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Trading with leverage

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An introduction to leverage in trading

5-minute read

You can get full market exposure for just a small initial deposit when you use a leveraged product. Let’s explore how leverage works, as well as the benefits and risks of using it in your trading.

What is leverage in trading?

Leverage in trading is a powerful mechanism that you can use to increase your potential returns by using borrowed money to open a position. You’ll put down just a small initial deposit, and your provider is ‘loaning’ you the rest – resulting in full market exposure.

Magnified profits sounds great, right? But as with most things, the greater the reward, the greater the risk.

Leverage can result in magnified potential losses, which makes it important for you to understand exactly what you’re getting yourself in for and how to manage the risks involved.

What is margin in trading?

Margin in trading is the name for the deposit you’ll put down to open a leveraged position. The amount you will be required to have in your account is expressed as a percentage of your total position size.

Once you’ve opened a position, you’ll need to keep enough money in your account to cover the margin requirement. The amount you’ll need can change from market to market, but typically the riskier the market or the greater your position, the higher the margin factor.

Did you know?

Your margin requirement is calculated automatically in the City Index deal ticket. All you need to do is enter your deal size to see how much you'll need to pay to trade. Open your City Index demo to see it in action.

Example of a leveraged trade

Let’s say you’re interested in buying 10 Apple shares at the current market price of $175.

Normally, you’d pay the full $1750 to buy the shares via a stockbroker – excluding any commission and other charges. If the shares went up by $5, you’d have $50 profit (5x10) but if they fell by the same amount, you’d have lost $50.

Graphic-of-capital-vs-exposure

 

When you trade on margin, you’d only have to put down 20% of $1750 to open the position. So you’d pay $350 to get the full market exposure of $1750.

Your profit and loss are calculated using the total value of the position. So, if the shares increased by $5, you’d still make $50 and if the shares fell by $5, you’d lose $50.

Graphic-of-margin-vs-Exposure_UK 

Types of leveraged products

There are a variety of ways that you can incorporate leverage into your trading strategy. Here are some of the most popular leveraged instruments:

  • Contracts for difference (CFDs)
  • Spread bets
  • Futures contracts
  • Options contracts

We’ll explore these in more depth in the next few chapters.

Risks of leveraged trading

As we’ve seen, trading on leverage means that you can increase your potential profits. But this also means that you are exposed to more risk if the trade goes against you. Here are a few key things to consider:

Magnified loss

Both your profit and loss are calculated based on the full value of our trade. While your initial outlay is smaller, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually putting a much larger sum at risk.

You’ll never be able to lose more than the balance in your account, but you could end up losing more than the deposit you put down. You should always consider your trade as a whole, and never risk more than you can afford to lose.

Learn how to manage your risk more effectively.

Margin call

If the value of your asset falls in price, you could get placed on margin call. It’s important to monitor your margin level closely, as you may not receive a notification prior to closure.

At this point, you have three options: close out your position yourself, reduce the size of your trade or add additional funds to your account to cover any losses. If you leave your position and it drops to 50% of the margin requirement, we'll close it automatically.

To make things easier for you, we’ve created the Margin Level Indicator, which represents the level of cover you have for open positions. It’s located along the top of your trading platform. It will display one of these scenarios:

  1. Sufficient margin
  2. If your margin level indicator is greater than 200%, this will show as > 200%. This means that you have sufficient funds require to keep your positions open

  3. Your trade is at risk
  4. If your margin level falls below 200%, the margin level will display a percentage between 80% and 200%. You are at risk of being placed on margin call

  5. Insufficient margin

A warning symbol will be displayed next to the margin level if it drops below 80%. Should your margin level fall below 50%, you no longer have enough funds in your account to cover your total margin and your positions are at risk of being closed

Funding charges

Remember, when you trade on leverage, you’re basically borrowing money from your provider. This means that if you want to keep your position open, you’ll usually be charged a small fee to cover the costs involved. Think of it like paying interest on a bank loan.

We’ll look at this in more detail later in lesson six, overnight funding explained.

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Practise trading on margin in a risk-free demo

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Test your knowledge

Question {0} of {1}
True or false: Leverage and margin are different trading mechanisms.
  • A True
  • B False
Question {0} of {1}
You want to open a position on oil with a full exposure of $5,000. Your initial margin requirement is 10%. How much would you need to pay?
  • A $5,000
  • B $500
  • C $50
Question {0} of {1}
Your positions will be closed if the capital in your account falls below what percentage of your margin requirement:
  • A 200%
  • B 80%
  • C 50%
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