Forex Trading South Africa - Beginner's Guide
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Retail Forex Trading is about speculating on the rise and fall of currencies with an aim to make a profit. The daily turnover of forex trading in South Africa is estimated to be around $19.1 billion USD per day in 2017. Also, South African Rand (ZAR) is one of the top 20 most traded currency in the world with annual trading volume of almost $70 billion USD in 2016.

It is likely that you want to start trading forex as an investment instrument because of the higher market liquidity & quick pace. But there are many risks are well. We will try to cover everything you must know before you can start trading & how much does it take to get started?

You likely want to get the answers to all your questions, but don’t know where to start? This guide will show you the basics on how to get started with forex trading as an absolute beginner.

If you are searhing for regulated forex brokers in South Africa to trade with then see our table below:

  • Max. Leverage
  • Minimum Deposit
Name Regulator(s) Max. Leverage Minimum Deposit Forex Trading Platform(s) Broker Website
FSCA, FCA, CySEC
1:1000
$5
MT4, MT 5 platforms for desktop, web & mobile
Visit Hotforex Read Hotforex Review
Hotforex is regulated with FSCA (South Africa). Their EUR/USD spread starts from 0.3 pips*.
ASIC, CySEC
1:888
$5
MetaTrader 4 & MetaTrader 5.
Visit XM Read XM review
FCA, CySEC
1:2000
$1
MT4 & MT5
Visit Exness Read Exness Review

Forex trading involves buying & selling of global currencies in the forex market for making a profit on the currency's fluctuations.

Simply put, you buy a currency when you believe its value is going to appreciate (go up) against the other currency or you sell a currency when you believe its value is going to decrease (go down) against the other currency. When you exit the trade, the difference between the trade's entry & exit price determines your profit or loss.

Sounds confusing? No worries. This guide will show you the entire math behind the trade. But first let’s know more about Forex markets.

What is Forex Trading?

What is Forex Market?

Forex refers to Foreign Exchange, or simply FX, sometimes even called Spot FX, where the global currencies are traded against each other.

You may have seen ticker symbols of currencies like USD/ZAR, EUR/ZAR etc. while visiting your bank. These are the rates of the currencies from the live Forex market.

Forex is the most liquid market in the world, operating 24 hours a day, nearly five and a half days in a week. The global daily average trading volume of this market is over $5 Trillion, making it the largest financial market in the world. The number is so big that a big Stock exchange like a New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has to operate for about a month just to catch-up to the Forex market’s daily average volume.

The market participants in Forex include commercial banks, governments, central banks and institutional investors, currency speculators and even commercial corporations (wanting to hedge their risks or speculate).

Forex Trading: Real Life Example

Have you travelled abroad to another country?

If you been to a foreign country, then it is likely that you may have converted your local currency i.e. South African Rand (ZAR) to another currency like Euro or a US Dollar. If you exchanged your currency before, then you have already traded in the forex market.

Let's assume that you exchange R16,000 for $1000 through your bank or local regulated exchanger, for travelling to US. In this example, you would be physically selling your home currency (South African Rand) for buying US Dollar. When you are exchanging your money for travelling abroad, you (through your bank) are making a forex transaction in the global forex market without even knowing.

Real Life example of Forex Trading

The rate at which you can exchange your currency to another is called the Exchange Rate. This rate is continuously fluctuating every second as the forces in Forex market determines the rate.

If the ZAR's exchange rate in the live market is R15.70 per USD, then your exchanger/bank would probably give you a rate of R16 per USD, or maybe even higher. The difference of R0.30 (16.00 – 15.70) between the rate given to you by the bank & the actual market rate, is the profit margin for the bank/exchanger.

In theory, Retail forex trading through an online broker is similar to currency exchange, but still there is more to it. Don't worry, we will be explaining everything in the next chapters of this guide!

In a Forex market, any transaction involves simultaneous buying and selling of one currency for another, hence called the ‘currency pairs’.

For example: USD/ZAR (US Dollar & the South African Rand), EUR/USD (European Euro & the US Dollar) etc.

