As we've already stated, trading on margin is trading on money borrowed from your broker. Each time you open a trade on margin, your broker automatically allocates the required margin from your existing funds in the trading account in order to back the margin trade. The precise amount of allocated funds depends on the leverage ratio used on your account.
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.
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 script is currently hardcoded to generate forex data for the entire month of January 2014. It uses the Python calendar library in order to ascertain business days (although I haven't excluded holidays yet) and then generates a set of files of the form BBBQQQ_YYYYMMDD.csv, where BBBQQQ will be the specified currency pair (e.g. GBPUSD) and YYYYMMDD is the specified date (e.g. 20140112).
Slippage Handling - The system is currently generating a lot of slippage due to the high-frequency nature of the tick data provided from OANDA. This means that the portfolio balance calculated locally is not reflecting the balance calculated by OANDA. Until correct event-handling and slippage adjustment is carried out, this will mean that a backtest will not correctly reflect reality.
Unit Tests for Position/Portfolio - While I've not mentioned it directly in diary entries #1 and #2, I've actually been writing some unit tests for the Portfolio and Position objects. Since these are so crucial to the calculations of the strategy, one must be extremely confident that they perform as expected. An additional benefit of such tests is that they allow the underlying calculation to be modified, such that if all tests still pass, we can be confident that the overall system will continue to behave as expected.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.