What are You Really Selling or Buying in the Currency Market?by Boris Schlossberg
The short answer is "nothing". The retail FX market is purely a speculative market. No physical exchange of currencies ever takes place. All trades exist simply as computer entries and are netted out depending on market price. For dollar-denominated accounts, all profits or losses are calculated in dollars and recorded as such on the trader's account. The primary reason the FX market exists is to facilitate the exchange of one currency into another for multinational corporations who need to trade currencies continually (for example, for payroll, payment for costs of goods and services from foreign vendors, and merger and acquisition activity). However, these day-to-day corporate needs comprise only about 20% of the market volume. Fully 80% of trades in the currency market are speculative in nature, put on by large financial institutions, multi-billion dollar hedge funds and even individuals who want to express their opinions on the economic and geopolitical events of the day.