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.
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.
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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Retail or beginning traders often trade currency in micro lots, because one pip in a micro lot represents only a 10-cent move in the price. This makes losses easier to manage if a trade doesn't produce the intended results. In a mini lot, one pip equals $1 and that same one pip in a standard lot equals $10. Some currencies move as much as 100 pips or more in a single trading session making the potential losses to the small investor much more manageable by trading in micro or mini lots.
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.
Let's presume that the market keeps on going against you. In this case, the broker will simply have no choice but to shut down all your losing positions. This limit is referred to as a stop out level. For example, when the stop out level is established at 5% by a broker, the trading platform will start closing your losing positions automatically if your margin level reaches 5%. It is important to note that it starts closing from the biggest losing position.
Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. For more information read the "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options". For a copy call Interactive Brokers' Client Services on 312-542-6901. Before trading, clients must read the relevant risk disclosure statements on our Warnings and Disclosures page - http://www.interactivebrokers.com/disclosures. Trading on margin is only for sophisticated investors with high risk tolerance. You may lose more than your initial investment. For additional information regarding margin loan rates, see http://www.interactivebrokers.com/interest. Security futures involve a high degree of risk and are not suitable for all investors. The amount you may lose may be greater than your initial investment. Before trading security futures, read the Security Futures Risk Disclosure Statement. For a copy visit http://www.interactivebrokers.com/disclosures. Structured products and fixed income products such as bonds are complex products that are more risky and are not suitable for all investors. Before trading, please read the Risk warning and Disclosure Statement at http://www.interactivebrokers.com/disclosures. There is a substantial risk of loss in foreign exchange trading. The settlement date of foreign exchange trades can vary due to time zone differences and bank holidays. When trading across foreign exchange markets, this may necessitate borrowing funds to settle foreign exchange trades. The interest rate on borrowed funds must be considered when computing the cost of trades across multiple markets.
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.
So, for an investor who wants to trade $100,000, a 1% margin would mean that $1,000 needs to be deposited into the account. The remaining 99% is provided by the broker. No interest is paid directly on this borrowed amount, but if the investor does not close their position before the delivery date, it will have to be rolled over. In that case, interest may be charged depending on the investor's position (long or short) and the short-term interest rates of the underlying currencies.
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.
Multiple Broker/FIX Integration - At the moment we are strongly coupled to the OANDA broker. As I said this is simply because I came across their API and found it to be a modern offering. There are plenty of other brokers out there, many of which support the FIX protocol. Adding a FIX capability would increase the number of brokers that could be used with the system.
We use real-time margining to allow you to see your trading risk at any moment of the day. Our real-time margin system applies margin requirements throughout the day to new trades and trades already on the books and enforces initial margin requirements at the end of the day, with real-time liquidation of positions instead of delayed margin calls. This system allows us to maintain our low commissions because we do not have to spread the cost of credit losses to customers in the form of higher costs.
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!
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.
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.
In particular we need to modify -every- value that appears in a Position calculation to a Decimal data-type. This includes the units, exposure, pips, profit and percentage profit. This ensures we are in full control of how rounding issues are handled when dealing with currency representations that have two decimal places of precision. In particular we need to choose the method of rounding. Python supports a few different types, but we are going to go with ROUND_HALF_DOWN, which rounds to the nearest integer with ties going towards zero.
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.
Let's presume that the market keeps on going against you. In this case, the broker will simply have no choice but to shut down all your losing positions. This limit is referred to as a stop out level. For example, when the stop out level is established at 5% by a broker, the trading platform will start closing your losing positions automatically if your margin level reaches 5%. It is important to note that it starts closing from the biggest losing position.

An extremely important requested feature for QSForex has been the ability to backtest over multiple days. Previously the system only supported backtesting via a single file. This was not a scalable solution as such a file must be read into memory and subsequently into a Pandas DataFrame. While the tick data files produced are not huge (roughly 3.5Mb each), they do add up quickly if we consider multiple pairs over periods of months or more.
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.
Multiple Broker/FIX Integration - At the moment we are strongly coupled to the OANDA broker. As I said this is simply because I came across their API and found it to be a modern offering. There are plenty of other brokers out there, many of which support the FIX protocol. Adding a FIX capability would increase the number of brokers that could be used with the system.

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.
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