Globally, there are over 100 currency pairs (every country has their own currency), including 7 Majors, 50+ minors & many exotic pairs. It is highly important to learn about the currency pairs, what they are, how they can impact your trading, and more, so that you can decide which pairs you should be trading & which ones to stay away from!

This chapter will explain everything you must know about currency pairs. Let's begin!

Currency Pairs

What are Currency Pairs?

Currency Pair is the quote of one currency relative to the other currency. In the Forex market, all currency are traded against each other, therefore being called 'currency pairs'. So when you are trading in the forex market you are actually trading 2 currencies simutaneously.

For example: USD/ZAR is a currency pair where US Dollar is being traded again the South African Rand. When the price of USD/ZAR currency pair is rising then it means that US Dollar is getting stronger against the Rand, and vice versa in case the USD/ZAR's pair is going down.

There are other terms like a Base Currency, Quote Currency, majors, etc. Let's get to them.

Currency Pairs Lingo

Here we will explain all the important terms that you must know before understanding more about forex trading. You will hear a lot of these terms commonly while trading, so let's start.

Currency Pair Terms:

1) Base & Quote Currency: In every currency pair like EUR/USD, USD/ZAR, the first currency mentioned is the ‘Base Currency’ which is being compared to the second currency called ‘Quote Currency’.

For example, in EUR/USD, Euro is the Base Currency and the US Dollars is the Quote Currency.

Forex Bid, Ask & Quote for a currency pair

If you hear the local business news or a trader talks about the currencies like: "The South African (ZAR) edged higher againt the Dollar today, reaching a two-week high of 14.454"

It simply means that the South African Rand has appreciated in value against the US Dollar, where it’s valued currently at 1 USD at 14.454 ZAR.

2) Bid & Ask prices: 'Bid price' is the market price at which you can sell the base currency. And 'Ask price' is the price at which you can buy the base currency in the pair. For ex: If you want to trade USD/ZAR then the forex broker will quote you 2 prices, one will be the bid price & the other will be the ask price. Bid price is always lower than the ask price.

3) Spread: Spread is the difference between the ask and the bid price. This is the fees charged by the forex brokers for each trade trade, and it depends on the market liquidity, and the currency pair that you are trading. The lower the spread, the better it is for you.

4) Pips: Pip stands for Percentage in Point, and it is the most common term in forex trading. Simply put, 1 pip is the smallest measure at which the market moves. It is normally the change/fluctuation in points of the last decimal for a currency pair.

For example, if the EUR/USD moves from 1.3456 to 1.3459 it moved by 0.0003 points, which will be equivalent to 3 Pips. For the currency pairs that are quoted to 4 decimals like EUR/USD, USD/ZAR, the movement in the last decimal is 1 pip (1.1000 to 1.1001).

Majors, Minors & Exotic Currency Pairs

Major, Minor & Exotic currency pairs in forex

1) Major Currency Pairs: The major pairs are most highly traded currency pairs in terms of global trading volume, and they account for a volume of around 70%.

The are are 7 major currency pairs, and these are generally the currencies of most stable and well-developed economies. The major currency pairs include: EUR/USD (Euro Dollar against the US Dollar), USD/JPY (US Dollar against the Japanese Yen), GBP/USD (Great Britain Pound against the US Dollar), USD/CHF (US Dollar against the Swiss Franc), AUD/USD (Australian Dollar against the US Dollar), USD/CAD (US Dollar against the Canadian Dollar), NZD/USD (New Zealand Dollar against the US Dollar).

2) Minor Currency Pairs/Cross Pairs: Cross currency pairs are the crosses of currencies in the majors but doesn't include USD. They are typical less liquid and more volatile than the Major pairs.

The minor/cross currency pairs account for almost 15% of global forex trading volume. The important cross pairs are: EUR/GBP (Euro against the Great Britain Pound), EUR/JPY (Euro against the Japanese Yen), GBP/JPY (Great Britain Pound against the Japanese Yen), NZD/JPY (New Zealand Dollar against the Japanese Yen), CAD/CHF (Canadian Dollar against the Swiss Franc), AUD/JPY (Australian Dollar against the Japanese Yen).

3. Exotic Pairs: Exotics are generally major paired against a currency of emerging economy. The examples include: USD/ZAR – (US Dollar against the South African Rand), GBP/NOK (Great Britain Pound against the Norwegian Krone) etc.

