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Forex Research: A 3 step approach for successful trading

About the author
Seasoned macro trader, managed billions from the Credit Crunch to COVID-19 and everything in between. Traded most assets you’ve heard of and a few you haven’t, and still alive to tell the tale. A student of history, markets, and psychology and a lover of risk and weirdness.

Table of Contents

This article is about Forex research, which is really macro research, macro as in big focusing on the big picture, macroeconomics, policy, geopolitics etc, as opposed to stock research which is micro a type of analysis focusing on company fundamentals. Its a fascinating area that pulls in everything from history to behavioural psychology to geopolitics and government policy, not to mention trying to second guess what central banker are thinking.

Good research should ultimately improve your investment outcomes, and it starts understanding the macroeconomic factors that impact the foreign exchange market and beyond. It involves studying and analysing various global economic indicators, such as interest rates, inflation rates, economic growth rates, and political events, to identify potential macro trends and patterns in currency exchange rates.

By examining these factors, traders can gain valuable insights into different economies’ overall health and direction, which can help inform their trading decisions. Forex research can involve fundamental analysis, which evaluates the economic fundamentals of a country or region, and also technical analysis, which examines historical price patterns and trends. It gives traders a deeper understanding of the market conditions and can be a powerful tool in making informed and profitable trading decisions.

The 3 steps to successful forex research are understand the fundamentals, these are your basic building blocks that will drive long term trends, then understand the technical’s what is the price telling you? the final step is to combine the two to identify, execute and profit from high probability setups. Remember trading is hard, you will be wrong more times than you are right, make sure when you are right you smash it.

The Benefits of Successful Forex Research

Effective research is crucial for traders seeking to make informed decisions. By studying market trends and understanding how different economic indicators impact currency pairs, traders can spot and capitalize on potential movements. Additionally, keeping a close eye on geopolitical events allows traders to anticipate how political changes and global developments may affect currency exchange rates.

Mitigating risks is another significant benefit of forex research. By monitoring economic indicators such as inflation rates, interest rates, and GDP growth, traders can assess the risk associated with particular currency pairs and adjust their trading strategies accordingly. This helps in reducing potential losses and ensuring a more secure trading experience.

Forex Research and the Markets

Developing a solid understanding of the markets is crucial before we get into the weeds of macro research. This involves studying various aspects, such as market conditions, asset classes, and market participants. By grasping the dynamics of the financial markets, traders can better navigate their way through the complexities of forex or similar macro strategies. The first step is to understand the different types of asset classes involved that matter for Forex Research, spoiler alert its not just Forex markets that matter.

Types of Asset Classes

Analysts typically analyze various asset classes to inform their trading decisions when conducting Forex research. Several types of asset classes are commonly studied in this context:

1. Currencies: Forex traders focus primarily on currency pairs, examining their relative values and anticipating currency movements based on economic indicators and geopolitical events.

2. Equities: Stocks and stock indices like the Nasdaq or S&P 500 are another asset class of interest, as their performance can correlate with currency movements. Traders may assess equity market trends and the impact of individual stocks on forex rates. In addition, large cross-border mergers or acquisitions (M&A) can create market imbalances in currencies.

3. Bonds: Fixed-income securities such as government bonds are often considered closely related to forex. Bond yields can reflect market expectations about interest rates and economic conditions; in theory, foreign exchange rates are determined by relative interest rates, so-called covered interest rate parity. While in reality, it’s more complex than that, interest rates and their future direction are a key input to effective macro and forex research.

4. Commodities: Commodities like gold, oil, and agricultural products are closely monitored due to their ties to global economic trends. Changes in commodity prices can influence forex rates, particularly for countries reliant on specific resources. For example, South Africa is a large gold exporter, so the South African rand (ZAR) tends to do well when gold is performing. Norway is a significant oil producer, so the Norwegian Krona (NOK) can outperform when oil rallies

Global macro funds implement investment strategies across various all of these asset classes based on macroeconomic principles. They analyze macroeconomic trends, monetary and fiscal policies, geopolitical events, and other macro factors to identify investment opportunities in currencies, equities, bonds, and commodities. By diversifying across multiple asset classes, these funds can potentially capitalize on different market conditions and profit from currency movements, economic trends, or market anomalies.

