Trading on margin refers to trading on money borrowed from your broker in order to substantially increase your market exposure. When opening a margin trade, your broker lends you a certain sum of money depending on the leverage ratio used, and allocates a small portion of your trading account as the collateral, or margin for that trade. The remaining funds in your trading account will act as your free margin, which can be used to withstand negative price fluctuations from your existing leveraged positions, or to open new leveraged trades. The relation between your free margin and other important elements of your trading account, such as your balance and equity, will be explained later. For now, it’s important to understand the meaning of margin in Forex.
Margins are a hotly debated topic. Some traders argue that too much margin is very dangerous, however it all depends on trading style and the amount of trading experience one has. If you are going to trade on a margin account, it is important that you know what your broker's policies are on margin accounts, and that you fully understand and are comfortable with the risks involved. Be careful to avoid a Forex margin call.
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Let’s cover this with an example. If you have $1,000 in your trading account and use a leverage of 1:100 you could theoretically open a position size of $100,000. However, by doing so, your entire trading account would be allocated as the required margin for the trade, and even a single price tick against you would lead to a margin call. There would be no free margin to withstand any negative price fluctuation.
Forex margin is a good faith deposit that a trader puts up as collateral to initiate a trade. Essentially, it is the minimum amount that a trader needs in the trading account to open a new position. This is usually communicated as a percentage of the notional value (trade size) of the forex trade. The difference between the deposit and the full value of the trade is “borrowed” from the broker.
For securities, the definition of margin includes three important concepts: the Margin Loan, the Margin Deposit and the Margin Requirement. The Margin Loan is the amount of money that an investor borrows from his broker to buy securities. The Margin Deposit is the amount of equity contributed by the investor toward the purchase of securities in a margin account. The Margin Requirement is the minimum amount that a customer must deposit and it is commonly expressed as a percent of the current market value. The Margin Deposit can be greater than or equal to the Margin Requirement. We can express this as an equation:
In a margin account, the broker uses the $1,000 as a security deposit of sorts. If the investor's position worsens and his or her losses approach $1,000, the broker may initiate a margin call. When this occurs, the broker will usually instruct the investor to either deposit more money into the account or to close out the position to limit the risk to both parties.
Free Margin – Your free margin represents your total equity minus any margin used for leveraged trades. For example, if your equity is $1,000 and your used margin is $100, your free margin would amount to $900. Following your free margin is extremely important, as it is used to withstand negative price fluctuations from your open trades and to open new leveraged trades. It’s important to understand that your free margin increases with profitable positions, but decreases with your losing positions. Once the free margin drops to zero or below, your broker will activate the so-called margin call and close all your open positions at the current market rate, in order to prevent your equity from falling below the required margin.
Trading on margin is extremely popular among retail Forex traders. It allows you to open a much larger position than your initial trading account would otherwise allow, by allocating only a small portion of your trading account as the margin, or collateral for the trade. Trading on margin also carries certain risks, as both your profits and losses are magnified.
Now that we have discussed the longer term plan I want to present some of the changes I have made to the code since diary entry #2. In particular, I want to describe how I modified the code to handle the Decimal data-type instead of using floating point storage. This is an extremely important change as floating point representations are a substantial source of long-term error in portfolio and order management systems.