to sell than the buying order that they had committed to filling, but they are still accountable for having to fill the approved bid price.

The market maker keeps a portion of each transaction as compensation for assuming the risk and executing the deal. The spread is the percentage they retain.

A coupling may be less fluid than some other pairings if the spreads are significant. T In other words, the pair is receiving less attention from investors and traders. Less traders concentrating on a pair means that it is less probable that somebody will provide a price that is nearer to the other side of the deal. 

The spread rises as trading volume decreases. Brokerage firms might add trading commissions in the spread even though they advertise their service as commission-free.

How Is The Spread Calculated? 🔢️

Forex Spread

How does the market determine the spread? It’s actually quite easier than you might imagine.

Each and every forex quote on the market is made with two important pieces: the bid and the ask prices. This is a lot like what you see on other markets. 

The bid is the price that the market or the broker will buy the base currency at in exchange for the other currency. And the ask price is the value that the broker will sell the base currency at. That is the simplest explanation of these components vital to each and every quote. 

The spread is the difference between these two. It is a simple formula that takes the bid and the ask and gives the difference to the broker that accelerates the process.

Other Factors ➡️

However, there are other things that affect the amount of the spread. It isn’t just based solely upon the formula we discussed above. Instead, there are exterior things completely out of the broker’s control that can drive up the amount of the spread – or drive it down.

The Time Of Day ⏲️

The forex market is available and open all day long, 24/7. That means that people can speculate and buy and trade all day long and deep into the evening. But the spread may be different depending on when you decide to make your move.

If you are buying your currency during the normal trading session for the currency, there will be many brokers available to help you with your trade and the spread will likely be lower. However, if you are buying it at a later hour, there will be less brokers. Therefore, your spread will likely be costlier. 

World Events 🗺️

There are many economic and political and current events throughout the world that can impact the size and cost of spreads in the forex market. If the unemployment rate in the United States comes out and is shockingly high, the dollar is going to lose its value most likely.

When that happens, the forex market is affected and the spreads for that dollar can be much wider since the rates of exchange are going to fluctuate. 

Other events, such as world wars and elections and unrest among populations can impact the value of currency too. The coronavirus pandemic, for example, has led to record inflation which has affected the value of many currencies throughout the globe. When they lose value, spreads are higher. 

Conversely, when a currency gains value or rebounds, the spreads related to it on the forex market might be smaller and easier to handle for traders. 

There are many things that will change the size of the spread, both for better and for worse. But one thing will always remain the same: the spread is here to stay. If you are looking to get into the forex market, you need to know that you cannot alter or avoid the spread.

But you can be aware of it, prepared for it, and able to work with it. 

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