What does “Margin Trading” mean ?

August 23, 2011

‘Margin” means borrowing money from your broker to buy a stock. Now the question is why would you borrow? Investors generally go for trading on margin so to increase their purchasing power so that they can own more stock without fully paying for it. That means you will pay a part of the buy price and the broker will lend you the difference.

For the loan you have taken -

- You will pay interest in addition to the usual fees.
- Broker will hold the stocks as collateral and has the right to sell that as well in case buyer doesn’t meet certain obligations as per margin rules and agreements.

Let us understand this with an example:

Suppose you wish to buy a stock with market price of Rs 50. Under margin trading, you would be paying Rs 25 in cash while remaining 25 Rs will be lent to you by the broker. (Assuming the initial margin requirement with your broker is 50%). How does this help? Let’s see. Suppose the price of the stock rises to Rs 75.

In case of Margin trading – Your return on the investment is 100% because you paid Rs 25.

In case of normal trading – Your return on investment is 50% because you paid Rs 50.

However there is also an equal probability of higher loss for trading on margin. Suppose the stock price falls to Rs 25. If you fully paid for the stock, you lost 50 percent of your money. But if you have traded on margin, you lost 100 percent. And on the top of that you are supposed to pay interest for the loan you have taken from the broker along with the broker’s commission. Moreover if the investor doesn’t maintain minimum margin in his account the broker will have the right to sell all your stocks without notifying you. By this you would even loose the chance to make up your losses when the price goes up later. Below are certain terms that would make the concept more clear.

Initial margin: The proportion of total purchase price an investor is supposed to deposit for opening a margin account is referred as its initial margin and is generally 50% of the total value.

Maintenance margin: In order to keep the margin account open for doing margin trading, it is necessary to maintain minimum cash or marginable securities which is called the maintenance margin. This is just to prevent an investor from incurring a level of debt that he would not be able to repay.

Margin call: If your account falls below the maintenance margin, your broker will make a margin call to ask you to deposit more cash or securities into your account. If case you fail to meet the margin call, your broker will sell your securities so to make up for the stipulated maintenance requirement.

Lastly, for novice traders it is very important to have a realization that trading on margin can help you magnify your profit and at the same time multiplies the associated risks.

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