Home > Trading > The Top Ten Forex Pairs to Trade – Updated for 2020

What are the Best Currency Pairs to Trade?

That’s a question that every forex trader will have asked themselves many times and they will likely do so again throughout their trading journey. The reason for that is that as with so many things in the financial markets there is no definitive answer to this question, or at least, not a perpetual one.

After all, markets are dynamic, that is ever-changing and so is the list of the best instruments to trade, what works for traders today may not be appropriate in three or six months.

That said, there are some ground rules we can look at that will take us some way towards answering the question above.

The best currency pairs for most traders to trade are those with good round the clock liquidity that are liable to trend. That is the price following a particular direction for a fixed period of time.

The more illiquid currencies whose prices move erratically are less desirable, though some active short-term specialist traders known as scalpers can prefer this type of instrument.

For most of us though liquidity is the determining factor. The most liquid of all FX pairs is the Euro versus the US dollar (EURUSD). The British pound against the US Dollar (GBPUSD)

The US Dollar versus the Japanese Yen (USDJPY) and the Australian Dollar versus its US counterpart (AUDUSD) are all very popular and widely traded FOREX pairs.

What are the best currency pairs to trade at night?

FX markets operate 24 hours a day 5 days a week they are truly global trading starts in Asia moves across the Middle East and into Europe and London in particular and then onto New York and the USA so, night time trading for those based in Europe might be the early evening when the New York session is underway but the London session has closed. Traders operating at night time are unlikely to notice too much of a difference.

However, we should acknowledge that once London has shut up shop for the day there will be fewer market participants, that’s offset to some extent by the fact that many of the biggest players in the FX markets are the major American banks.

Generally, though, markets can become less liquid after the US close into the Asian open.

In short trading in the liquid majors is likely the best strategy, though as we saw back in January 2019, with the flash crash in the Japanese yen. Even one of the most widely traded currencies can suffer from limited liquidity out of hours, which in this case was exacerbated by an extended New Year’s holiday in Japan.

Most predictable currency pairs

Predictability is not something that is often associated with the FX markets there are currencies which are pegged to a benchmark such as the US Dollar or indeed to a basket of other currencies, the most famous currency peg of recent times was that of the Swiss franc to the euro. Under which the Swiss national bank sought to limit the appreciation of the Swiss currency to maintain the competitiveness of Swiss exports. Yet despite imposing negative interest rates and selling their own currency, the Central bank was unable to stem the flow of funds moving into the franc, and famously in January 2015, the SNB pulled the plug letting the franc find its own level against the Euro.

The instrument that has had one of the strongest long-term trends over the last eight years is not a currency pair but rather a trade-weighted basket. That is a currency compared to the performance of the currencies of its major trading partners, In this case, the dollar index.

US Dollar Index

Source Investors Intelligence

The dollar index had trended higher since early 2011 however it peaked in March 2020 and sold off as COVID-19 disrupted the US and global economies the full effects of which are still playing out

The most traded currency pairs 2020

There is no central exchange or counterparty in FX markets and detailed volume figures are published sporadically at best and even then, not necessarily by all participants. However, we can get a good idea about which were the most traded currencies in a given year thanks to surveys conducted by the Bank of England among the major FX players in London. Which is the largest FX marketplace in the world. The table below is drawn from just such a survey, that was conducted during April 2020 the table shows the percentage of average daily turnover by currency in both  October 2019 and April 2020 we can see that the dollar was involved in around 89.6% of transactions, the Euro in just over 37% and both the British pound and Japanese yen in around 15.5% each, during early 2020

Bank of England semi-annual FX survey April 2020

Source the Bank of England semi-annual FX survey April 2020

The top ten FX pairs by volume traded and news flow

No. Symbol FX Pair
1 EUR/USD Euro vs US Dollar
2 GBP/USD British pound vs US dollar
3 USD/JPY US Dollar vs Japanese Yen
4 EUR/GBP Euro vs British Pound
5 AUD/USD Australian Dollar vs US Dollar
6 USD/CAD US Dollar vs Canadian Dollar
7 USD/CHF US Dollar vs Swiss Franc
8 NZD/USD NZ Dollar vs US Dollar
9 EUR/JPY Euro vs Japanese Yen
10 EUR/AUD Euro vs Australian Dollar

Source Good Money Guide Research

Which are the best brokers to trade Forex pairs with?