A common strategy could focus on correlated markets across Forex, Equities, and Commodities; for example, better economic data has been announced, leading to higher US growth expectations. US Equities and the dollar may trade higher immediately, but oil and the NOK may not react at all. This could be an opportunity to sell the S&P 500 and buy oil and NOK against the USD, looking for catch-up.

While you are unlikely to be looking to setup a global macro fund, you can still use some of their approaches to both improve your trading and also find new profitable setups, solid Forex research is at the heart of this.

Analyzing Macroeconomic Trends and Principles

Analyzing macroeconomic trends and principles is of utmost importance in forex research as it provides valuable insights into the overall health of economies and the factors that drive currency movements. Macroeconomic trends refer to the broad, long-term patterns of economic growth, inflation, interest rates, and employment levels that impact currency values. Forex traders can identify potential opportunities and adjust their trading strategies by analyzing these trends.

Macro investors leverage macroeconomic trends and closely track economic indicators, central bank policies, and geopolitical events to inform their trading strategies. They analyze factors such as GDP growth, monetary policy decisions, political developments, and trade imbalances to understand the potential impact on various asset classes. This information helps them make well-informed decisions and adopt strategies that align with the prevailing macroeconomic conditions.

Macroeconomic factors influence price movements, but geopolitics is becoming more and more of an influence as the world moves away from the neo-liberalism of the great moderation to a new order.

Geopolitical Factors: Why do they matter in Forex Research

Understanding geopolitical factors and trends is crucial for forex traders as they can significantly impact currency values. Political leadership, external decisions of significant powers, and internal political instability all shape the forex market.

Political leaders and their policies can directly influence their country’s economy and currency. For example, fiscal, trade, or monetary policy decisions can affect currency exchange rates. Traders closely track political speeches and statements from key policymakers to gauge their potential impact. At the extreme end politicians can literally move markets by choosing to devalue their currencies. Most recently seen in Argentina

External decisions made by major powers also have implications for forex trading. For instance, trade agreements, economic sanctions, or geopolitical conflicts can all impact currency values. Changes in relations between major powers can create volatility in the forex market, as traders try to anticipate the consequences. The trade wars period of 2015-2018 saw a lot of volatility in the Chinese Renminbi and the Chinese leadership and central bank grappled with a new era of strategic competition.

By studying historical patterns of political structures, we can gain valuable insights into how they could impact the economy and currency values. Political ideologies and governance models have the potential to shape economic policies that can have significant effects on the forex market.

To accurately analyze geopolitical factors, it’s important to remain objective and set aside personal biases. By doing so, we can make informed decisions based on available data and information. Remember, objectivity is key to success in the forex research.

Analyzing Currency Pairs

There are a number of factors that can influence the movements of currency pairs. The first and foremost is interest rates. A country with higher interest rates tends to attract foreign investors looking for better returns, which in turn increases the demand for its currency and strengthens its value compared to another. Conversely, lower interest rates can lead to currency depreciation.

Economic indicators also play a crucial role in analyzing currency pairs. Positive indicators such as strong GDP growth or low unemployment rates can boost a currency’s value, while negative indicators such as high inflation or trade deficits can lead to currency depreciation.

To identify trading opportunities, it is essential to interpret currency pair charts and use technical indicators. Traders often look for patterns, trends, and support/resistance levels on charts to make informed decisions. Technical indicators such as moving averages or stochastic oscillators provide insights into market momentum and potential reversals.

Technical Analysis of Historical Market Data

Technical analysis is a popular method used by traders to make informed investment decisions based on historical market data, its differs from fundamental forex research in that it simply focuses on price nothing else, this makes it attractive to beginners as they don’t have to think about the macro.But a word of caution Technical Analysis is a rabbit hole its easy to fall into, and once your down there its easy to lose your way.

The winning trade is to combine fundamental forex research with technical analysis. The process begins with accessing and analyzing price charts of a given asset over a specific time period. Traders use various tools and indicators to conduct technical analysis and identify patterns, trends, and support/resistance levels.

One of the essential tools used in technical analysis is price patterns. These patterns can help traders identify potential trend reversals or continuations. Some common price patterns include head and shoulders, double tops/bottoms, or triangles.

Moving averages are another tool used in technical analysis. They help traders identify average price levels over a specific period and determine if a stock is trending upwards or downwards. Moving averages can be calculated over different periods, such as 20-day, 50-day, or 200-day moving averages, depending on the trader’s preferences.

