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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Slippage Handling - The system is currently generating a lot of slippage due to the high-frequency nature of the tick data provided from OANDA. This means that the portfolio balance calculated locally is not reflecting the balance calculated by OANDA. Until correct event-handling and slippage adjustment is carried out, this will mean that a backtest will not correctly reflect reality.
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).
Margin requirements for futures and futures options are established by each exchange through a calculation algorithm known as SPAN margining. SPAN (Standard Portfolio Analysis of Risk) evaluates overall portfolio risk by calculating the worst possible loss that a portfolio of derivative and physical instruments might reasonably incur over a specified time period (typically one trading day.) This is done by computing the gains and losses that the portfolio would incur under different market conditions. The most important part of the SPAN methodology is the SPAN risk array, a set of numeric values that indicate how a particular contract will gain or lose value under various conditions. Each condition is called a risk scenario. The numeric value for each risk scenario represents the gain or loss that that particular contract will experience for a particular combination of price (or underlying price) change, volatility change, and decrease in time to expiration.
The script is currently hardcoded to generate forex data for the entire month of January 2014. It uses the Python calendar library in order to ascertain business days (although I haven't excluded holidays yet) and then generates a set of files of the form BBBQQQ_YYYYMMDD.csv, where BBBQQQ will be the specified currency pair (e.g. GBPUSD) and YYYYMMDD is the specified date (e.g. 20140112).
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: