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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trainee Traders Get Forex Lowdown

MTA Forex Club consultant, right, explaining the firm's program to a customer.
Currency speculation on the Arbat isn't what it used to be.

Fifteen years ago, seasoned criminals hid foreigners' dollars in their shoes to avoid the KGB and 10 years in prison.

But since early this year, mere meters away on Novy Arbat, speculators are offering an altogether more comfortable trading experience.

Futuristic furniture and Bloomberg Television set the mood as a well-dressed salesman tries to part potential traders with their cash -- 6,000 rubles ($215) for a beginners' course in currency trading and for control of $10,000 on the international foreign exchange market.

The company behind the store, Forex Club, is one of several enjoying strong growth in casual currency trading.

Like competitors such as FIBO Group and Kalita Finance, Forex Club offers its clients access to the foreign exchange market in real time through the Internet, 24 hours a day from Monday to Friday.

A minimum deposit to trade is $150, although Forex Club requires an additional $100 deposit with its beginners' course. Unlike with the $150, though, you can't cash in the $100 Forex deposit -- you keep only any profit you make. The courses and trading kits are all in Russian, but there is an English-language web site with a $500 minimum deposit.

The company gives its customers leverage of 100 to 1, meaning that for a $100 deposit, customers can buy and sell up to $10,000 on the market.

While you can't pocket the $10,000, any profits made from selling your lot at a higher price are yours to keep -- and any losses incurred are yours to absorb. When your losses approach the size of your deposit, the account is closed automatically.

Daily fluctuations in the euro-dollar rate average around 100 basis points (1 percent). On a $100 deposit, if you sell $10,000 for one point more than you bought it for, you earn $1, or 0.01 percent. Selling a full 1 percent higher than the purchase price would earn you $100.

Students at the Forex Club Academy near Belorusskaya metro station, where would-be traders are taught to play the market, had differing expectations of what their speculations could earn them.

One student, Dmitry Kolateyev, said he was taking a cautious approach to how much time he would devote to trading but was realistic about potential profits."I think I'd like to make 20 percent a month, or at least 10 percent. That wouldn't be bad," he said.

Alexei Rakhmaninov, having never gone to college, said he was having trouble absorbing the lessons, but was determined to make a career out of trading.

"It's a serious business for me," he said. "I want to make it my main job."

Asked how much he might eventually make from his $100 deposit, he didn't hesitate. "Two hundred fifty thousand dollars a year," he said. "There's no limit."

Bronislav Yermak, a professional trader with MDM-Bank, is less bullish on mini forex, as the business is known. For nonprofessionals, the market is like a casino, he said. "The amount of time spent studying is not proportional to your success."

Yury Zalessky, of FIBO Group, was similarly skeptical: "You don't need to study just to play forex; to win, you need to study for a long time."

For many Muscovites, however, not speculating on fluctuations is a luxury they cannot afford. Even storing greenbacks under your mattress is no longer particularly safe, as anyone who has seen his dollar savings recently hemorrhage some 30 percent to the euro can attest.

Learning the rules of the forex market can help.

"Someone who works on the market can predict with more accuracy what currencies in what proportions to keep their savings," said Forex Club's commercial director, Olga Taran.

"People are starting to think how to avoid leaving their money passively in a bank, trying to manage their resources themselves. It is a tendency beginning in Russia, but it can be seen in the demand on the forex market. The market is seeing quite serious growth."

However fast the growth, spekulant remains a dirty word for many in Russia -- the legacy of the Arbat traders of old. Today, Forex Club takes a whole section of its brochure to explain that its business is, in fact, legal.

"If we are trying to buy low and sell high, what are we doing?" Taran said. "We are speculating. There's nothing bad in that."