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.
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.
We use real-time margining to allow you to see your trading risk at any moment of the day. Our real-time margin system applies margin requirements throughout the day to new trades and trades already on the books and enforces initial margin requirements at the end of the day, with real-time liquidation of positions instead of delayed margin calls. This system allows us to maintain our low commissions because we do not have to spread the cost of credit losses to customers in the form of higher costs.
Monitoring and High Availability - Since we are considering a high-frequency intraday system, we must put comprehensive monitoring and high availability redundancy in place. This means reporting on CPU usage, disk usage, network I/O, latency and checking that any periodic scripts are set to keep running. In addition we need a backup and restore strategy. Ask yourself what backup plans you would have in place if you had large open positions, in a volatile market, and your server suddenly died. Believe me, it happens!
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.
Often, closing one losing position will take the margin level Forex higher than 5%, as it will release the margin of that position, so the total used margin will decrease and consequently the margin level will increase. The system often takes the margin level higher than 5%, by closing the biggest position first. If your other losing positions continue losing and the margin level reaches 5% once more, the system will just close another losing position.
The market values/prices used to compute the equity or margin requirement in an Interactive account may differ from the price disseminated by exchanges or other market data sources, and may represent Interactive's valuation of the product. Among other things, Interactive may calculate its own index values, Exchange Traded Fund values or derivatives values, and Interactive may value securities or futures or other investment products based on bid price, offer price, last sale price, midpoint or using some other method. Interactive may use a valuation methodology that is more conservative than the marketplace as a whole.