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Forex Margin and Margin call Explained

Learn Forex: Margin and Margin call Explained

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Forex margin refers to the percentage of funds that a trader must put forward from their account balance in order to open a trade and to ensure the trader can handle potential losses. The margin amount taken is locked up for the particular duration of the trade and sent back to the trader’s account once the trade is closed and is available again to open new trades.

Forex margin enables traders to gain full market exposure by putting up just a fraction of the total trade amount. Margin is the most crucial concept to understand when it comes to leveraged forex trading, and failing to grasp it can affect the outcome of the trade either negatively or positively, amplifying profits and losses.

What is Margin in Forex Trading?

The forex margin refers to the minimal amount of funds a trader requires to open new positions in the Forex market. For example, with a 1% required margin, a position of $10,000 will require $100. Traders are attracted to the Forex market because of the relatively high leverage offered by Forex brokers.

Whenever a trader opens a position, the broker holds the initial deposit as collateral (security amount). Used margin refers to all of the capital that was held by the broker in order to keep the trader’s positions open. As more positions are opened, a greater portion of the collateral amount will be used as a margin. 

Forex margin is an opportunity for Forex traders to increase the size of their trading positions using leverage, allowing them to gain greater exposure to the market with a smaller initial investment. However, remember margin can also magnify losses if it is not used properly, as it accounts for both the full value of the trade and not just the amount required to open it.

Main elements of Forex Margin:

A trader needs to know certain elements of a Forex margin in order to have a better understanding of what they are dealing with. Here are some elements to consider: 

  • Available Equity: The amount of money remaining on the account balance that can be used to open new trades with leveraged positions. An account with more available equity is better for a trader. 
  • Used Margin: Used margin is the amount taken by the broker from the trader’s account to make a leveraged trade. The more margin a trader uses, the less they can make new trades. 
  • Free Margin: Free margin refers to the equity in a trader’s account that is not used for current open positions. It can also be described as the available balance that traders can use to open new trades. By formula, Free Margin = Equity – Margin on Open Positions.

Read What’s The Difference Between Equity and Balance in Forex?

What is Margin level?

Margin calculation, or Margin level, is one of the most crucial parameters to be considered when trading forex. Margin level helps determine the amount of equity in your account in relation to the margin used by your trades. In simple terms, your margin level represents how healthy your trading account is.

The first thing a trader should do before using margin to leverage higher positions is to make sure that there is a balance between the available capital on their account balance (available equity) and the capital taken by the broker (used margin). By comparing the two, a margin level can be determined as to whether it is possible to open a new trade or not. The formula to calculate Forex Margin level is as follows: 

Margin level = (Equity / Used Margin) x 100

For example, let’s consider that a trader has deposited $5000 in their trading account and has used up $1,000 of margin. His margin level, under this scenario will be ($5,000/$1,000) X 100 = 500%. That’s a very healthy margin level. You can determine whether your account is healthy or not by making sure your margin level is always above 100%.

Forex Margin levels consist of two stages. The first stage is above 100% margin, which allows traders to open new positions and maintain existing ones. At the second stage, the margin is exactly 60%, meaning that a trader may maintain an open position, but cannot create a new one. As soon as the margin level reaches the second stage 60%, the Forex margin call occurs.

Do margin requirements change over time?

Margin requirements generally remain the same once you have entered the trade, and no additional margin is needed on weekends or holidays. However, there are a few exceptions. As market volatility and currency exchange rates change, the forex brokers adjust the margin requirements periodically.. In the same way that exchange rates fluctuate for volatile currency pairs, the margin requirement for those pairs must change as well. 

What is Margin Call in Forex Trading?

A margin call is a notification given to Forex traders when their positions fall into negative territory and they need to deposit more funds into their trading accounts or close the losing trades to free up margin. This typically occurs when the margin falls below a broker-specified level of 60%, meaning the funds in the account no longer cover the margin requirements.

As soon as the margin level drops below 30%, the broker will initiate a stop out. Upon receiving the stop out, the broker will close the positions automatically until the previous level is reached.

What Is a Forex Stop Out Level?

In Forex trading, a stop out is an action automatically carried out by the Forex brokers when all of a trader’s active positions are moving against the traders. A stop out occurs when a trader’s margin level falls to a specific percentage- known as the stop out level – meaning they will not be able to support their open positions.

