“Leverage” means using a small amount of your own money in order to control a much larger amount of money. Typically, you borrow the remaining amount through your broker.
For example, say you want to control a $50,000 position. Your broker might put aside $500 of your own money and borrow the remainder. You now have control over the $50,000 with just $500 from your own account, so your leverage ratio is 100:1.
Now, let’s say the $50,000 investment rises by $500, so the full position is now worth $50,500. If you were liable for the full $50,000 (representing a 1:1 ratio), this is only a 1% return on your investment. However, since you only put in $500 of your own capital, the $500 increase represents a 100% return on your investment – that’s way more exciting!
Now, it’s important to understand that this cuts both ways. If you lost $500 instead of gaining $500, you would see a -100% return on your investment. Yikes! If you had a 1:1 ratio and put in the full $50,000 you would only see a -1% return.
How Much Can You Leverage in Forex?
Before you open an account with a broker, you’ll want to check the maximum leverage ratio that you’ll be able to use. The higher the ratio, the bigger your potential gains or losses. Brokers will usually offer 50:1, 100:1, 200:1, or 400:1 ratios.
A typical ratio on a standard lot account is 100:1, and a mini lot account will often offer a 200:1 ratio. If you start trading at 400:1, be wary of using small deposits to control large capital, as these can disappear quickly with the volatility of large sums. Lower leverage keeps you safer from mistakes, while higher leverage could bring in higher rewards.
How Leverage Affects Your Trading
As we’ve seen, leverage is a powerful tool that can help you win big in the forex market. You can use less capital to control greater positions, giving you flexibility and amplifying your profits. However, it can just as easily amplify your losses.
At very high levels, leverage starts to damage your odds of success. Transaction costs represent a higher percentage of your margin the greater your position is. This means that transaction costs already put you at a disadvantage with excessively high leverage.
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