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Trading leverage or leveraged trading allows you to control much larger amounts in a trade, with a minimal deposit in your account. Leveraged trading is also known as margin trading. You can open up a small account with a brokerage, and then essentially borrow money from the broker to open a large position. This allows traders to magnify the amount of profits earned.
In every foreign exchange transaction, you are simultaneously buying one currency and selling another. In effect, you are using the proceeds from the currency you sold to purchase the currency you are buying. Furthermore, every currency in the world comes attached with an interest rate set by the central bank of that currency's country. You are obligated to pay the interest on the currency that you have sold, but you also have the privilege of earning interest on the currency that you have bought. For example, let’s look at the New Zealand dollar/Japanese yen pair (NZD/JPY). Let’s assume that New Zealand has an interest rate of 8% and that Japan has an interest rate of 0.5% In the currency market, interest rates are calculated in basis points. A basis point is simply 1/100th of 1%. So, New Zealand rates are 800 basis points and Japanese rates are 50 basis points. If you decide to go long NZD/JPY you will earn 8% in annualized interest, but have to pay 0.5% for a net return of 7.5%, or 750 basis points.
Clearly, leverage should be used judiciously, but even with relatively conservative 10:1 leverage, the 7.5% yield on NZD/JPY pair would translate into a 75% return on an annual basis. So, if you were to hold a 100,000 unit position in NZD/JPY using $5,000 worth of equity, you would earn $9.40 in interest every day. That’s $94 dollars in interest after only 10 days, $940 worth of interest after three months, or $3,760 annually. Not too shabby given the fact that the same amount of money would only earn you $250 in a bank savings account (with a rate of 5% interest) after a whole year. The only real edge the bank account provides is that the $250 return would be risk-free.
When you trade forex, you're effectively borrowing the first currency in the pair to buy or sell the second currency. With a US$5-trillion-a-day market, the liquidity is so deep that liquidity providers—the big banks, basically—allow you to trade with leverage. To trade with leverage, you simply set aside the required margin for your trade size. If you're trading 200:1 leverage, for example, you can trade $2,000 in the market while only setting aside $10 in margin in your trading account. For 50:1 leverage, the same trade size would still only require about £40 in margin. This gives you much more exposure, while keeping your capital investment down.
Currencies are traded on the Foreign Exchange market, also known as Forex. This is a decentralized market that spans the globe and is considered the largest by trading volume and the most liquid worldwide. Exchange rates fluctuate continuously due to the ever changing market forces of supply and demand. Forex traders buy a currency pair if they think the exchange rate will rise and sell it if they think the opposite will happen. The Forex market remains open around the world for 24 hours a day with the exception of weekends.