The following are the top reasons for Forex margin calls:

  • Margin calls occur most frequently when traders commit a substantial portion of the equity to margin, leaving very little room for losses to be absorbed. From the broker’s perspective, this is a necessary technique for managing and reducing their risk accordingly. 
  • A Forex trader can also receive a margin call if they fail to monitor the margin level on a regular basis and fail to adequately fund their accounts.
  • Making a trade without setting a stop-loss order during an aggressive price change can affect your margin as well, potentially resulting in a margin call.
  • Excessive leverage may also adversely affect the trader’s margin, as they tempt traders to open more positions than they should, thereby triggering margin calls.

Understanding Forex Margin and Leverage

To understand a forex margin call better, one must understand the interrelated concepts of margin and leverage. Margin and leverage form a complementary pair of concepts. Leverage allows traders greater exposure to the markets without having to invest the entire amount for a trade, while margin is the minimum amount required to open a position.

The relationship between leverage and margin is inverse. However, Leverage and Margin describe the same concept, they are slightly different from their standpoint. The higher the leverage level, the smaller the required margin amount is.

For example, 2% of a $100,000 position size would be $2,000. To open this specific position, $2,000 is the Required Margin. As you can open a $100,000 position with just $2,000, your leverage ratio is 1:50.

The following two formulas summarize the relationship between leverage ratio and margin:

Leverage ratio = 100/Margin%

For example, if the Margin offered by the broker is 2%, then the leverage ratio is 1:50 (100 ÷ 2 = 50).

Where Margin = 1/Leverage ratio

A leverage ratio of 1:50 yields a margin percentage of 2% (1 ÷ 50 = 0.02).

You must keep in mind that trading with leverage involves risk and can lead to both large profits and large losses. Since your positions are magnified when you trade on leverage, you will need sufficient funds to protect you from market fluctuations.

What happens when a Margin Call takes place?

Margin calls occur when your equity percentage drops below a certain level. Margin calls are a warning that you are nearing the stop-out level, which could result in traders being liquidated or closed out of their trades. It serves two purposes: the trader no longer has the money to hold losing positions, and the broker takes responsibility for the trader’s losses, which is equally bad for them.

In certain circumstances, leveraged trading may result in a trader owing more to the broker than what was deposited, which is important to know. Keep in mind that the value of the instruments in your account changes every day as the market fluctuates, and clients with less equity should keep an eye on their accounts to avoid a margin call.

How to avoid a Margin Call?

Margin calls are something most forex traders prefer to avoid. Margin calls occur when you have incurred so many losses in your trade that the broker wants more money as collateral in order to continue the trade. The key to avoiding margin calls is to manage your trades well.

Understanding how to choose the right leverage level is crucial to avoiding margin calls in Forex trading. As leverage is often and appropriately referred to as a double-edged sword, the greater the leverage a trader uses – relative to the deposit – the smaller the available margin to absorb losses. An over-leveraged trade can quickly drain a trader’s account if the trade goes against them.

Best tips to prevent Forex Margin Calls:

Margin calls are common among amateur traders who hold their positions for a long time. They fail to dispose of a losing holding when it goes down. In order to maintain their losing position, they keep adding more funds to their account. Experienced traders, on the other hand, know when to cut their losses and liquidate their losing positions.

The following are the best tips to prevent you from getting into a margin call situation.

  • Avoid over-leveraging your trading account. Keep it at a low leverage level. 
  • Make sure you are managing your risk carefully. You can avoid getting margin calls by using the best risk management strategies and using stop-loss orders. 
  • Maintain a healthy amount of free margin in your trading account to safeguard your ability to trade for the long term. 
  • Always try to trade in smaller sizes to prevent you from getting margin calls.

Forex Margin – FAQs

What happens if your free margin hits zero?

Remember that, free margin is the available sum of funds that you haven’t used yet to open a new position. There is still a chance to initiate new trades on your account when a free margin is available. Once it reaches zero, you’ll get a margin call from the broker. As soon as the margin level drops below 30%, the broker will initiate a stop out. Upon receiving the stop out, the broker will automatically close the positions until the previous level is reached.

What is a good margin level in Forex?

Maintaining an adequate margin level is crucial in Forex trading as it represents how healthy your trading account is. Making sure that your margin level is always above 100% can be a good indicator of whether your account is healthy or not.


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