Margin calls are mechanisms put in place by your Forex broker in order to keep your used margin secure. Remember, your used margin is allocated by your broker as the collateral for funds borrowed from your broker. A margin call happens when your free margin falls to zero, and all you have left in your trading account is your used, or required margin. When this happens, your broker will automatically close all open positions at current market rates.
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The Federal Reserve Board and self-regulatory organizations (SROs), such as the New York Stock Exchange and FINRA, have clear rules regarding margin trading. In the United States, the Fed's Regulation T allows investors to borrow up to 50 percent of the price of the securities to be purchased on margin. The percentage of the purchase price of securities that an investor must pay for is called the initial margin. To buy securities on margin, the investor must first deposit enough cash or eligible securities with a broker to meet the initial margin requirement for that purchase.
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.
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The market then wants to trigger one of your pending orders but you may not have enough Forex free margin in your account. That pending order will either not be triggered or will be cancelled automatically. This can cause some traders to think that their broker failed to carry out their orders. Of course in this instance, this just isn't true. It's simply because the trader didn't have enough free margin in their trading account.
Maintenance margin for commodities is the amount that you must maintain in your account to support the futures contract and represents the lowest level to which your account can drop before you must deposit additional funds. Commodities positions are marked to market daily, with your account adjusted for any profit or loss that occurs. Because the price of underlying commodities fluctuates, it is possible that the value of the commodity may decline to the point at which your account balance falls below the required maintenance margin. If this happens, brokers typically make a margin call, which means you must deposit additional funds to meet the margin requirement.
Trading foreign exchange on margin carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for everyone. Before deciding to trade foreign exchange you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. Remember, you could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment, which means that you should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. If you have any doubts, it is advisable to seek advice from an independent financial advisor.