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).
For securities, the definition of margin includes three important concepts: the Margin Loan, the Margin Deposit and the Margin Requirement. The Margin Loan is the amount of money that an investor borrows from his broker to buy securities. The Margin Deposit is the amount of equity contributed by the investor toward the purchase of securities in a margin account. The Margin Requirement is the minimum amount that a customer must deposit and it is commonly expressed as a percent of the current market value. The Margin Deposit can be greater than or equal to the Margin Requirement. We can express this as an equation:
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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Let’s cover this with an example. If you have $1,000 in your trading account and use a leverage of 1:100 you could theoretically open a position size of $100,000. However, by doing so, your entire trading account would be allocated as the required margin for the trade, and even a single price tick against you would lead to a margin call. There would be no free margin to withstand any negative price fluctuation.
Borrowing money to purchase securities is known as "buying on margin". When an investor borrows money from his broker to buy a stock, he must open a margin account with his broker, sign a related agreement and abide by the broker's margin requirements. The loan in the account is collateralized by investor's securities and cash. If the value of the stock drops too much, the investor must deposit more cash in his account, or sell a portion of the stock.
You could ask yourself, why wouldn’t you use the highest leverage ratio available in order to decrease your margin requirements and get an extremely high market exposure? The answer is rather simple and deals with Forex risk management. While leverage magnifies your potential profits, it also magnifies your potential losses. Trading on high leverage increases your risk in trading.
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.
Now, let’s say you open a trade worth $50,000 with the same trading account size and leverage ratio. Your required margin for this trade would be $500 (1% of your position size), and your free margin would now also amount to $500. In other words, you could withstand a negative price fluctuation of $500 until your free margin falls to zero and causes a margin call. Your position size of $50,000 could only fall to $49,500 – this would be the largest loss your trading account could withstand.
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.
As you may now come to understand, FX margins are one of the key aspects of Forex trading that must not be overlooked, as they can potentially lead to unpleasant outcomes. In order to avoid them, you should understand the theory concerning margins, margin levels and margin calls, and apply your trading experience to create a viable Forex strategy. Indeed a well developed approach will undoubtedly lead you to trading success in the end.
Risk Management - Many "research" backtests completely ignore risk management. Unfortunately this is generally necessary for brevity in describing the rules of a strategy. In reality we -must- use a risk overlay when trading, otherwise it is extremely likely that we will suffer a substantial loss at some stage. This is not to say that risk management can prevent this entirely, but it certainly makes it less likely!
To date, we've been experimenting with the OANDA Rest API in order to see how it compared to the API provided by Interactive Brokers. We've also seen how to add in a basic portfolio replication element as the first step towards a proper event-driven backtesting system. I've also had some helpful comments on both previous articles (#1 and #2), which suggests that many of you are keen on changing and extending the code yourselves.
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.