Legally trading forex is now possible for all individuals in South Africa. You just need a laptop/device, fast internet connection, some starting capital (we advise you to trade with atleast R7500), and a good strategy to start trading online.

For trading forex, you have to signup with a regulated Forex broker to place your trades in the market. There are over 100+ brokers that accepts South African traders. We have listed the 'FSCA & FCA regulated brokers' that you can safely trade with.

After you have learned how to open your trading account, we will explain to you the exact dynamics of the forex trades, and how to calculate the profit/loss.

Let's begin this chapter!

Start forex trading

1) Open Trading Account with a Regulated Forex Broker

The first step to start trading forex is to choose a reputed & regulated forex broker, and then open an account with it. Choosing a 'good' broker is an important step because the broker plays a pivotal role in your trade.

There are many regulated brokers that accept South African traders: Hotforex (FSCA Regulated), XM Trading, Exness, Forextime, Avatrade, FxPro, and so many others.

We have compared & listed the best forex brokers for South African traders. We have only selected the brokers that are regulated (with atleast 2 regulators including FSCA, FCA, ASIC, CySEC), have competitive trading fees, and transparent record for fair dealing practice in the past.

Hotforex is our #1 recommended broker for Forex trading in South Africa.

Hotfoprex is our recommended Forex Broker in South Africa

  • 1.2 pips spread on average for EUR/USD with Premium Low Account (no deposits & withdrawals fees). 0.3 pips on average for EUR/USD with Zero account.
  • A demo Trading account is available at Hotforex
  • Fast Order Execution & 100% STP broker
  • 49 Currency Pairs, 7 Cryptocurrencies, CFDs on Commodities, Indices, Metals & 1000s of global Stocks
  • MT4 & MT5 platforms for mobile, web & desktop
  • Quick Withdrawals & excellent 24/5 chat support without any hold time.
  • Funds safety – Hotforex is regulated with South Africa's FSCA (FSP No. 46632), UK's FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) & CySEC (Cyprus's Securities and Exchange Commission).

Start Trading at Hotforex Important: Forex Trading involves high risk, and your capital is at stake. Almost 75% of the traders lose money, so have a solid trading strategy that you have tested on demo before trading with real money.

After you have made your choice on the broker, you then need to open your trading account with that broker. Almost all regulated brokers offer a demo account, we recommend you to practice first on a demo account & build your trading strategy before moving to live.

Note: All the regulated forex brokers require that you submit your ID proof & Address proof for verification. You must verify your account before you can start trading on any broker's platform.

2) Understanding Forex trade

We will first dive into some important terms that you would need to know while placing your trade.

1. Lot Sizes: In Forex, you either buy or sell a currency pair in ‘Lots’. The Lots are simply united of currency that you are trading & have different names based on the number of units.

There are mainly lot sizes i.e. the Standard lot, Mini lot & Micro Lot. 1 'Standard Lot' means 100,000 units of Base Currency. 1 'Mini Lot' means 10,000 units of Base currency while 1 'Micro Lot' involves 1000 units of Base currency. The number of lots that you can trade will depend on factors like leverage, margin, your risk threshold etc.

2. Leverage: Leverage, by definition, essentially involves borrowing a certain amount of money to invest in something. In Forex, if you are using leverage then it means, you are borrowing some money from your broker to place order for a bigger position than your actual capital. Sounds confusing? Don't worry, and follow through the following example.

Let's say that you want to place buy order for 1 standard lot (100,000 units) on EUR/USD. To trade this positive you would need $100,000 capital in your account. But what if you can lend money from your broker, and place the order. Let's say you use 1:20 leverage, then you would now need 1/20th of the capital to place that trade, and can now place the order with $5000 capital.

But Leverage is kind of a double-edged sword which has the potential to increase your profits, but also increases the risk of a bigger loss to you. A leverage of 100:1 allows the trader to take a position that is 100 times the amount of initial margin. If the trader is not careful in setting up the stop-loss, it could quickly deplete your trading account. We’ll see leverage in action with an example shortly.

