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Forex vs Stocks: Which is Better?

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Forex is highly volatile compared to stocks, which can provide opportunities for quick profit but also come with higher risk. This makes it suitable for traders who can manage significant risks and adapt quickly to rapid change.

The Forex market is more flexible than the stock markets. It operates 24 hours a day, Monday to Friday. This allows traders to easily manage their trading activities with full-time jobs and other commitments.

New to trading and wondering whether you should start trading Forex or stocks? Rest assured, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between the forex and stock market, including trading hours, leverage, volatility, and what influences their prices. We will also recommend who should consider trading each one, helping you make an informed choice that best fits your trading style and goals.

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Tip: If you own a business, check out our guides on forex for business and strategies to reduce exchange rate exposure.

What Is The Forex Market?

forex market definition

The forex market, also known as the foreign exchange market, is the largest financial market in the world. It is where currencies are traded 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. Unlike other financial markets, there is no centralized exchange for Forex trading. 

Instead, currencies are traded electronically across a global network of banks, central banks, brokers, commercial companies, and traders.

Forex trading involves buying one currency while simultaneously selling another. This is typically done in pairs, such as the EUR/USD (Euro and US Dollar), where traders speculate on the exchange rate between them.

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What Is The Stock Market?

stock market definition

The stock market is a collection of markets where stocks (pieces of ownership in businesses) are bought and sold. When you buy stock, you purchase a small part of a company and become a shareholder. As the company grows or earns profit, you may earn dividends based on your shares.

Unlike the forex market, stock trading is typically conducted on regulated exchanges, such as the NASDAQ, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), and the London Stock Exchange. These exchanges provide a platform for issuing and trading shares of publicly listed companies.

Key Differences Between Forex and Stock Trading

Forex Market

Stock Market

Asset to Trade

Currencies

Shares or units of ownership in a business

Trading Hours

24 hours, Monday - Friday

Trade during opening hours only

Leverage

High

Lower

Volatility

High

Ranges from low to high; blue-chip stocks tend to be less volatile compared to penny stocks.

Liquidity

Over 7 trillion daily trading volume

Depending on the type of stocks and exchanges 

Influences on Market Price

Primarily influenced by international economic trends and political changes

Many factors, including company and industry performance, macroeconomic factors, and market sentiment

Cost

Only spread

Spread + Commission

Asset to Trade

In the forex market, you trade foreign currencies. Traders speculate based on how one currency performs against another, which can reflect a nation's economic health and stability. On the other hand, the primary assets of the stock market are shares in corporations. As a shareholder, you're invested in the company's success and can benefit from its growth through increases in stock value and dividends.

Trading Hours

As mentioned earlier, the forex market operates 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. It starts when the Australian markets open on Sunday evening and closes with the New York markets on Friday.

This round-the-clock operation offers flexibility for traders around the world, allowing them to trade during their normal business hours or engage in trading activities as a part-time endeavor alongside their regular jobs.

Conversely, stock market hours are much more restricted and are typically limited to the standard business hours of the country where the exchange is located.

For example, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) operates from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday to Friday. The London Stock Exchange opens at 8:00 AM and closes at 4:30 PM on weekdays – with a break from 12:00 PM to 12:02 PM.

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Note: Investors can sometimes trade stocks outside regular market hours during special trading sessions. However, these sessions often have lower liquidity and higher volatility.

Leverage

Leverage in trading is a tool that enables investors to control larger positions with a smaller amount of money. Essentially, brokers provide a "loan" that significantly increases the size of your trade beyond what your own funds would allow.

Consider a leverage ratio of 10:1. If you invest USD 1,000, you can hold a position worth USD 10,000. This setup substantially increases your potential profits, but it also magnifies potential losses because they are calculated on the full value of the trade—not just your initial investment. For instance, a 40% movement in the market can result in a gain or loss of USD 4,000, which not only wipes out your capital but could lead to additional debt if your account balance cannot cover the loss.

To mitigate further financial risk, your broker might automatically ‘liquidate’ or close your position. Liquidation occurs to stop the losses from escalating and to prevent you from owning more than you initially invested. This is a crucial safety measure in managing risks when trading with high leverage.

Leverage is widely used across various financial markets, but it is more prevalent in Forex than in stocks. In the forex market, leverage ratios for major currency pairs can reach as high as 30:1 in Europe and 50:1 in the US, allowing retail traders to assume large positions with relatively small capital.

In contrast, leverage in the U.S. stock market is typically more conservative, generally with a ratio of 2:1. This lower leverage means potentially lower risk but also lower potential returns compared to Forex.

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Caution: Beginners should limit leverage to a maximum of 10:1 to manage risks effectively while gaining experience.

Volatility

Another key difference is volatility. Volatility is a term that captures the degree of variation in the price of a trading asset over time. 

The forex market is known for its high volatility, which means prices can shift dramatically within minutes. This characteristic is primarily due to the global nature of the forex market and the continuous flow of economic news that directly influences currency values.

Economic indicators, geopolitical developments, and shifts in market sentiment can lead to swift and significant price movements. For traders, this high volatility represents both a risk and an opportunity, enabling the potential for quick profits if market movements are predicted correctly.