As with all trading, you need a decent broker if you are going to stand half a chance at successful forex trading. You can compare the best forex brokers here or read expert and client reviews of these popular brokers for forex trading below;

Related Guide: Here are 8 tips to remember when trading currency pairs.

What are Currency Pairs?

Currency pairs are classically defined as exchange rates that include the US Dollar as one of their components. However, since the launch of the Euro or European single currency, the definition has been extended to include FX rates that include the Euro (Other FX rates that don’t contain the Euro or the dollar are known as crosses).

FX pairs are delineated by a combination of two, three-letter mnemonics or codes.

For example, USDJPY 105.75 is the notation for the dollar-yen rate.

These currency rates are known as FX pairs because they consist of two elements, which are known as the base currency and the quote currency.

Base currency

The base currency is the first-named currency, in the above example, the US dollar, USD.

Quote currency

The quote currency is the second named currency which in this example is the Japanese yen, JPY.

FX rates are simply an expression of the comparative worth of two currencies and the figures 105.75 tell us that it takes 105.75 yen to be able to buy 1 US Dollar.

Are Major Forex Pairs the best to Trade?

FX rates are further categorised as being either major or minor pairs or crosses, the distinction between these two groups is based on the size of their respective underlying economies and the level of turnover in that currency within the FX markets. FX majors represent those currencies from the world’s largest economies, and which have a high turnover in FX markets. The minors are currencies from smaller economies which are less actively traded.

FX majors are generally more liquid and well researched and there is usually plenty of information and news flow to keep traders active in them. Against that FX majors tend to be widely followed and can be crowded places to trade. Given their popularity, it can be hard for individual traders to find an edge.

Minors, on the other hand, are often less liquid and not so well researched or popular, that means that it may be easier for traders to find an edge or advantage in the minors.

However, it may not be as easy to enter or exit trades in the minors, particularly in sessions that are well away from their home markets.

What were the best forex pairs to have traded in 2020?

The simplest way to answer this question is to look at the performance of actively traded currencies throughout 2020 year to date. In doing that we soon discover that the Euro was pretty dominant over the year to date making strong gains against pretty much everything apart from the Swedish and Danish krona and the Swiss franc. The trade-weighted Euro or Euro index gained +4.3%  between January and mid-october 2020

Currencies that gained vs the USD

The Euro gained  more than 6.3% against the US dollar over the 52 weeks to mid October 2020  however those gains were eclipsed by the Swiss franc against which the US currency fell by 8.30% the franc’s safe haven status coming to the fore once more. The Australian dollar has also performed well versus the greenback  gaining +6.25% since October 2019.  While near neighbour the Mexican peso posted double digit gains of +11.17% against the dollar.

FX Pair Performance

Source Good Money Guide Research

Currencies that dropped vs the USD

The weakest performers, those making the biggest losses against the dollar over the last year, were the Indian Rupee lower by -2.52% the South African rand which lost -11.18% and the rouble that fell by just over -20% when compared to the dollar’.

The best forex pairs to trade in 2020/21

The best pairs to trade in 2020/2021 or indeed at any time are likely to be those that reflect what is going on in the world currently, both economically and politically.

The pace of recovery in the global economy following the global pandemic is the key issue, that suggests that  commodity currencies and those linked to trade are likely to be active as the recovery either gathers pace or fizzles out. The performance of the Greenback is likely to be influenced by both the path of the Coronavirus and the US elections.

Trading market sentiment

The good news for currency traders is that certain FX rates have become synonymous with particular economic and political influences, for example, the AUDUSD is sensitive to changes in sentiment around global trade. Australia is a large trading partner of China and the USA.

By the same token, as we saw in 2018 the South African Rand is sensitive to issues that affect emerging markets. Such as changes in commodity prices and or sentiment towards them. This can show up in its exchange rates particularly against the US dollar (in which most commodities are priced) dollar rand has the ticker USDZAR.

