Margin requirements for futures and futures options are established by each exchange through a calculation algorithm known as SPAN margining. SPAN (Standard Portfolio Analysis of Risk) evaluates overall portfolio risk by calculating the worst possible loss that a portfolio of derivative and physical instruments might reasonably incur over a specified time period (typically one trading day.) This is done by computing the gains and losses that the portfolio would incur under different market conditions. The most important part of the SPAN methodology is the SPAN risk array, a set of numeric values that indicate how a particular contract will gain or lose value under various conditions. Each condition is called a risk scenario. The numeric value for each risk scenario represents the gain or loss that that particular contract will experience for a particular combination of price (or underlying price) change, volatility change, and decrease in time to expiration.
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.
The majority of the volume in currency trading is confined to only 18 currency pairs compared to the thousands of stocks that are available in the global equity markets. Although there are other traded pairs outside of the 18, the eight currencies most often traded are the U.S. dollar (USD), Canadian dollar (CAD), euro (EUR), British pound (GBP), Swiss franc (CHF), New Zealand dollar (NZD), Australian dollar (AUD) and the Japanese yen (JPY). Although nobody would say that currency trading is easy, having far fewer trading options makes trade and portfolio management an easier task.
Local Portfolio Handling - In my opinion carrying out a backtest that inflates strategy performance due to unrealistic assumptions is annoying at best and extremely unprofitable at worst! Introducing a local portfolio object that replicates the OANDA calculations means that we can check our internal calculations while carrying out practice trading, which gives us greater confidence when we later use this same portfolio object for backtesting on historical data.