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.
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.
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Note also that when we begin storing our trades in a relational database (as described above in the roadmap) we will need to make sure we once again use the correct data-type. PostgreSQL and MySQL support a decimal representation. It is vital that we utilise these data-types when we create our database schema, otherwise we will run into rounding errors that are extremely difficult to diagnose!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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