Forex Trading - One Cancels The Other (OCO) Orders

There are many strategies for risk management in Forex trading, just as there are with any other investment. One of the simplest to learn and use is employing different order types. A stop-loss order can help you limit losses, for example. A limit order can lock in profit gained.

Beyond these simple types, there's one that is only slightly more sophisticated: the OCO order (One Cancels the Other). It's easy to use and can be even more effective than the simpler types in controlling risk or maximizing returns.

Suppose a currency pair such as USD/CHF is trading at 1.4625. That is, the dollar is selling for 1.4625 Swiss Francs. But, as is common in Forex trading, that exchange rate can change rapidly and by a large amount. If it were to fall to, say 1.4600 within an hour or even a day, an investor might want to issue a stop loss order at 1.4575.

That figure is low enough that a small, temporary price fluctuation won't liquidate the position at an unfavorable price. Stop orders convert to market orders and are subject to fulfillment once the stop price is reached.

If the price drops 5%, you may not want to get out. But you want to limit the potential downside loss at some point. If it dropped 20% in a day, you might wish you had gotten out after a 10% loss.

Similarly, if the price were to rise to 1.4900 you'd be delighted. But not everyone can time the market perfectly. You don't have the option of putting in an order that says 'sell when the market price is at the peak of what it would be for the next three months'. Wouldn't we all like to do that!

So you have to make a reasonable bet about where the peak is. Suppose the market starts to drop back. It could be a momentary fluctuation downward, or it could be the beginning of a precipitous drop. Since you can't know which it is with certainty, you can lock in some profit by requesting a limit order.

If the market drops back to, say, 1.4725 your limit order can be executed and you realize a profit of 100 points. Not the peak, but much better than waiting any longer if the market were to continue downward.

Now for the best of both worlds. The OCO order allows an investor to request a broker to react to not just one condition, but to one of a pair of possible conditions. You place a stop order at, say 1.4575 AND a limit order at 1.4725 simultaneously. Whenever one condition is realized, the other part of the order is canceled.

In other areas of investment, this strategy is even used with different kinds of instruments. An OCO order might specify 'Buy Microsoft at $28.00, or ARCO bonds at 115.25'. Whichever occurs first determines what is actually bought, stock or bonds, and the other part of the order is simply ignored.

Something similar can be done in Forex in which an OCO order is placed to buy euros at 1.1905 or Swiss Francs at 1.4700. Which types of 'mix and match' are available varies from broker to broker, and what type of account or relationship you have with them, as well.

Using OCO orders is just one more in what should be a whole toolkit of investing techniques. But it is one of the simpler ones to learn to use effectively.

If you're a novice trader it's wise to use the trial trading software available on a Forex website and get familiar with the different order techniques. Record the results over a few week period and compare to what they would have been with straight market orders. You'll convince yourself experimentally that risk management and profit strategies actually do work.