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.
The Forex market is one of a number of financial markets that offer trading on margin through a Forex margin account. Many traders are attracted to the Forex market because of the relatively high leverage that Forex brokers offer to new traders. But, what are leverage and margin, how are they related, and what do you need to know when trading on margin? This and more will be covered in the following lines.
All currency trading is done in pairs. Unlike the stock market, where you can buy or sell a single stock, you have to buy one currency and sell another currency in the forex market. Next, nearly all currencies are priced out to the fourth decimal point. A pip or percentage in point is the smallest increment of trade. One pip typically equals 1/100 of 1 percent.
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.
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).
The majority of the volume in currency trading is confined to only 18 currency pairs compared to the thousands of stocks that are available in the global equity markets. Although there are other traded pairs outside of the 18, the eight currencies most often traded are the U.S. dollar (USD), Canadian dollar (CAD), euro (EUR), British pound (GBP), Swiss franc (CHF), New Zealand dollar (NZD), Australian dollar (AUD) and the Japanese yen (JPY). Although nobody would say that currency trading is easy, having far fewer trading options makes trade and portfolio management an easier task.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maintenance margin for commodities is the amount that you must maintain in your account to support the futures contract and represents the lowest level to which your account can drop before you must deposit additional funds. Commodities positions are marked to market daily, with your account adjusted for any profit or loss that occurs. Because the price of underlying commodities fluctuates, it is possible that the value of the commodity may decline to the point at which your account balance falls below the required maintenance margin. If this happens, brokers typically make a margin call, which means you must deposit additional funds to meet the margin requirement.
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.