Forex margin is a good faith deposit that a trader puts up as collateral to initiate a trade. Essentially, it is the minimum amount that a trader needs in the trading account to open a new position. This is usually communicated as a percentage of the notional value (trade size) of the forex trade. The difference between the deposit and the full value of the trade is “borrowed” from the broker.
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.