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.

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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.
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.

Foreign exchange (forex) or FX trading involves trading the prices of global currencies, and at City Index it is possible to trade on the prices of a huge range of global currencies. Currency trading allows you to speculate on the movement of one currency against another, and is traded in pairs, for example the Euro against the US Dollar (EUR/USD).
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.
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.
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.
If your free margin drops to zero, your broker will send you a margin call in order to protect the used margin on your account. Always monitor your free margin to prevent margin calls from happening, and calculate the potential losses of your trades (depending on their stop-loss levels) to determine their impact on your free margin. With some experience, you’ll find it significantly easier to follow your margin ratio and understand the meaning of margin in Forex trading.

Systems that derive risk-based margin requirements deliver adequate assessments of the risk for complex derivative portfolios under small/moderate move scenarios. Such systems are less comprehensive when considering large moves in the price of the underlying stock or future. We have enhanced the basic exchange margin models with algorithms that consider the portfolio impact of larger moves up 30% (or even higher for extremely volatile stocks). This 'Extreme Margin Model' may increase the margin requirement for portfolios with net short options positions, and is particularly sensitive to short positions in far out-of-the-money options.
In particular we will need strategy level metrics, including common risk/reward ratios such as the Sharpe Ratio, Information Ratio and Sortino Ratio. We will also need drawdown statistics including the distribution of the drawdowns, as well as descriptive stats such as maximum drawdown. Other useful metrics include the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) and total return.

We also offer an IRA Margin account, which allows you to immediately trade on your proceeds of sales rather than waiting for your sale to settle. You can trade assets in multiple currencies and trade limited option spread combinations. IRA margin accounts have certain restrictions compared to regular margin accounts and borrowing is never allowed in an IRA account. Futures trading in an IRA margin account is subject to substantially higher margin requirements than in a non-IRA margin account. Margin rates in an IRA margin account may meet or exceed three times the overnight futures margin requirement imposed in a non-IRA margin account1.

Risk Management - Many "research" backtests completely ignore risk management. Unfortunately this is generally necessary for brevity in describing the rules of a strategy. In reality we -must- use a risk overlay when trading, otherwise it is extremely likely that we will suffer a substantial loss at some stage. This is not to say that risk management can prevent this entirely, but it certainly makes it less likely!

Once an investor has started buying a stock on margin, the NYSE and FINRA require that a minimum amount of equity be maintained in the investor's margin account. These rules require investors to have at least 25% of the total market value of the securities they own in their margin account. This is called the maintenance margin. For market participants identified as pattern day traders, the maintenance margin requirement is a minimum of $25,000 (or 25% of the total market value of the securities, whichever is higher).
Robust Strategies - I have only demonstrated some simple random signal generating "toy" strategies to date. Now that we are beginning to create a reliable intraday forex trading system, we should start carrying out some more interesting strategies. Future diary entries will concentrate on strategies drawn from a mixture of "technical" indicators/filters as well as time series models and machine learning techniques.
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.
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