The Federal Reserve Board and self-regulatory organizations (SROs), such as the New York Stock Exchange and FINRA, have clear rules regarding margin trading. In the United States, the Fed's Regulation T allows investors to borrow up to 50 percent of the price of the securities to be purchased on margin. The percentage of the purchase price of securities that an investor must pay for is called the initial margin. To buy securities on margin, the investor must first deposit enough cash or eligible securities with a broker to meet the initial margin requirement for that purchase.
Maintenance margin for commodities is the amount that you must maintain in your account to support the futures contract and represents the lowest level to which your account can drop before you must deposit additional funds. Commodities positions are marked to market daily, with your account adjusted for any profit or loss that occurs. Because the price of underlying commodities fluctuates, it is possible that the value of the commodity may decline to the point at which your account balance falls below the required maintenance margin. If this happens, brokers typically make a margin call, which means you must deposit additional funds to meet the margin requirement.
Margin requirements for futures and futures options are established by each exchange through a calculation algorithm known as SPAN margining. SPAN (Standard Portfolio Analysis of Risk) evaluates overall portfolio risk by calculating the worst possible loss that a portfolio of derivative and physical instruments might reasonably incur over a specified time period (typically one trading day.) This is done by computing the gains and losses that the portfolio would incur under different market conditions. The most important part of the SPAN methodology is the SPAN risk array, a set of numeric values that indicate how a particular contract will gain or lose value under various conditions. Each condition is called a risk scenario. The numeric value for each risk scenario represents the gain or loss that that particular contract will experience for a particular combination of price (or underlying price) change, volatility change, and decrease in time to expiration.
Let's take a couple of moments to review what we've learned! Currency trading, often referred to as foreign exchange or Forex, is the purchasing and selling of currencies in the foreign exchange marketplace, and is done with the objective of making profits. Because it is liquid, currency trading differs from other types of trading. Currency exchanges are expressed in currency pairs (two different currencies together), using a format that expresses both the country and the type of money.
Retail or beginning traders often trade currency in micro lots, because one pip in a micro lot represents only a 10-cent move in the price. This makes losses easier to manage if a trade doesn't produce the intended results. In a mini lot, one pip equals $1 and that same one pip in a standard lot equals $10. Some currencies move as much as 100 pips or more in a single trading session making the potential losses to the small investor much more manageable by trading in micro or mini lots.
Systems that derive risk-based margin requirements deliver adequate assessments of the risk for complex derivative portfolios under small/moderate move scenarios. Such systems are less comprehensive when considering large moves in the price of the underlying stock or future. We have enhanced the basic exchange margin models with algorithms that consider the portfolio impact of larger moves up 30% (or even higher for extremely volatile stocks). This 'Extreme Margin Model' may increase the margin requirement for portfolios with net short options positions, and is particularly sensitive to short positions in far out-of-the-money options.
Free margin in Forex is the amount of money that is not involved in any trade. You can use it to take more positions, however, that isn't all - as the free margin is the difference between equity and margin. If your open positions make you money, the more they achieve profit, the greater the equity you will have, so you will have more free margin as a result. There may be a situation when you have some open positions and also some pending orders simultaneously.
We also offer an IRA Margin account, which allows you to immediately trade on your proceeds of sales rather than waiting for your sale to settle. You can trade assets in multiple currencies and trade limited option spread combinations. IRA margin accounts have certain restrictions compared to regular margin accounts and borrowing is never allowed in an IRA account. Futures trading in an IRA margin account is subject to substantially higher margin requirements than in a non-IRA margin account. Margin rates in an IRA margin account may meet or exceed three times the overnight futures margin requirement imposed in a non-IRA margin account1.