Volume indicators are also essential in technical analysis, as they help identify market strength or weakness. Traders often use indicators such as the Relative Strength Index (RSI) or Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) to gauge momentum and identify potential entry or exit points. For example, when the RSI crosses above 30, it can indicate that a stock is oversold, and it may be a good time to buy. Conversely, when the RSI crosses below 70, it can indicate that a stock is overbought, and it may be a good time to sell.

Overall, technical analysis can help you identify potential trends, reversals, and entry or exit points, but it real strength is when you combine it with a strong fundamental view, and it as a tool to help you decide when to enter or exit a trade.

Evaluating Different Trading Strategies

We have introduced macro and technical forex research approaches, and we mentioned that the real power is by combining them but what does that look like in practice? Read on for some different examples professional forex traders use.

The most straightforward is simply fundamental analysis, which as we have discussed involves evaluating the underlying economic factors that can impact currency values. Traders using this strategy focus on key macroeconomic indicators such as GDP growth, interest rates, and inflation by analyzing these factors, they can identify potential currency trends and make trading decisions accordingly. So this is really our fundamental forex research driving investing decisions. Long term investors at pension funds or big asset managers would tend to be the main proponents of this approach. Hedge fund traders on the other hand would tend to use it as part of a richer approach.

One addition to fundamental forex research they would use is trend following, which leverages technical analysis by analyzing past price movements to identify and follow trends in the market. Traders using this approach aim to capitalize on the momentum of a currency pair and ride the trend until it reverses. This strategy requires close monitoring of market price movements and typically focuses on things like moving average crossovers as indicators.

Carry trading is going to be another tool in the hedge fund traders tool box, at its most basic it aims to profit from interest rate differentials between two currencies. This strategy involves borrowing a currency with a low-interest rate and investing in a currency with a higher interest rate. It’s a nice trade to have in the book as it pays you when nothing happens, in modern parlance its like a passive income side hussle.

Some popular carry trades are or have been USDJPY where you earn the high-interest rates in the US and pay low rates in Japan or conversely, USDMXN where you are short USD long MXN, earning high Mexican interest rates relative to US.

Carry trades look great on paper but tend to become crowded and can move sharply against you as investors rush to liquidate positions. In the front door and out the window as they say. In fact our Mexican Peso trade above even coined a term the Peso Problem

All of the preceding approaches are directional to a larger or smaller extent, but in reality most professional forex traders don’t really want much directional risk, they tend to want to be market neutral holding a portfolio of risk which offset one and other hoping to protect their portfolios from adverse market movements. This can involve taking positions in correlated assets or using options and futures contracts to hedge against currency fluctuations.

Ultimately, the choice of trading strategy depends on the trader’s risk tolerance, investment objectives, and market conditions. It is important for traders to evaluate the characteristics and objectives of each strategy to determine which one aligns best with their trading style and goals. Real-life examples of successful macro traders, such as George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller, can provide valuable insights into how these strategies are implemented in the real world. Check out our reading list for books on this topic and more.

Developing an Effective Strategy

In the world of forex research and trading, a well-developed strategy can be the key to success. It provides a roadmap to navigate the complex and volatile financial markets. Traders can gain valuable insights into the broader economic landscape by analyzing macroeconomic factors, geopolitical events, and market trends, then applying technical analysis to ultimately guide them to succesful investment decisions.

Successful forex research involves analyzing the big-picture factors that impact the overall economy and financial markets including tracking geopolitical events and their potential impact on the financial markets. By understanding these fundamental factors, traders can better comprehend the underlying economic situation. This enables traders to adjust their trading strategy accordingly and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

By studying historical data, technical analysis, and market cycles, traders can further optimize their trading strategy. This combination of fundamental analysis and technical analysis can help traders develop a comprehensive and effective approach to forex research and trading.

In conclusion, incorporating macro and technical forex research into a forex trading strategy can significantly enhance outcomes. By analyzing macroeconomic factors, geopolitical events, and market trends, traders can gain valuable insights and make more informed trading decisions. This comprehensive approach enables traders to navigate the complex financial landscape and maximize their chances of success in the forex market. With hard work and dedication, every trader can achieve their goals and succeed in the world of forex research and trading.