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.
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.