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.
Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
In the world of trading, it means you can access a larger portion of the market with a smaller deposit than you would be able to via traditional investing. This gives you the advantage of getting greater returns for a small up-front investment, though it is important to note that traders can be at risk of higher losses when using leverage. In finance, it is when you borrow money, to invest and make more money due to your increased buying power. Once you return what you borrowed, you are still left with more money than if you had just invested your own capital.
Between 2003 and the end of 2004, the AUD/USD currency pair offered a positive yield spread of 2.5%. Although this may seem very small, the return would become 25% with the use of 10:1 leverage. During that same time, the Australian dollar also rallied from 56 cents to close at 80 cents against the U.S. dollar, which represented a 42% appreciation in the currency pair. This means that if you were in this trade – and many hedge funds at the time were – you would have not only earned the positive yield, but you would have also seen tremendous capital gains in your underlying investment.
To trade $100,000 of currency, with a margin of 1%, an investor will only have to deposit $1,000 into her or his margin account. The leverage provided on a trade like this is 100:1. Leverage of this size is significantly larger than the 2:1 leverage commonly provided on equities and the 15:1 leverage provided in the futures market. Although 100:1 leverage may seem extremely risky, the risk is significantly less when you consider that currency prices usually change by less than 1% during intraday trading (trading within one day). If currencies fluctuated as much as equities, brokers would not be able to provide as much leverage.