In particular I would like to make the system a lot faster, since it will allow parameter searches to be carried out in a reasonable time. While Python is a great tool, it's one drawback is that it is relatively slow when compared to C/C++. Hence I will be carrying out a lot of profiling to try and improve the execution speed of both the backtest and the performance calculations.

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.
Whether you have assets in a securities account or in a futures account, your assets are protected by U.S. federal regulations governing how brokers must protect your property and funds. In the securities account, your assets are protected by SEC and SIPC rules. In the futures account, your assets are protected by CFTC rules requiring segregation of customer funds. You are also protected by our strong financial position and our conservative risk management philosophy. See our Strength & Security page.
Each time you open a new trade, calculate how much free margin you would need to use if the trade drops to its stop loss level. In other words, if your free margin is currently $500, but your potential losses of a trade are $700 (if the trade hits stop loss), you could be in trouble. In these situations, either close some of your open positions, or decrease your position sizes in order to free up additional free margin.

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Trading on margin refers to trading on money borrowed from your broker in order to substantially increase your market exposure. When opening a margin trade, your broker lends you a certain sum of money depending on the leverage ratio used, and allocates a small portion of your trading account as the collateral, or margin for that trade. The remaining funds in your trading account will act as your free margin, which can be used to withstand negative price fluctuations from your existing leveraged positions, or to open new leveraged trades. The relation between your free margin and other important elements of your trading account, such as your balance and equity, will be explained later. For now, it’s important to understand the meaning of margin in Forex.
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