This article will address several questions pertaining to Margin within Forex trading, such as: What is Margin? What is free margin in Forex?' and What is Margin level in Forex? Every broker has differing margin requirements and offers different things to traders, so it's good to understand how this works first, before you choose a broker and begin trading with a margin.
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.
Free margin in Forex is the amount of money that is not involved in any trade. You can use it to take more positions, however, that isn't all - as the free margin is the difference between equity and margin. If your open positions make you money, the more they achieve profit, the greater the equity you will have, so you will have more free margin as a result. There may be a situation when you have some open positions and also some pending orders simultaneously.
Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. For more information read the "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options". For a copy call Interactive Brokers' Client Services on 312-542-6901. Before trading, clients must read the relevant risk disclosure statements on our Warnings and Disclosures page - http://www.interactivebrokers.com/disclosures. Trading on margin is only for sophisticated investors with high risk tolerance. You may lose more than your initial investment. For additional information regarding margin loan rates, see http://www.interactivebrokers.com/interest. Security futures involve a high degree of risk and are not suitable for all investors. The amount you may lose may be greater than your initial investment. Before trading security futures, read the Security Futures Risk Disclosure Statement. For a copy visit http://www.interactivebrokers.com/disclosures. Structured products and fixed income products such as bonds are complex products that are more risky and are not suitable for all investors. Before trading, please read the Risk warning and Disclosure Statement at http://www.interactivebrokers.com/disclosures. There is a substantial risk of loss in foreign exchange trading. The settlement date of foreign exchange trades can vary due to time zone differences and bank holidays. When trading across foreign exchange markets, this may necessitate borrowing funds to settle foreign exchange trades. The interest rate on borrowed funds must be considered when computing the cost of trades across multiple markets.
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As part of the Universal Account service, we are authorized to automatically transfer funds as necessary between your securities account and your futures account in order to satisfy margin requirements in either account. You can configure how you want us to handle the transfer of excess funds between accounts on the Excess Funds Sweep page in Account Management: you can choose to sweep funds to the securities account, to the futures account, or you can choose to not sweep excess funds at all.

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.
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!
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.
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.
Equity – Your equity is simply the total amount of funds you have in your trading account. Your equity will change and float each time you open a new trading position, in such a way that all your unrealised profits and losses will be added to or deducted from your total equity. For example, if your trading account size is $1,000 and your open positions are $50 in profit, your equity will amount to $1,050.
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Note also that when we begin storing our trades in a relational database (as described above in the roadmap) we will need to make sure we once again use the correct data-type. PostgreSQL and MySQL support a decimal representation. It is vital that we utilise these data-types when we create our database schema, otherwise we will run into rounding errors that are extremely difficult to diagnose!
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.
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.
Risk Management - Many "research" backtests completely ignore risk management. Unfortunately this is generally necessary for brevity in describing the rules of a strategy. In reality we -must- use a risk overlay when trading, otherwise it is extremely likely that we will suffer a substantial loss at some stage. This is not to say that risk management can prevent this entirely, but it certainly makes it less likely!

Multiple Currency Pairs - Similarly we need to support the major currency pairs beyond "Cable" (GBP/USD). There are two aspects to this. The first is to correctly handle the calculations when neither the base or quote of a currency pair is equal to the account denomination currency. The second aspect is to support multiple positions so that we can trade a portfolio of currency pairs.

Free margin in Forex is the amount of money that is not involved in any trade. You can use it to take more positions, however, that isn't all - as the free margin is the difference between equity and margin. If your open positions make you money, the more they achieve profit, the greater the equity you will have, so you will have more free margin as a result. There may be a situation when you have some open positions and also some pending orders simultaneously.
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. 
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