When looking at some online brokerage accounts, there are a few figures that may be confusing, including account value, cash value and purchasing power.

The first figure, account value or total equity, is the total dollar value you have in your trading account. This number is calculated by adding the total amount of cash you have within your account and the current market value of all securities, and then subtracting the market value of any stocks that are shorted. It is essentially the worth of all your positions if they were to be liquidated at the point in time the number is calculated.

The second figure, cash balance value, is the total amount of cash you have available to use. This is the amount that you are able to immediately withdraw or the total amount available to purchase securities in a cash account.

The final figure, buying power, is the total amount available to purchase securities. This amount includes both the available cash on hand along with any available margin. The buying power figure is a better representation of how much money is available for trading, and its amount will depend on the type of account you have. If you have a margin account, then your purchasing power almost always will be greater than your cash value.

To learn more about margins, see the Margin Trading tutorial or read The Advantages of SPAN Margin.

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