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.
Whether you have assets in a securities account or in a futures account, your assets are protected by U.S. federal regulations governing how brokers must protect your property and funds. In the securities account, your assets are protected by SEC and SIPC rules. In the futures account, your assets are protected by CFTC rules requiring segregation of customer funds. You are also protected by our strong financial position and our conservative risk management philosophy. See our Strength & Security page.
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Equity – Your equity is simply the total amount of funds you have in your trading account. Your equity will change and float each time you open a new trading position, in such a way that all your unrealised profits and losses will be added to or deducted from your total equity. For example, if your trading account size is $1,000 and your open positions are $50 in profit, your equity will amount to $1,050.
Imagine that you have $10,000 on your account account, and you have a losing position with a margin evaluated at $1,000. If your position goes against you, and it goes to a $9,000 loss, the equity will be $1,000 (i.e $10,000 - $9,000), which equals the margin. Thus, the margin level will be 100%. Again, if the margin level reaches the rate of 100%, you can't take any new positions, unless the market suddenly turns around and your equity level turns out to be greater than the margin.
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.
Brokers use margin levels in an attempt to detect whether FX traders can take any new positions or not. Different brokers have varying limits for the margin level, but most will set this limit at 100%. This limit is called a margin call level. Technically, a 100% margin call level means that when your account margin level reaches 100%, you can still close your positions, but you cannot take any new positions.
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.

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 can be a profitable Forex strategy, but it is important to understand all the possible risks. You should make sure you know how your margin account operates, and be sure to read the margin agreement between you and your selected broker. If there is anything you are unclear about in your agreement, ask questions and make sure everything is clear.
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.
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.
The market values/prices used to compute the equity or margin requirement in an Interactive account may differ from the price disseminated by exchanges or other market data sources, and may represent Interactive's valuation of the product. Among other things, Interactive may calculate its own index values, Exchange Traded Fund values or derivatives values, and Interactive may value securities or futures or other investment products based on bid price, offer price, last sale price, midpoint or using some other method. Interactive may use a valuation methodology that is more conservative than the marketplace as a whole.
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