3. Margin: Margin is the amount needed in your trading account to place an forex trade. Forex brokers set margin requirements to open a trade, and this is the money set aside with the broker when your position is open.

Let's say that you are placing an order for $10,000, with a leverage of 1:100. This would mean that you can place $10,000 order with $100 capital. Your broker would now set that $100 aside as 'margin' from your trading account. If margin goes down below a threshold required by the broker, you will receive a notice from the broker to fill it up to the required levels.

4. Stop Loss: Stop loss is the level that you can set, at your desired price where you decide to exit a losing trade. Losses are inevitable, but how you manage that loss is important. So always remember to set a stop loss whenever you are placing a trade.

Now let’s take a real-world example of a trade to better understand all these terms & the dynamics od an actual trade.

3) How to place a trade in forex market? – Real world example:

We will now take example of actual trading positions, and how you can place the trade in Forex market.

Suppose you have a trading capital of $10,000, and you decide to trade EUR/USD. Let's say the EUR/USD is quoted as 1.4400. You think the EUR is likely to go up against the US Dollar in the next 3 months, so you decided to place a buy order on EUR/USD.

Case 1 – Buy order 1:10 leverage: You want to buy 1 Mini Lot of EUR/USD thinking the EUR might rise in value against the USD. So you’re buying the EUR/USD currency pair, which means you are buying EUR and selling the USD simultaneously. If you buy 1 mini lot, you need to use 10:1 leverage (10*1000 =10,000 units of USD).

Profit case: Let's say that over time, EUR/USD moved up from 1.4400 to 1.7000 i.e. 2600 Pips. Assuming the value of 1 Pip is $1 for 1 mini lot, you stand to gain $2600.

Loss Case: But if the market goes against you, let's say to 1.2600, then the market would have gone 1800 pips against you, so you would have lost $1800.

Below is the example of a Long/Buy Order in Forex.

Long Order in Forex

Case 2 – Sell Order with 1:10 leverage: Now, let suppose that you think that EUR has peaked against the USD, and so you decided to sell the EUR/USD. Assume that you have a trading capital of $10,000, and the current price of EUR/USD is 1.4400. You decide to place a sell order on EUR/USD.

Profit case: Let's assume that EUR/USD goes down from 1.4400 to 1.1500 over period of 3 months, about 2900 Pips. If you had placed sell order for 1 Mini lot, then you would stand to gain $2900 for the trade.

Loss Case: In case the market goes up, from 1.4400 to 1.7000, then you would have lost 2600 pips, that is almost $2600 in case of 1 mini lot.

Below is an example of how a Sell Order works in Forex trading. Short Order in Forex

Both the above cases highlight how you can lose or gain from a forex trade, depending on your position, position size (lots), leverage etc. It is best to fully understand all these dynamics on demo, and then only trade live when you have a proper strategy in place. And always remember to use a Stop-loss for every trade.

Successfull forex traders follow a sound trading strategy. Most reply on 2 types of strategies which are 'Technical analysis' & the 'fundamental analysis'.

With technical trading, you are trading based on the chart patterns like candlestics, moving averages etc. On the other hand, fundamental trading involves trading long term based on macro economic factors of a country like their employment data, Retail Sales, Central bank's interest rates etc.

We will give you brief idea of these 2 trading strategies in this chapter.

Forex Trading Strategies

1) Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental analysis mainly involved trading based on the news releases. Fundamental Analysts believe that a analysing a country’s economic indicators such as inflation, economic growth rates, interest rates and monetary policy & unemployment etc. would determine the price of currency and base the decisions of currency movement by analysing these factors.

There are plenty of online Forex news calendars available for free if you want to make it your sole trading strategy. Also, you can get an idea on how a particular information may effect the market movement upward or downward.

For example, the release of employment news data of a country is a major news because if the higher population is employed, it is a sign that the economy is improved and hence this would reflect in the overall currency value. Similarly, a bad news or policy change by the central bank of the country would likely affect the currency' price's exchange rate in the short term as well as long term.

