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Stocks vs forex

A stock is a type of security that signifies ownership in a company, while forex involves the exchange of one currency for another. Learn more about both financial assets in our educational guide.
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What is stock vs forex trading?

Stocks and forex are two of the biggest asset classes of the financial world, but what are the similarities and differences between them?

Stock trading is perhaps the most well-known form of trading. Traders buy shares in a company and then sell them if the price moves up to a suitable level. Often, shareholders have rights that come from owning stock, such as, in some occasions, being paid dividends when the business is doing well. 

Foreign exchange (forex) trading involves buying and selling different fiat currencies. A forex trader will work with currency pairs, buying one and selling the other as prices change, with the idea of making a profit. 

Read our guide to learn more about stocks vs forex.


  • A stock signifies ownership in a corporation and can represent a claim on part of the corporation’s assets and earnings.

  • Forex trading is the act of buying and selling currencies on the foreign exchange market.

  • Whether trading stocks or forex, traders should remember to do their own research, that prices can go down as well as up, and to never trade more money than they can afford to lose. 

Differences between stock and forex trading

When you can trade24 hours a day, five days a weekWhen stock exchanges are open
Transactions carried outOver-the-counter (OTC)Stock exchanges or OTC
Derivatives availableYesYes
Interest for holding the asset?YesNo

There are a number of similarities between stocks and forex. For instance, both the forex and stock markets usually have a fair bit of liquidity, meaning the markets can be fairly easy to get into and out of. 

Additionally, neither require leverage, or borrowing in order to trade or invest. That said, there are ways of utilising leverage when it comes to derivatives of stocks and forex.

There are also several differences between stocks and forex. One of the factors that set stock and forex apart is trading hours. As forex relies on market information from all over the world, it is available 24 hours a day from Monday to Friday, with a break at weekends. 

Trading stocks usually relies on the relevant stock exchange being open. For instance, the London Stock Exchange’s (LSE) trading hours are 8.00 to 16.30 BST with a break from 12.00 to 12.02, while the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) operates from 9.30 to 16.30 EST. 

Another difference between the two is size. The forex market is the largest financial market in the world. Pretty much any two currencies can be traded against each other, although in reality, the majority of forex trading worldwide involves pairs of major currencies. In total, more than $6trn worth of foreign exchange trading takes place every day.

On the other hand, there are far more stocks and shares available to trade, with more than 2,000 companies listed on the NYSE alone. This means that there is, in theory, a greater availability of options for stock traders when it comes to stock trading vs forex trading.

Additionally, stocks can be traded in isolation as their individual performance is all that matters. With forex, currencies are always traded against each other in pairs, buying one and selling the other. For example, in the EUR/USD pair, the euro is being traded for the US dollar. 

It should also be noted that the vast majority of forex trading is carried out by large banks on behalf of their customers in what is known as over-the-counter (OTC) trading, while stocks and shares are traded on exchanges.

Advantages and disadvantages of stock trading 

Apple (AAPL) stock price chart


  • Diversification. Trading stocks provides the opportunity for traders to diversify their portfolios, allowing them to spread out their risk over a variety of industries.

  • Liquidity. Stocks are often highly liquid, meaning traders can easily buy and sell shares, making it easier to cash out if necessary.

  • Potential for growth. Stocks provide the potential for long-term capital appreciation, meaning traders could benefit from the potential growth of the underlying companies.

  • Leverage. Margin or other forms of leverage can be used when trading with derivatives to access more capital and increase your potential returns, although they also increase the risk of loss.


  • Fees and commissions. Trading stocks can have commissions, fees and other charges associated with each buy and sell order.

  • Research and analysis. Trading stocks requires a great deal of research and analysis in order to make informed decisions. Without an understanding of the stock market and how it works, traders may suffer significant losses.

  • Lack of diversification. Without proper diversification, investors may be overexposed to certain stocks or sectors. Concentrated investments can expose investors to higher levels of risk.

Advantages and disadvantages of forex trading

British pound to US dollar (GBP/USD) forex chart


  • Practical use. Trading in currencies will allow traders to have an asset that has some practical use.

  • Accessibility. The forex market is open 24 hours a day, five days a week, giving traders access to the global currency markets at any time.

  • Leverage. Forex trading allows traders to use leverage when trading with derivatives to increase their buying size. Leverage can amplify both gains and losses.

  • Liquidity. The forex market is the most liquid financial market in the world, with a daily trading volume of more than $6trn. High liquidity can be useful to enter and exit the market quickly.


  • High volatility. The forex market can be highly volatile and prices can change rapidly, which could make it difficult to predict how trades could perform.

  • Leverage risk. Forex trading can involve the use of leverage when using derivatives, which can magnify your losses as well as your profits.

  • Complexity. The forex market is very complex and it can be difficult to understand all the different factors that affect prices.

  • Transaction costs. Trading in the forex market can be expensive, as most brokers charge both commissions and spreads.

Factors to consider when choosing between stocks and forex trading

Though knowing the similarities and differences between stocks and forex trading, and each of their benefits and limitations can be useful to traders, it shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor.

Traders should also take into account their portfolio composition, investment goals and risk profile, among other factors. Different trading strategies will suit different investment goals with short or long-term focus. 

Final thoughts

Forex and stock trading are two major parts of the financial world, but they are very much different things. Forex might be better suited to intra-day users due to high volatility. Stocks can give their holders certain privileges, while holding foreign currency in a bank opens one up to potentially gaining interest. 

Your answer to the stock market vs forex market question will depend on a range of things, including your investment goals and risk tolerance. You should also consider the time and resources you have available for trading, as well as your market knowledge and expertise. 

Whether you want to trade stocks or forex, you will need to remember the three key rules of trading and investing. You should do your own careful research, remember markets can move against you at any time, and never be liable to lose more money than you can afford.


Forex vs stocks: Which is more profitable?

There is no right or wrong answer to this. It all depends on which stocks or forex pairs you are looking at trading, coupled with market conditions. Whichever you choose, though, you must do your own research, remember that markets can go up as well as down, and never trade with more money than you can afford to lose.

Is forex better than stocks?

Whether or not forex is better than stocks for you, will depend on your own personal investment goals, risk tolerance, market knowledge and expertise. Always be sure to do your own research before making an investment or trading decision, and never invest more money than you can afford to lose.

What are the key differences between stock and forex trading?

There are a number of differences between stock and forex trading. These include the different times they can be traded and certain benefits traders receive from each – potential shareholder privileges for stocks and interest for forex, and the limitations – with forex markets occasionally having a lot of volatility and stocks requiring a lot of research into different companies and sectors. 

The major difference between stock and forex trading is that stock trading is based around companies on a stock index, while forex deals with fiat currencies on currency exchanges.

What should I consider when choosing between stocks and forex?

When choosing between stock and forex trading, you might want to consider your own personal investment goals and risk tolerance. You should also keep in mind the time and resources you have available for trading, as well as your market knowledge and expertise.

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