Just like securities, commodities have required initial and maintenance margins. These are typically set by the individual exchanges as a percentage of the current value of a futures contract, based on the volatility and price of the contract. The initial margin requirement for a futures contract is the amount of money you must put up as collateral to open position on the contract. To be able to buy a futures contract, you must meet the initial margin requirement, which means that you must deposit or already have that amount of money in your account.
Not all securities can be bought on margin. Buying on margin is a double-edged sword that can translate into bigger gains or bigger losses. In volatile markets, investors who borrowed from their brokers may need to provide additional cash if the price of a stock drops too much for those who bought on margin or rallies too much for those who shorted a stock. In such cases, brokers are also allowed to liquidate a position, even without informing the investor. Real-time position monitoring is a crucial tool when buying on margin or shorting a stock.
If you sell a security short, you must have sufficient equity in your account to cover any fees associated with borrowing the security. If you borrow the security through us, we will borrow the security on your behalf and your account must have sufficient collateral to cover the margin requirements of the short sale. To cover administrative fees and stock borrowing fees, we must post 102% of the value of the security borrowed as collateral with the lender. In instances in which the security shorted is hard to borrow, borrowing fees charged by the lender may be so high (greater than the interest earned) that the short seller must pay additional interest for the privilege of borrowing a security. Customers may view the indicative short stock interest rates for a specific stock through the Short Stock (SLB) Availability tool located in the Tools section of their Account Management page. For more information concerning shorting stocks and associated fees, visit our Stock Shorting page.
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.
Now, let’s say you open a trade worth $50,000 with the same trading account size and leverage ratio. Your required margin for this trade would be $500 (1% of your position size), and your free margin would now also amount to $500. In other words, you could withstand a negative price fluctuation of $500 until your free margin falls to zero and causes a margin call. Your position size of $50,000 could only fall to $49,500 – this would be the largest loss your trading account could withstand.
Equity – Your equity is simply the total amount of funds you have in your trading account. Your equity will change and float each time you open a new trading position, in such a way that all your unrealised profits and losses will be added to or deducted from your total equity. For example, if your trading account size is $1,000 and your open positions are $50 in profit, your equity will amount to $1,050.