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.
If you are a rookie trader, you may find yourself asking questions such as 'what is leverage in Forex trading?' and 'how can it be useful?' This article will provide you with answers to these types of questions, together with, a detailed overview of Forex leveraging, its advantages and disadvantages, and a list of possible applications and restrictions.
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A single pound on Monday could get you 1.19 euros. On Tuesday, 1.20 euros. This tiny change may not seem like a big deal. But think of it on a bigger scale. A large international company may need to pay overseas employees. Imagine what that could do to the bottom line if, like in the example above, simply exchanging one currency for another costs you more depending on when you do it? These few pennies add up quickly. In both cases, you—as a traveler or a business owner—may want to hold your money until the forex exchange rate is more favorable.
In forex, investors use leverage to profit from the fluctuations in exchange rates between two different countries. The leverage that is achievable in the forex market is one of the highest that investors can obtain. Leverage is activated through a loan that is provided to an investor by the broker that is handling the investor’s or trader’s forex account.
Financial leverage is essentially an account boost for Forex traders. With the help of forex leveraging, a trader can open orders as large as 1,000 times greater than their own capital. In other words, leverage is a way for traders to gain access to much larger volumes than they would initially be able to trade with. More and more traders are deciding to move into the FX (Forex, also known as the Foreign Exchange Market) market every day.
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.
Just like stocks, you can trade currency based on what you think its value is (or where it's headed). But the big difference with forex is that you can trade up or down just as easily. If you think a currency will increase in value, you can buy it. If you think it will decrease, you can sell it. With a market this large, finding a buyer when you're selling and a seller when you're buying is much easier than in other markets. Maybe you hear on the news that China is devaluing its currency to draw more foreign business into its country. If you think that trend will continue, you could make a forex trade by selling the Chinese currency against another currency, say, the US dollar. The more the Chinese currency devalues against the US dollar, the higher your profits. If the Chinese currency increases in value while you have your sell position open, then your losses increase and you want to get out of the trade.
The use of leverage basically exacerbates any sort of market movements. As easily as it increases profits, it can just as quickly cause large losses. However, these losses can be capped through the use of stops. Furthermore, almost all forex brokers offer the protection of a margin watcher – a piece of software that watches your position 24 hours a day, five days per week and automatically liquidates it once margin requirements are breached. This process ensures that your account will never post a negative balance and your risk will be limited to the amount of money in your account.
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.
Leverage simply allows traders to control larger positions with a smaller amount of actual trading funds. In the case of 50:1 leverage (or 2% margin required), for example, $1 in a trading account can control a position worth $50. As a result, leveraged trading can be a "double-edged sword" in that both potential profits as well as potential losses are magnified according to the degree of leverage used.