2) Technical Analysis

Technical analysis is the most popular trading strategy & it basically involves trading off the charts. This strategy is right if you are a short term day trader. A technical trader focuses on the historical price of the assest to make his/her decision of the future market movement. According to technical analysis theory, the emotions of the market participants are reflected in the current & historical price that is visible through the charts. Technical traders also use various indicators & chart patterns to buy or sell currency pairs in the forex market.

Which Trading Strategy Should you choose?

You should use a combination of technical analysis & fundamental analysis. Even if you are trading based on chart patterns, you cannot ignore the news as the markets a generally affected in the short term & long term, based on factors that affect the country's economy.

It is wise to learn about both the strategies on demo, spend hours to analyse the charts, and also analyse how the currencies are affected during news hours, and only then trade based on the strategy that works for you.

Most Forex brokers offer multiple trading platforms for online forex trading. The most popular are the Metatrader, cTrader & Zulutrader.

In this chapter, first we will list for you all the popular trading platforms offered by different brokers. And then give you the comparison of all the best forex brokers based on their platforms.

After considering 12 factors in a broker, we have made a list of the brokers that are regulated with FSCA or FCA, and also have trading platforms that support multiple devices including mobile, PC & web.

Let's go…

Forex Trading Platforms

2019's Best South African Forex Trading Platforms

Forex Broker Regulator(s) Max. Leverage Minimum Deposit Forex Trading Platform(s) Broker Website
Hotforex FSCA, FCA, CySEC 1:1000 $5 MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5 for web & mobile Visit Hotforex
XM Trading FCA(UK), CySEC, ASIC, FSCA(application pending) 1:888 $5 MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5, for PC, Mobile(including iOS, Android) Visit XM
Exness FCA(UK), CySEC 1:2000 $1 MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5 for web & mobile Visit Exness
FXTM South Africa FSCA, FCA and CySEC 1:1000 $10 MT4 & MT5 for PC, mobile, and Webtrader Visit FXTM

Below is a list of the popular trading platforms offered by most brokers:

1. MetaTrader (MT4 & MT5): MetaTrader is the most popular Forex trading platform that comes with support for PC, Mobile & Web. It is highly used by forex & CFD traders, because of its advanced charting, multiple time frames & automation features.

Metatrader gives traders the ability to perform advanced trading operations, run Expert Advisors and copy trades of other traders. This platform is owned by MetaQuotes Software Company. The best feature with MT4 also offers the flexibility to write your own code and create your own custom indicators and Expert Advisors. Most of the brokers offer MT4 (or the latest MT5) for free. We advise you to go for a broker that offers Metatrader.

2. cTrader: Numerous brokers offer WebTraders where you can just open the chart in a browser instead of downloading the software. For a start, you may want to consider trading off a WebTrader.

Forex Trading is risky, and it is said that almost close to 75% traders lose their money. Even the best of traders have bad days, but with good money management you can minimize your risk.

As for the pros, trading in the forex market offers opportunity to gain income. But for this you must have a sound understanding of the markets & a working trading strategy.

But there are many risks also. A single losing trade with no stop loss, or without proper money management would likely cause loss of your capital, as well as mental & emotional stress. So it is important to know about the risks & properly manage them.

We will now list down for you some of the opportunities & the risks of forex trading.

