To get started, investors interested in trading in the forex markets must first sign up with either a regular broker or an online forex discount broker. Once an investor finds a proper broker, a margin account must be set up. A forex margin account is very similar to an equities margin account – the investor is taking a short-term loan from the broker. The loan is equal to the amount of leverage taken on by the investor.
The Forex market is one of a number of financial markets that offer trading on margin through a Forex margin account. Many traders are attracted to the Forex market because of the relatively high leverage that Forex brokers offer to new traders. But, what are leverage and margin, how are they related, and what do you need to know when trading on margin? This and more will be covered in the following lines.
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Free Margin – Your free margin represents your total equity minus any margin used for leveraged trades. For example, if your equity is $1,000 and your used margin is $100, your free margin would amount to $900. Following your free margin is extremely important, as it is used to withstand negative price fluctuations from your open trades and to open new leveraged trades. It’s important to understand that your free margin increases with profitable positions, but decreases with your losing positions. Once the free margin drops to zero or below, your broker will activate the so-called margin call and close all your open positions at the current market rate, in order to prevent your equity from falling below the required margin.
For securities, the definition of margin includes three important concepts: the Margin Loan, the Margin Deposit and the Margin Requirement. The Margin Loan is the amount of money that an investor borrows from his broker to buy securities. The Margin Deposit is the amount of equity contributed by the investor toward the purchase of securities in a margin account. The Margin Requirement is the minimum amount that a customer must deposit and it is commonly expressed as a percent of the current market value. The Margin Deposit can be greater than or equal to the Margin Requirement. We can express this as an equation:
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So, for an investor who wants to trade $100,000, a 1% margin would mean that $1,000 needs to be deposited into the account. The remaining 99% is provided by the broker. No interest is paid directly on this borrowed amount, but if the investor does not close their position before the delivery date, it will have to be rolled over. In that case, interest may be charged depending on the investor's position (long or short) and the short-term interest rates of the underlying currencies.
If traders are positive on the prospects for the Yen, they would expect the number on the right to go down – i.e. the Yen would be getting stronger against the Dollar. Traders would be buying less Yen with a Dollar as the Yen got stronger. Similarly, if the Yen was expected to weaken, forex traders would expect the Yen number to go up, reflecting the fact that the dollar could buy more yen.