Margin and leverage are among the most important concepts to understand when trading forex. These essential tools allow forex traders to control trading positions that are substantially greater in size than would be the case without the use of these tools. At the most fundamental level, margin is the amount of money in a trader's account that is required as a deposit in order to open and maintain a leveraged trading position.
400:1: Four-hundred-to-one leverage means that for every $1 you have in your account, you can place a trade worth $400. Some brokers offer 400:1 on mini lot accounts but beware any broker who offers this type of leverage for a small account. Anyone making a $300 deposit into a forex account and trying to trade with 400:1 leverage could be wiped out in a matter of minutes.
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To illustrate further, let's look at a typical USD/CAD (US dollar against Canadian dollar) trade. To buy or sell a 100,000 of USD/CAD without leverage would require the trader to put up $100,000 in account funds, the full value of the position. But with 50:1 leverage (or 2% margin required), for example, only $2,000 of the trader's funds would be required to open and maintain that $100,000 USD/CAD position.
The concept of leverage is used by both investors and companies. Investors use leverage to significantly increase the returns that can be provided on an investment. They lever their investments by using various instruments that include options, futures and margin accounts. Companies can use leverage to finance their assets. In other words, instead of issuing stock to raise capital, companies can use debt financing to invest in business operations in an attempt to increase shareholder value.
The forex market is the most liquid and active market in the world. At every single second an enormous amount of transactions gets executed, with the total daily turnover being regularly estimated to reach trillions of dollars. If we did not make use of an analytical tool such as a forex chart to place the data into a more compact form where it can be visually examined and analyzed, we would be in possession of a vast sea of difficult to interpret numbers. The forex trading chart, then, is a visual aid that makes the recognition of trends, and patterns in general easier, and makes the application of technical tools of analysis at all possible.
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.