Pros & Risks of Forex Trading

Forex Trading Pros

Pros of Forex Trading
  1. Start with low minimum deposit & also low trading fees: So many brokers offer very low minimum deposit requirements & you can start trading with as low as R70 ($5), some offer even lower minimu, deposit. But it is advised to start with atleast R15,000 (1000 USD) capital & not use more than 1:20 leverage. Also, you should not risk over 2% of your trading capital on a trade. Moreover, the trading & non-trading fees these days is also very competitive with almost all the regulated beokers.
  2. Huge Liquidity: Forex market has a daily trading volume of over $6 trillion USD, making it the biggest financial market in the world (bigger than Stock Exchanges). This is the reason that it is highly liquid, so you can easily open and close trade on most of the currency pairs, and you never have to worry about a particular pair not being available for trading, especially for the Major currency pairs.
  3. Buy & Sell Orders: In forex markets, you can make profits both ways, wither by buying or selling. You can place a buy order on a currency pair if you believe that the base currency is stronger. Alternatively, if you think that the currency is not going to do well for some reason, then you can place a sell order. For ex: If you think that the price of Euro is going to go up against the US Dollars, then you can buy Euro (by selling USD).
  4. You can trade 24 hours: Forex markets are open 24 hours a day, 5 days in a week, from Monday to Friday. So you can even trade according to your time zone, but the liquidty may be higher during certain time of the day or week. South African timezone allows traders to trade during 2 most active trading sessions i.e. London session & New York sessions.
  5. Leverage: One benefit & also a con of trading forex is the availability of high leverage. With leverage you can trade on a margin that allows you to trade with more money than your actual capital. A leverage of 1:100 & higher is very common with most brokers. While leverage is a double-edged sword, it can help you gain massive profits, if you are winning your trade. But we advise you to never use more than 1:50 leverage.
  6. Little gapping (on weekdays): Gapping refers to the assets abrupt changes in the price leading especially due to lack of trading activity. Gapping is common in stock markets, but the forex market is so liquid, that you see little gapping atleast in case of major currency pairs. You may see some gapping during week opens on Monday after the weekend, but on week days it is very uncommon for major pairs to experience gapping.

Risks of Trading in Forex Markets

Forex trading involves certain risks, and you can lose your capital trading in the market. So you must know about all the risks to trade successfully. Risks of Forex Trading
  1. High Risk that comes with Leverage: 1:500 & even more leverage is very common with many forex brokers (some brokers offer even higher leverage). With 1:1000 leverage you can place order/trade worth $10,000 with just $10 capital. If you are using very high leverage then you can even lose most of your trading capital on a single losing trade. Take an example: Assume that you make a deposit of $500 to fund your Live trading account, and you use 1:200 leverage to place a 1 standard lot buy order on EUR/USD. You could make approx. $200 profit if the market goes up by 20 pips in your direction, but you also risk losing $200 of your capital if the market goes 20 pips against you i.e. 40% of your trading capital in 1 trade. So you can notice how the amount/capital at risk is increased exponentially with leverage. Hence it is important to not use more than 1:50 leverage & never risk more than 2% on a trade.
  2. Unregulated Brokers: Many unregulated forex brokers have come up recently, most of them are running ponzi schemes & similar scams. There are cases where the unauthorised brokers lure people into scams by way of false promises is common and any broker promising high returns or high income from forex should always be avoided. Before choosing any broker, you should always check if your broker is regulated by ateast 1 of the top tier regulators i.e. FSCA (South Africa), FCA (UK), CySec etc. Also, if you have checked that the broker is regulated, then the next point should be to check their reviews, transparency in dealing with issues in the past etc.
  3. Forex Markets are very Volatile: Every market comes with a degree of risk associated with uncertain volatility. There are a number of factors which affect the currect/future value of a currency, including political, micro/macro economy & other factors. Unfortunately, most of these factors are not in control of a trader. Hence, it is advised that before opening or closing any trade, you should always check if there is upcoming some news that can impact the volatility. Also, make sure to always have a stop loss in place in case the market goes against you.
  4. Mental & emotional Stress: Forex trading (or any markets for that matter) involves high risks. And this can cause you lots of mental & emotional stress that comes after any losses. Hence it is really important to be wise with your money management & never risk any money that you cannot afford to lose.

Can the risks associated with forex trading be managed? Yes, it is possible. Most of the traders who lose money either don't have a working trading strategy & start trading live without practising first on demo, or they are bad at money management & risk too much on a single trade.

As a rule of thumb, make sure to have a working tranding strategy (fully tested on demo for 3 months atleast), never use more than 1:50 leverage, never risk more than 2% of your trading capital on a trade. All these are sound money management practices that will ensure that you have a better chance of being a successful forex trader.

How does Forexbrokers.co.za help you?

ForexBrokers.co.za aims to help South African traders get started with regulated Forex Trading. We have compared over 50+ forex brokers based on 12 factors & then selected the best ones that are regulated with FSCA, FCA, ASIC, so you can safely trade with trusted brokers.

Moreover, we have researched & written comprehensive trading guides for beginners where you can learn the basics of forex trading. Read our forex guides, see unbaised broker reviews, and our best South African forex brokers listing before getting started.

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