The forex majors are usually defined as the four most heavily traded currency pairs in the global forex market – the EUR/USD, USD/JPY, GBP/USD, and the USD/CHF. There’s an argument that the larger so-called “commodity pairs” – USD/CAD, AUD/USD, and NZD/USD, should also be regarded as majors. And it’s true that vast volumes of these pairs are traded every day. But there are good reasons for traders, particularly new ones, to focus on just a few pairs.
The principal advantage of the majors is the high volume and liquidity they offer. This makes it easy to open and close huge positions with usually little or no slippage from target prices. High trading volumes also lead to tight spreads between bid and ask prices, with consequently increased profitability.
The majors are the currencies of the largest economies in the world, traded in huge volumes by global financial institutions every day. So they often move sharply in response to fundamental economic factors such as changes in interest rates, trade balances, GDP, employment, and inflation.
Political factors such as elections, wars, and other international events, may also give rise to sharp and extended price movements. And these are often assisted by aggressive central bank interventions such as those seen during the 2008 financial crisis and COVID-19 pandemic. So, although it’s perfectly possible to day trade the majors – and many people do so very successfully – they are particularly well-suited to swing trading.
The big four currency pairs can be traded in the same way as any other pair or financial instruments such as stocks or commodities. So traders who prefer to trade with the trend can look to use swing trading strategies such as bullish or bearish flags, pennants, and triangles, or perhaps the cup and handle.
Those who like to trade trend reversals, or to catch changes of direction within a range, can look for head and shoulders patterns, double tops, and bottoms. Whatever strategy used, indicators such as Exponential Moving Averages (EMAs), Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD), Volume, and Relative Strength Index (RSI) can also be useful tools.
The Euro/United States dollar (EUR/USD) is the most highly traded of all currency pairs and the overlap between the European and American trading sessions typically provides for significant volume and momentum. Trading between 1 PM and 4 PM GMT (8 AM and 11 AM US Eastern), when both European and US markets are open, is usually optimal in terms of volume and spreads.
Similar considerations apply to the GBP/USD pair, which is also the pair that tends to show the sharpest daily moves and is therefore particularly attractive to traders. This volatility can be tricky for day traders. Still, it’s an advantage for swing traders who can take advantage of significant moves while ignoring much of the market “noise” generated on the 1 and 5-minute charts.