After the heady days of foreign-exchange growth in the 1980s, global recession has pinched expansion in the world's biggest market.
The currency market, measured in daily turnover, continues to swell - but at a slower pace, analysts say. But cross-trading, which pairs two currencies other than the dollar, is expanding, particularly in Europe.
Around the middle of this month, the Federal Reserve and other central banks will release results of surveys gauging global foreign-exchange trading volume over the past three years.
The global recession is a key culprit that analysts cite as limiting growth in foreign-exchange turnover and associated trade flows. But some say the expansion of trade within emerging regional blocks will help offset the effect of the global slowdown.
A decline in volatility - fluctuations in currency prices - also has accounted for the shrinkage of volume, some say.
"I think we'll see steady numbers with maybe continued growth in dollar, mark and sterling" trading volumes, said Craig Bentley, foreign-exchange manager at Bank of Boston, and a "tremendous explosion" of intra-European cross-trading, especially this year. Mark-yen trading wa also thought to have swelled.
On the other hand, yen-based trading excluding yen/mark is expected to have shrunk notably since the April 1989 survey.
Some analysts said the foreign-exchange market may face a permanent drop in volume, not just a temporary slowdown due to the world recession or another cyclical phenomenon.
"I don't think we can come back to the heady days of the early 1980s," said an assistant general manager at a London-based Japanese bank.
In April 1989, net foreign-exchange turnover amounted to between $640 billion and $650 billion a day. The Bank for International Settlements coordinates the surveys, conducted every three years.