Trading Tips

Picking the best forex pair(s) to trade


Chris as Winner’s Edge Trading did a post a couple months back with suggestions for how to go about picking the best pair or pairs for your forex trading. Essentially, his list came down to a handful of key considerations:

1) Your strategy or analytic methodology

2) Currency correlations and diversification

3) Liquidity

The list actually has eight factors in it, but I consider several of them to be essentially the same type of consideration. Thus my list of just three.

Let me expand on them.

Strategy considerations
In terms of #1, you are best off looking at currency pairs which are well suited to the approach you’ll be taking in your trading. Generally speaking, that will either be trend oriented or range-trading oriented. Thus, if you are a trend following trader you are going to be best off working in pairs which have strong trending characteristics in your chosen time frame. Likewise, if you favor a more mean reversion oriented approach, you’ll want pairs that tend toward ranging and/or sharp counter-trend moves.

Note that one currency pair can fall into both categories depending on time frame and market phase. If there are strong underlying factors at work, then in the higher time frames the pair will tend to trend, but maybe in the shorter time frames it may go through ranging periods. These things can and will change over time. As such, it makes sense for you to have a way to identify current market conditions.

If you’re trading primarily the major currency pairs it is very hard to truly have an uncorrelated portfolio of positions. You can only go 3-4 deep with majors and major crosses before you have one currency in multiple pairs, which automatically introduces correlation. And even then, certain currencies will tend to naturally be correlated based on the current economic environment. For example, the CHF and EUR will often be positively correlated because both are impacted by the fundamentals of the European economy.

You can certainly trade multiple pairs which share the same currency (e.g. USD/JPY, GBP/USD, AUD/USD). If so, however, you need to account for that in your risk management strategy. It is highly likely that all the pairs you trade sharing that common currency will move together based on the same factors. That’s great when the market goes in your direction as it will multiply your gains, but the same thing happens with your losses when the market goes the other way.

For the most part, liquidity isn’t a major concern for retail forex traders as your orders will usually get filled at or very close to your order price. Yes, during major news events there can be slippage when trading outside the major pairs and crosses – and even in the majors on occasion. If you’re operating in a higher time frame, though, that’s likely not a major concern.

The bigger consideration here is the cost of trading. The more liquid pairs have narrower bid/ask spreads. That can significantly impact your returns if you’re an active short-term trader, but maybe not so much if you playing the longer-term market moves.

How many?
One additional consideration I would add into the mix is how many pairs you should trade. This is a question which comes up a lot in trading forum discussions. To my mind, this all depends on your time frame. If you’re a day trader you’re likely going to want to keep your focus fairly narrow – especially if you’re in and out frequently (e.g. scalping). As you go out the time frames, though, you probably need to be tracking more pairs. It’s simply a function of providing yourself with enough trading opportunities.

In Chris’s post he also mentions personal preference, which I suppose can be an additional factor. If you want to truly be a good trader, though, you should be able to trade whatever market makes the most sense at the time.

Trading Book Reviews

Book Review: Currency Trading in the Forex and Futures Markets

[easyazon-link asin=”0132931370″][/easyazon-link]I’ve just finished going through [easyazon-link asin=”0132931370″]Currency Trading in the Forex and Futures Markets[/easyazon-link] by Carley Garner. This is the second of Carley’s books I have read following A Trader’s First Book on Commodities. That book, and her regular article writing, motivated me to include Carley as a contributor to my Trading FAQs book and to do an interview with her in support of that. As you will soon find out, this existing relationship has little bearing on my objectivity where this new book is concerned.

On the plus side, this book does a pretty good job of outlining the different ways one can trade the currency market (spot, futures, options, ETFs). There are good explanations of the mechanics of forex trading in its different forms, as well as the primary methods used in the analysis of the market. This includes an in-depth discussion of the Commitment of Traders (COT) report as well as a limited section on forex seasonals.

My major issue with the book is the author’s bias. She is a futures broker, which puts a major lean in her perspective. This is not unexpected, but the blatantly manipulative fashion in which she casts retail spot trading in a negative light is something I find distasteful. She does it repeatedly in the early parts of the book by presenting some of the often-discussed concerns that have come up in the spot arena over the years (mainly related to forms of potential dealing-desk broker manipulations) with full commentary about how and why this could be a risk for someone getting into the market. Then, at the very end, after ratcheting up the reader’s fear level, she finishes with a line something like, “But that almost never happens.” This is the sort of thing I come to expect from politicians, not from book authors.

The casting of spot forex in a negative light, either directly or specifically relative to futures, happens throughout the conversation. I don’t mind that she has a preference, but I’d like to see a more objective discussion with less of an outright attempt to influence the reader. (I personally have traded forex through all the markets she discusses and continue to do so in different ways based on what I’m trying to do in the markets)

There’s also something of an error of omission in the comparison of spot and futures in terms of interest rates. The author rightly comments on the whole roll-over, interest carry mechanism that takes place in the spot market at the end of each trading day. She fails (as far as I saw) to note that the interest rate differential is also a factor in the futures market as it is priced in.

For me the negatives outweigh the positives, so I’m not inclined to recommend this book, though I did like her previous one.

Make sure to check out all my trading book reviews.

Trading Book Reviews

Book Review: Currency Trading for Dummies

[easyazon-link asin=”1118018516″][/easyazon-link]I was given the opportunity a little while back to pick up a copy of [easyazon-link asin=”1118018516″]Currency Trading for Dummies[/easyazon-link], written by Brian Dolan. I’m always on the look out for good books to help introduce trading, either generally or in terms of specific concepts. I thought this book might make for a good resource I could recommend when asked about “a good forex trading book”. With that in mind, here’s my review.

Overall, I’m mixed on [easyazon-link asin=”1118018516″]Currency Trading for Dummies[/easyazon-link]. The book could have been structured much better to my mind and there are parts where I don’t care for the way the author has talked about things. There are, though, also some pretty good, useful parts.

The discussion of forex trading mechanics could perhaps have been done better. I think the author too closely associates it with the likes of stock trading in terms of buying and selling. It makes the general point, but could leave some readers with the wrong impression of how things work in retail forex in that it may imply to readers there’s actual currency ownership involved, which isn’t the case.

I also found the section on order types rather clunky. It takes up much more space than is necessary to talks about stop and limit orders, even accounting for the different ways they are referred to in some cases.

The author takes a very thorough look at interest rates, monetary policy, and currency policy in his discussion of drivers of exchange rates. Dolan goes into sources and types of information and the major economic and other data elements that go into forex market analysis. This includes a listing of the key reports for each of the major economies, though I would suggest that these things tend to change in importance over time.

The section of the book I think a lot of readers will find most valuable is the one which goes through the major currency pairs and talks about their individual characteristics. This isn’t something I’ve seen done in such detail in other books. This includes both technical and fundamental considerations for those pairs.

There’s also a good section on risk. It does a nice job of explaining leverage, margin and position-sizing, as well as addressing other elements of position and general trading risk.

The latter part of the book gets into subjects having to do with trading strategy and touches on subjects which aren’t strictly forex related, but will be of value to many readers.

My inclination is to compare this book to Essentials of Forex Trading. I think the latter book is a tighter look at the basics of foreign exchange trading. [easyazon-link asin=”1118018516″]Currency Trading for Dummies[/easyazon-link] is a more expansive text, going beyond the basics to take a more comprehensive view. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. I think maybe the two together provide a good comprehensive job of explaining forex trading to someone new to the market.

Make sure to check out all my trading book reviews.