Sterling exchange rates, against both the Euro and the US dollar reflect the markets thinking on Brexit and the prospects for the UK economy thereafter. While USDJPY or dollar-yen is seen as a safe haven and the yen often strengthens when markets are in a risk-off mood, that can be caused by heightened political tensions or economic uncertainty, both of which the markets dislike.

In terms of FX performance year to date the table below shows us the returns of selected pairs and crosses in 2020 thus far.

Here’s where you can compare spread betting brokers for forex trading.

Ticker Name YTD % Change
EURGBP Euro/Pounds Sterling +7.3%
CHFUSD Swiss Franc/US Dollar +5.7%
EURUSD Euro/US Dollar +4.8%
CNYUSD Chinese Yuan/US Dollar +3.2%
CHFJPY Swiss Franc/Japanese Yen +2.5%
AUDUSD Australian Dollar/US Dollar +2.1%
USDZAR USD/South African Rand +17.6%
EURJPY Euro/Japanese Yen +1.6%
USDKRW US Dollar/South Korean Won -0.80%
EURCHF Euro/Swiss Franc -0.90%
AUDJPY Australian Dollar/Japanese Yen -0.90%
CADUSD Canadian Dollar/US Dollar -1.20%
GBPUSD British Pound/US Dollar -2.40%
DXY US Dollar Index -3.00%
USDJPY US$/Japanese Yen -3.00%
GBPJPY GBP/Japanese Yen -5.40%
GBPCHF GBP/Swiss Franc -8.00%
TRYUSD New Turkish Lira/US Dollar -25.00%
BRLUSD Brazilian Real/US Dollar -27.90%

Source Investors Intelligence

Which is the best currency to trade right now?

Again, it very much depends on what you are looking for but if you are looking for volatility and trading opportunities that this can create then the pound sterling is probably your best bet.

The political situation in the UK seems to shift almost every day with the pound weakening on heightened prospects for a no-deal Brexit and rallying if news breaks that make a disorderly Brexit less likely. That said economic issues in the EU and the potential for a new occupant in the White House mean that both the dollar and the euro are also likely to remain centre stage until the year-end.

Which currency pair is most profitable in forex?

This is not something that has a single quantifiable answer, after all, profitability is likely to be highly variable from trader to trader and will depend on other factors such as time scales, the frequency of trading, risk-reward ratios and the amount of leverage employed.

What’s more, if we view FX trading as essentially a zero-sum game, that is one with a buyer for every seller and a seller for every buyer. Then it follows that for every winner there must also be a loser. If I trade against you and I make a profit, then logically you must make a loss and vice versa.

In those circumstances, the concept of the “most profitable pair” doesn’t really make any sense. What can say however is what is the most actively traded currency pair and that is EURUSD. Which according to data from the BIS (the central bank’s banker) turns over some 1.59 trillion dollars per day on average, almost fifty per cent more than the yen and double the daily turnover of the pound in dollar terms. By comparison, the total daily turnover in FX markets averaged just over 5 trillion dollars according to the BIS 2016 data.

The best currency to invest in 2020?

Investing in a currency implies a long-time horizon and ownership of the underlying assets these characteristics are not usually associated with the short-term margin trading of FX pairs.

To invest in a currency, you would probably want to consider a deliverable transaction where you take ownership of the underlying currency of your choice. Alternatively, you can buy assets denominated in the currency you wish to invest in and gain exposure to the currency in that way.

For example, if you are an Australian investor with Australian dollars and you buy European shares denominated in Euros you have exposure to both the underlying and the euro Aussie dollar exchange rate or EURAUD rate. You can also try to exploit long-standing relationships between stock indices/equities and national currencies.  For example, both Dax 30 and the FTSE 100 indices are full of exporters whose share prices often benefit as the pound or the euro weaken and vice versa. Of course, it is always a good idea to seek professional advice before making an investment to establish that they are suitable for your circumstances and appropriate to your needs.

🏠 > Forex Brokers > Top 10 Forex Pairs to Trade

About The Author