On the other hand, volatility in the stock market is more nuanced and varies widely depending on the type of stock. In general, blue-chip stocks, which represent large, financially stable companies, exhibit lower volatility and provide more stability. In contrast, penny stocks, known for their low prices and limited market cap, can experience sudden and extreme price changes.

While the overall stock market tends to be less volatile than the forex market, periods of high volatility can still occur, especially during major corporate events or economic crises.

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Tip: Learn how forward exchange contracts can mitigate the risk of forex price fluctuations.

Liquidity

Liquidity refers to how quickly and easily an asset can be bought or sold in the market without causing a significant price movement.

Forex is one of the most liquid financial markets in the world, with a daily trading volume record of USD 7 trillion. The immense volume in currency trading allows for quick and large-volume trades with minimal price changes, providing an advantage in speed and price stability. This characteristic is particularly beneficial for traders who need to move large sums quickly or trade frequently.

In contrast, stock market liquidity varies widely across different stocks and exchanges, influenced by several factors, including:

  • Company Size: Well-established and financially stable companies have popular stocks with large daily volumes, allowing quick transactions with minimal price impact. For example, NVIDIA has trading volumes of over USD 25 billion per day, making it easy to buy and sell shares at stable prices.
  • Impact of the Exchange: The exchange on which a stock is listed also affects its liquidity. Major exchanges like the NYSE and NASDAQ have high liquidity due to their large number of active traders and substantial trading volumes, typically around 4-5 billion shares daily. This ensures transactions are executed quickly and efficiently with minimal price impact. In contrast, stocks on smaller exchanges or over-the-counter (OTC) markets generally have lower liquidity, leading to significant price fluctuations.

Influences on Market Prices

Understanding what influences the prices of assets you trade can provide you with insights necessary for informed trading decisions.

Currency prices are primarily driven by national economic indicators such as GDP growth rates, unemployment figures, and inflation data. Political stability and events within currency-hosting countries, along with global economic events and crises, also contribute to substantial price fluctuations. These dynamics make the forex market highly responsive to international economic trends and political changes, reflecting the ongoing global economic conditions.

Compared to forex, stock prices are affected by a wider range of factors. The financial health of a company—reflected in earnings, debt, and profitability—is key. Industry performance and broader economic conditions also play significant roles in shaping stock prices.

Moreover, market sentiment, driven by investors' perceptions and reactions to news reports can significantly affect stock valuations. For instance, specific events like mergers, acquisitions, or changes in leadership can lead to notable price movements. An unexpected quarterly profit significantly elevates a company's stock price, while a scandal or legal issue might cause it to plummet.

Costs of Trading

Forex brokers make money on the ‘spread’ of a currency pair when you execute a trade. Spread is the difference between the bid and the asking price and is specific to a currency pair. Spreads are generally very small and can be easily calculated - making the fees rather transparent.

=Unlike Forex, the stock market generally charges spreads and a commission fee. These fees are generally around USD 5 to USD 10 for a given trade.

Additionally, in some countries, purchasing stocks is subject to stamp duty. In the UK, for example, you will pay 0.5% of the transaction value. However, it does not apply to forex trades.

These fees may be a minor consideration for stock traders who trade with a large amount of capital. Nevertheless, for new or beginner traders, the fees can really damage profits, potentially making forex much better for traders with smaller accounts.

What Should You Choose, Forex or Stocks?

Choosing between trading forex and stock depends on your personal trading style, your comfort with risk, and your financial goals. Here's a focused look at who might be better suited for each type of market.

Who Should Consider Trading Forex?

✅Flexible, Fast-paced Traders: Forex markets operate 24 hours a day during weekdays, offering flexibility perfect for those with irregular schedules or who enjoy trading in a dynamic environment. Whether you're a night owl or have a day job, you can find time to trade.

✅High-risk Tolerance Traders: With the possibility of using high leverage, Forex trading offers substantial profit potential from relatively small price movements. If you enjoy fast-paced trading and have a solid risk management strategy, Forex could be ideal for you.

✅Global Market Enthusiasts: If you are interested in global politics and economics and understand how these factors impact currency values, Forex provides a platform to capitalize on international events and economic announcements.

Who Should Consider Trading Stocks?

✅Long-term Investors: If you prefer a more strategic, researched approach to investing, stocks might be more suitable. Stock trading allows you to hold onto investments over an extended period, potentially benefiting from company growth and dividends, which can lead to substantial returns.

✅Routine-oriented Traders: Those who prefer trading during set hours and like having a clear separation between trading time and personal time would appreciate stock market hours. Since stock exchanges operate during standard business hours, you won’t have to worry about overnight market movements affecting your trades.
✅Risk-averse Individuals: If you are cautious with your investment and prefer a more stable and predictable market, stocks usually offer less volatility than Forex. This is especially true for blue-chip stocks.

Final Note

The decision to trade Forex or stocks depends on your financial goals, time availability, and risk appetite. Consider exploring both markets with small or simulated investments to discover what best suits your trading style. Ultimately, both paths offer significant opportunities to expand your financial knowledge and grow your investments.

A dropdown of some supported currencies by the Statrys business account.

FAQs

Is forex better than stock trading?

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Both markets have the potential for profitability, however the stock marketing is considerably more stable compared to the forex market.

Is the stock market safe?

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Is forex really profitable?

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What do I need to start trading forex or the stock market?

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