Free margin in Forex is the amount of money that is not involved in any trade. You can use it to take more positions, however, that isn't all - as the free margin is the difference between equity and margin. If your open positions make you money, the more they achieve profit, the greater the equity you will have, so you will have more free margin as a result. There may be a situation when you have some open positions and also some pending orders simultaneously.
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.
Interactive Brokers ®, IBSM, InteractiveBrokers.com ®, Interactive Analytics ®, IB Options AnalyticsSM, IB SmartRoutingSM, PortfolioAnalyst ®, IB Trader WorkstationSM and One World, One AccountSM are service marks and/or trademarks of Interactive Brokers LLC. Supporting documentation for any claims and statistical information will be provided upon request. Any trading symbols displayed are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to portray recommendations.
This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.
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.
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.
A Portfolio Margin account can provide lower margin requirements than a Margin account. However, for a portfolio with concentrated risk, the requirements under Portfolio Margin may be greater than those under Margin, as the true economic risk behind the portfolio may not be adequately accounted for under the static Reg T calculations used for Margin accounts. Customers can compare their current Reg T margin requirements for their portfolio with those current projected under Portfolio Margin rules by clicking the Try PM button from the Account Window in Trader Workstation (demo or customer account).
Each time you open a new trade, calculate how much free margin you would need to use if the trade drops to its stop loss level. In other words, if your free margin is currently $500, but your potential losses of a trade are $700 (if the trade hits stop loss), you could be in trouble. In these situations, either close some of your open positions, or decrease your position sizes in order to free up additional free margin.
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.
As part of the Universal Account service, we are authorized to automatically transfer funds as necessary between your securities account and your futures account in order to satisfy margin requirements in either account. You can configure how you want us to handle the transfer of excess funds between accounts on the Excess Funds Sweep page in Account Management: you can choose to sweep funds to the securities account, to the futures account, or you can choose to not sweep excess funds at all.
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.
To date, we've been experimenting with the OANDA Rest API in order to see how it compared to the API provided by Interactive Brokers. We've also seen how to add in a basic portfolio replication element as the first step towards a proper event-driven backtesting system. I've also had some helpful comments on both previous articles (#1 and #2), which suggests that many of you are keen on changing and extending the code yourselves.

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!
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.
GUI Control and Reporting - Right now the system is completely console/command line based. At the very least we will need some basic charting to display backtest results. A more sophisticated system will incorporate summary statistics of trades, strategy-level performance metrics as well as overall portfolio performance. This GUI could be implemented using a cross-platform windowing system such as Qt or Tkinter. It could also be presented using a web-based front-end, utilising a web-framework such as Django.
Multiple Currency Pairs - Similarly we need to support the major currency pairs beyond "Cable" (GBP/USD). There are two aspects to this. The first is to correctly handle the calculations when neither the base or quote of a currency pair is equal to the account denomination currency. The second aspect is to support multiple positions so that we can trade a portfolio of currency pairs.

The "philosophy" of the forex trading system, as with the rest of the QuantStart site, is to try and mimic real-life trading as much as possible in our backtesting. This means including the details that are often excluded from more "research oriented" backtesting situations. Latency, server outages, automation, monitoring, realistic transaction costs will all be included within the models to give us a good idea of how well a strategy is likely to perform.
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Margin is one of the most important concepts of Forex trading. However, a lot of people don't understand its significance, or simply misunderstand the term. A Forex margin is basically a good faith deposit that is needed to maintain open positions. A margin is not a fee or a transaction cost, but instead, a portion of your account equity set aside and assigned as a margin deposit.
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.

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.
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.
The "philosophy" of the forex trading system, as with the rest of the QuantStart site, is to try and mimic real-life trading as much as possible in our backtesting. This means including the details that are often excluded from more "research oriented" backtesting situations. Latency, server outages, automation, monitoring, realistic transaction costs will all be included within the models to give us a good idea of how well a strategy is likely to perform.
All currency trading is done in pairs. Unlike the stock market, where you can buy or sell a single stock, you have to buy one currency and sell another currency in the forex market. Next, nearly all currencies are priced out to the fourth decimal point. A pip or percentage in point is the smallest increment of trade. One pip typically equals 1/100 of 1 percent.

Interactive Brokers ®, IBSM, InteractiveBrokers.com ®, Interactive Analytics ®, IB Options AnalyticsSM, IB SmartRoutingSM, PortfolioAnalyst ®, IB Trader WorkstationSM and One World, One AccountSM are service marks and/or trademarks of Interactive Brokers LLC. Supporting documentation for any claims and statistical information will be provided upon request. Any trading symbols displayed are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to portray recommendations.


Popular leverage ratios in Forex trading include 1:10, 1:50, 1:100, 1:200, or even higher. Simply put, the leverage ratio determines the position size you’re allowed to take based on the size of your trading account. For example, a 1:100 leverage allows you to open a position 10 times higher than your trading account size, i.e., if you have $1,000 in your account, you can open a position worth $10,000. Similarly, a  leverage ratio of 1:100 allows you to open a position size 100 times larger than your trading account size. With $1,000 in your trading account, you could open a position worth $100,000!
To date, we've been experimenting with the OANDA Rest API in order to see how it compared to the API provided by Interactive Brokers. We've also seen how to add in a basic portfolio replication element as the first step towards a proper event-driven backtesting system. I've also had some helpful comments on both previous articles (#1 and #2), which suggests that many of you are keen on changing and extending the code yourselves.
If traders are positive on the prospects for the Yen, they would expect the number on the right to go down – i.e. the Yen would be getting stronger against the Dollar. Traders would be buying less Yen with a Dollar as the Yen got stronger. Similarly, if the Yen was expected to weaken, forex traders would expect the Yen number to go up, reflecting the fact that the dollar could buy more yen.
Free margin in Forex is the amount of money that is not involved in any trade. You can use it to take more positions, however, that isn't all - as the free margin is the difference between equity and margin. If your open positions make you money, the more they achieve profit, the greater the equity you will have, so you will have more free margin as a result. There may be a situation when you have some open positions and also some pending orders simultaneously.
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.
To get started, investors interested in trading in the forex markets must first sign up with either a regular broker or an online forex discount broker. Once an investor finds a proper broker, a margin account must be set up. A forex margin account is very similar to an equities margin account – the investor is taking a short-term loan from the broker. The loan is equal to the amount of leverage taken on by the investor.
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.
Forex trading, also known as foreign exchange trading or currency trading, is where an investor tries to make money by buying and selling currencies on the foreign exchange market. Most investors will follow trends and use strategies to optimise their return. This is a very basic definition that does not reflect the full complexity of Forex trading; our free workshops are ideal for people who are unfamiliar with the concept and want to quickly achieve an in-depth insight into how this all works.
These articles, on the other hand, discuss currency trading as buying and selling currency on the foreign exchange (or "Forex") market with the intent to make money, often called "speculative forex trading". XE does not offer speculative forex trading, nor do we recommend any firms that offer this service. These articles are provided for general information only.
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